Like most kids, I looked forward to Saturday. Going to school all week was something we all had to do but most were worn out by Saturday. It was a day off. Fun day. Time to play ball, go fishing or hunting, lay around and generally get over the long week of school. Saturday was a great and wonderful day. On Friday afternoon it seemed as if the weight of the school week had been lifted when the bell rang to go home. Everyone's attitude was different. People were smiling and joking as they anticipated two days of no school. Man, it was great.
We lived on College Avenue in North Tifton. It was a great neighborhood with a lot of friends and no one was afraid to let their kids stay out all day. My mother would say after breakfast; "O.K.... get out of here and don't come in this house until lunch." She was confident that no harm would come to any of us because it was a much different day than is today. So, off we would go to meet our friends and scurry all over the neighborhood. It was great on Saturday!
If there was one person who could completely ruin and wreck Saturday and all my plans for it, it was my father. He was a hard worker. He learned that from his father and mother who had brought a family through the great depression. Everyone worked and contributed to the welfare of the family. He threw nothing away and was always looking for something for me to do so that I could learn the value of work. So, on Friday afternoon late he would usually say something like: "Son, I want you to do something tomorrow." I would immediately feel the weight of work settling in on my shoulders. I could see my Saturday plans vanishing into thin air and sudden dread set in on me. It was nearer to depression.
Two giant oak trees sat on either side of our driveway. Ten quadrillion leaves! I saw it coming. He wanted me to rake up the oak leaves that had already fallen and pile them by the side of the street. The city would come and pick them up in those days. That was little consolation because I had to put them where they could get them up. I would resist my father by saying: "Daddy, those leaves are falling like golden snow. The wind is blowing hard and they are coming down like rain. If I rake the yard, they will fall on the ground as fast as I get them into a pile." "Why don't we wait a week and I will do the job next Saturday. By then all the leaves would have fallen." Maybe it would rain next Saturday. He must have suddenly gone deaf. It was settled, my Saturday was gone and it had been replaced by Yard Work. He had no mercy. I had to start at eight o'clock in the morning. So, I would rake and rake all day and all the while watching the oak leaves take over the yard again. Those leaves were so slick that they would not pile up but they would spread out in a large circle of leaves. We used to play on them by taking a large piece of cardboard; cut a square piece; get a running start and "pancake" on the leaves. One would slide all the way across the yard on the leaves. It was like snow sledding but without the snow. We loved it and so did all the kids in the neighborhood.
But, my dad wasn't interested in such play. He wanted me to work! He saw himself as teaching me how to do physical labor, at least that is what he said. I think he just simply didn't want me to goof around on Saturday. I was 13 or 14 years old and should be working. The other kids in the neighborhood would ride by on their bikes and try to get me to go play baseball or something else. It was torture! I would rake and the leaves would fall. I would rake more and the leaves would fall more. By the end of the day I had a pile twenty feet across and about one and one-half feet tall. The slickness made them slide outward. So, I would rake and rake until I thought I could see some "light at the end of the tunnel." I had raked the whole front yard and now it was time to move them to the side of the street. That took about as long as creating the pile. It was laborious. Finally, the job was done and I had them all at the street's edge. But then I would look around and one could not tell I had raked at all! What I had told my dad had come true. They fell as fast as I could get them up. I felt defeated. Dejected. I wondered what he would say when he came home at the end of the day. Surely he would say something like: "Son, you worked hard, I know that and I also know they fell fast. You tried hard and I commend you for it." Nah! Never happened like that.
I tried to hide. He was on the way home. I was hoping he would see the great sprawling pile at the side of the curb and brag on my efforts a little. Yeah! Driving up in the delivery truck he was eying the yard. He strides on the front yard with hands on his hips. "I thought I asked you to get the oak leaves up, son. Didn't quite make it did you? What have you been doing all day? I'm standing there feeling like a sick puppy. "I have been raking all day. I told you what would happen and it did." He just shook his head and strolled up front steps into the house. I went to bed early....very early. Worn to a frazzle. My buddies played ball, went squirrel hunting, played marbles and rode their bikes. Me, I had to do Yard Work!
Another thing that could kill a well-planned Saturday was for my dad to say: "Son, people have thrown a lot of cigarette butts in our yard as they have driven around the corner. I want you to pick them all up." Not quite as bad as the leaves but bad enough. So, I would get out there with a paper sack and pick up every cigarette butt I could see. I really tried to get them all because I knew my father and If even one was remaining he would see it for sure. So, when he would get home and survey the yard he would invariably say: "You missed one right over there. See it?" Failed again. Another bad lesson in yard work. No way to please him. I learned to despise cigarette butts and especially those who flipped them on our property.
One thing my father accomplished is that he made me hate working in the yard. I envy those who say that they love doing yard work...cutting grass, planting flowers, mulching the flower beds and such. I hate it. Despise it. I don't care if they do away with yards. When I see a beautiful one I usually think...OK... "All that work and it will be gone before long." "You gotta keep doing it over and over." I tend to believe that people who love yard work like to punish themselves for some reason. Never figured it out. I don't believe it can be figured out! My wife and I have a nice, neat yard. We keep it up. But, someone else does it. I don't mind paying someone to do it. They have got to make a living too, don't you think? Needless to say, the way one is raised forms their future habits and opinions and my opinion is the I do not like Yard Work!
William F. Harrell