restricted access 4 First Cukes

From: In a Pickle

University of Wisconsin Press colophon
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The day after the cleanup, Andy Meyer and his crew waited for the arrival of the first cucumbers, which would signal the start of the pickle season. Johnson had told him that Jake Stewart’s new migrant boss would be bringing in at least one truckload of cucumbers by late afternoon. But Andy wondered if any of the small growers had seen the signs he had posted at the Link Lake Mercantile, at the Grist Mill, and at the Link Lake Cooperative announcing that the Harlow pickle factory was open for the 1955 season and paying $20 per hundred pounds for number-one cucumbers (the smallest, called gherkins, up to an inch-and-a-half in length), $15 for number twos, $10 for number threes, $5 for number fours, and fifty cents for number fives (six inches long and sometimes as big around as a woman’s wrist). The small ones brought the most money, but it took many of them to make a pound, while one number-five cucumber could weigh close to a pound itself. Problem always was how close to pick the cucumbers. Pick everything in sight and it might take four days before there were any more to harvest. Leave the littlest ones and in three days they’d be about right for number twos, 32 4 First Cukes 33 First Cukes which is where most farmers figured the money was—even if Harlow always emphasized picking the smallest ones. And of course no matter how good a pickle picker, some cucumbers continued hiding under a big leaf, or off in a corner somewhere to grow into number fours or number fives. Andy had asked Helen Swanson to come in by eight on Tuesday morning, to set up the office and put in order the books that Johnson had dropped off. The rest of the crew showed up right after noon. Andy had them do some cleaning they’d not gotten done on Monday, but mostly they waited for the first cucumbers to arrive. Agnes was busy trying to acquaint herself with the new people, Preacher Ketchum and Quarter Mile Sweet. “Hey der, honey, what kinda preacher did you say you are?” Agnes asked the pastor. “I am the shepherd for the flock of the Church of the Holy Redeemed.” “Shepherd, you say. You got sheep over there at that Church of the Holy something?” “It’s Holy Redeemed, madam.” “Well, you may be Holy Redeemed, but I ain’t no madam. Never was, never will be.” “So be it,” Preacher said, astonished at her response. “Didn’t your church come from them holy rollers or was they holy jumpers that used to set up here in Link Lake with their summer tent show? Remember that when I was a kid. They’d drive into town, put up that big old ratty tent down there by the lake. The preacher’d work everbody up so as some of them folks would commence jumpin’ and yellin’ and even rollin’ on the ground. Yup, my pa said some of them folks got so excited they rolled right out the tent and kept right on a-goin’. Preacher told them folks they was headed to hell, and most of them commence believin’ it, too.” “Are you saved, madam?” Preacher Ketchum asked, interrupting Agnes’s reminiscence. “Saved, hell yes I’ve been saved. At least three or four times I been saved. ’Member once when we was out in a boat on Norwegian Lake fishin’ for bullheads and the boat took to leakin’ real bad. Pa, he said we should hang on just a little longer ’cause them bullheads was bitin’ pretty good. You know those big yella belly ones with the big ugly flat heads?” She looked around the room as if to make a comparison to those who had gathered around her and the preacher. “Madam, I mean saved by the Lord,” Preacher interrupted. But either Agnes didn’t hear or she chose to ignore the question as she continued her story. “By the time we got that old leaky boat beached, it was about sunk. About to go under. And I weren’t no swimmer either. That old boat a-sunk, I’d been down there swimmin’ with them big bullheads. There was another time I ’member bein’ saved. We was milkin’ cows then, the mister and me. Lightning struck the barn, came in on the metal stanchions, knocked down a bunch of the cows. Killed...


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