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Gonna be a good pickle year,” Isaac Meyer said at the breakfast table one morning a few weeks after his birthday party. “Be pickin’ cukes in a few days. Blossoms all over the place and a few little pickles peekin’ out here and there. Yup, gonna be a good pickle year. Maybe make a little extra money for a change.” Of course the weather was a big factor in cucumber growing, and scarcely a week went by that the Link Lake Gazette didn’t include an article about the weather—too much rain, not enough rain, temperatures too cool, temperatures too hot. Growing season early. Growing season late. Nothing was ever just right with the weather. But this year, especially in May and June, the rains were timely and the temperatures warm. It was just the kind of early summer weather a farmer wants to give crops a good start before the inevitable dry weather of late summer sneaks into the area, quietly and without notice, and slows everything down— sometimes killing the crops if it hangs on too long. The corn had grown to knee high by the Fourth of July, and now, a week later, the oats stood tall and ripening, the cow pastures remained green and growing, the potatoes stood yardstick 22 3 Pickle Factory 23 Pickle Factory tall, and the cucumber patches had come on better than most years. “Be openin’ that pickle factory soon, Andy?” Isaac asked. “Expect so,” Andy said. “Got a lot of cleaning up before we can start taking in cukes. Place is always dusty and dirty after sitting idle all winter. Waiting for this guy Johnson to call, to say when I should get started.” Andy had no more than said the words when the phone rang, and his mother got up to answer. “It’s Mr. Johnson,” she whispered. “Hello,” Andy said into the mouthpiece of the old wall phone. He held the black receiver to his ear. “This here is J. W. Johnson. You got that pickle factory in Link Lake ready to go?” Andy would know the gravely voice anywhere. “No,” Andy answered. “I was waiting for your call.” “Well, I’m calling, and you’d better get on down there ’cause the place is a mess. Stopped in last week for a look around.” “It’s always a mess after a long winter,” Andy started to explain. “I’ll meet you there tomorrow morning at eight,” Johnson interrupted. “Don’t be late. I don’t put up with nobody being late,” he growled. “I’ll be there,” Andy said. As he hung up, he thought, Who does he think he is, telling me to be on time? What am I? Some lowly worker who doesn’t know enough to crawl out of bed in the morning? If he knew the first thing about farm people he wouldn’t say anything about me being on time. Andy had already lined up the summer work crew, some folks who had worked other years and a few new ones, too. He had asked around who might be interested in working at the pickle factory and got a few suggestions. It was hard to find good help because most workers were busy in the summer. He had told them they’d be getting a buck an hour this year, up from seventy- five cents because President Eisenhower was expected to sign into law a new minimum wage of a dollar an hour. Andy and Helen Swanson, the bookkeeper, would receive $1.25 an hour. Andy knew his crew was waiting to hear from him. First he called Blackie Antonelli. Blackie, whose real first name was Tony, lived near Redgranite. This would be Blackie’s third year at the factory. His grandfather had come from Italy to work in the granite quarries, but the quarries had closed many years ago and the Antonellis, along with many other Italian immigrants, had found other work in the area. Blackie was twenty-one, five-and-a-halffeet tall, and as strong as a young bull. His black hair hung nearly to his shoulders—one of his defiant characteristics. His dark eyes bore right through you, especially when he was provoked. It didn’t take much to provoke Blackie, either—a wrong word said and he was ready with his fists. He had a short fuse—but he liked Andy, and they got along well. Andy asked Blackie if he could start work at eight...


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