Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Maggie’s Farm

As Dylan put it, “I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin’ me insane/It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.”

I’ve scrubbed floors. It’s back-breaking work. (Caillebotte’s painting is of floor scraping, but one gets the idea.)

I’ve also worked on a farm and will confess it’s very hard work. Waking up early, one finds oneself in the back of a pickup driven down long dirt roads with others who are as half asleep as you are. As dawn breaks, fields appear in all directions. You’re handed a hoe and given brief instructions. At that time of the day, my head was hardly full of ideas, but I can say that my runny nose, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing nearly drove me insane. Years later when I subjected my back to a tic-tac-toe of pinpricks to see what I was allergic to, it ended up being just about everything. Jokingly, the allergy specialist remarked, “I hope you’re not interested in a job in the outdoors.”

Working on a farm is only one of many jobs I’ve had. When in the mood I might just list them like Whitman did but without so much panache.

During high school I was a dishwasher at a restaurant. Considering I could have asked my parents for money, and they would have happily obliged, it appears I was properly imbued with the work ethic. When I wasn’t slaving away rinsing plates or loading them into the huge machine that belched out steam, I had free rein of the soda pop dispenser, which meant I was constantly wired with all that sugar and caffeine running through my veins. I thought it was a great deal, but then again I was being paid $2.20 an hour. Please take my age into consideration.

One evening while waiting for the waitresses to bring me more plates, I was fooling around with the radio dial and chanced upon a silver-smooth voice introducing The Modern Jazz Quartet. Jazz was found in the most unlikely of places.

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5 thoughts on “Maggie’s Farm

  1. Farm work is tough (admittedly, I’ve never done more than raise chickens)–I suspect you ain’t gonna work on that farm no more.

    Like you, I also washed dishes in high school, but for the princely sum of $3.35 an hour. Sadly, while music does figure into my experience there, it was nothing so revelatory as yours. It was a Japanese restaurant, and while it was a wonderful culinary experience, hearing warbling and heavily-accented renditions of “Moon River” night after night did nothing for my music appreciation.

    I think the nadir of my work experience, I think for $5 an hour, was painting bathrooms while they were in use. I have a very clear memory of painting a corner, and looking up to see a guy at a urinal regarding me. “I feel sorry for you, kid,” he said.

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  2. Wonderful stuff.

    Chickens, you say? My brief experience in feeding and collecting their eggs did not exactly endear them to me.

    The bathroom painting job sounds horrid.

    My worst job was as a security guard at a slaughterhouse.

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  3. Being blessed with a hearty work ethic is a rare (and wonderful!) gift indeed! A pleasure to read your blog and writing, Sir :)

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  4. It is fascinating the things you find whilst reading blogs. I have to admit to never having read Walt Whitman. Maybe that has something to do with being Australian and not American – we read Australian poets at school. I followed your link to the Walt Whitman poem and read, and kept reading. I have now downloaded his works to my e-reader and I am going to indulge. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey and adding a little something to mine.

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  5. Very glad to hear this. If all I’ve done with this blog is introduce someone to Walt Whitman, it’s been worth it.

    What Australian poets/novelists would you recommend?

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