Work-related casualties.

Sorry. I thought I published this two hours ago. Is my face red.

Two of the most charming letters I got as a newspaper columnist in Indiana were in response to something I wrote about my ignorance of agriculture in general, and the farm economy in particular. That was many years ago, and I’m not as green (ha) as I once was, but it always appalled me that most people can discuss crap like Hollywood box-office figures, but don’t know how their food is produced, or what a pork belly is.

The letters were about corn detasseling, and detailed the particular misery of this rural job, which is traditionally done by teenagers in that shadowland of the early teens, when they’re physically able to work but unable to get hired by most employers. And corn detasseling — the laborious removal of the pollinating part of the plant — is work in the truest sense of the word, a day spent reaching and snipping and sneezing and suffering for $8 an hour. It’s only exploitative if you consider any manual labor so, because the kids do it willingly and $8 an hour, while not a king’s ransom, is good money for a 14-year-old, working steadily. Kids can make a thousand bucks in a season.

One of the letters came with helpful diagrams and cartoon drawings of the writer, wearing wet blue jeans.

Anyway, I mention all this because of this story I saw in today’s Wall Street Journal, about the death of two girls on a detasseling crew, electrocuted when they touched irrigation equipment that had been electrified by a recent lightning strike. Very sad, but for those of you who know nothing about it, a useful reminder of what goes into the agri-economy:

Early-morning fields are typically covered with dew, and frequently muddy from rain, so workers are wet all morning. Then, as the July sun rises higher, the fields begin to steam and the workers are soaked with sweat all afternoon. The work—reaching up to stalks between five and eight feet high while walking through uneven dirt for ten miles—is exhausting.

…Although the childhood injury rate on farms fell 59% from 1998 to 2009, according to the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wis., agriculture still generates the second-highest fatality rate among youth workers, and a fatality rate that is nearly six times the average across all industries. Last summer, two teenage boys died in a grain-bin accident 50 miles north of Sterling in Mt. Carroll.

And that, friends, is how you make hybrid seeds. The hard way. (Oh, and while we city slickers may pronounce that particular part of the corn plant to rhyme with “hassle,” both my correspondents pointed out that the people who do it say “tossle.”)

Speaking of manual labor, I see in the comments from yesterday, Basset and Dexter are discussing Ben Hamper, whose column, “I, Rivethead,” briefly ran in Mother Jones magazine when Michael Moore was briefly editing it in the ’80s. Funny they should bring it up, as I kept one of those columns — the one about Bruce Springsteen, faux working-class hero — in my “Great Moments” file for years. Great Moments was the collection of good writing I kept to page through in moments of boredom or down time, or when I was truly strapped for inspiration. A lot of people have made a lot of accurate observations and charges about Michael Moore over the years, about his willingness to bend the truth or substitute his own bullshit for someone else’s, and about his own faux working-class hero act, but whatever help he gave Hamper, a true working-class voice, will absolutely go on the credit side of the karma ledger. I always thought it was amusing that Moore flamed out at that bastion of lefty preening, Ma Jones, so quickly. I’m sure he was a jerk to work with, and I’m sure they had good reasons to give him the hook. But I still recall Hamper’s withering takedown of Springsteen, how in about 800 words he brought me closer to factory life than any mournful tune about closin’ refineries by you-know-who.

And I especially remember his simple observation that if you stand at the entrance of any auto plant, anywhere, and look around, you will see a bar, maybe two. Ever since, whenever I pass a plant, I look for the bar, and he’s right — it’s never far away. Elmore Leonard had an amusing passage in one of his books about the stop-off, as essential to a line worker’s end-of-shift ritual as the shower. There was a story in one of the papers here a while back, where someone observed that GM actually tried to buy one of those bars to close it down, and the owner wouldn’t sell. Owning bars that cater to certain communities — gay men, blue-collar workers — is like owning a gold mine.

That used to be true of newspapers, too, but not so much anymore. As one of my editors mourned, upon coming home from a conference, “I used to play poker half the night at these things. Now everybody gets up early and goes jogging together.”


OK, the day — and FINANCIAL DISASTER FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY — awaits, and a big one it is. Lunch downtown, then yet another concert with Kate, this one with the meet-and-greet. Yes, I am insisting on a picture with the band. I paid my money, too.

Bloggage? Too tired to look at the moment. Post your own, if you’re so inclined. I’ll be back after the weekend, or maybe from Saturday at the market.

Posted at 11:31 am in Same ol' same ol' |

54 responses to “Work-related casualties.”

  1. Linda said on July 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Wow, I thought everyone had forgotten Ben Hamper but me. I loved his book, and will give it a spot in my roundup of labor-type books on our library’s blog in time, of course, for labor day, along w/Stud Terkel’s and maybe another one.

    Re: the debt impasse. The Tea Partiers are a wussy version of the Bolsheviks who lined up and shot Ukrainian farmers who wouldn’t give up their land for collectivization. Yes, we’re destroying people. But it’s because we know better than those peasants, and it’s for The Greater Good. So it’s o.k.

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  2. Sue said on July 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Linda, I have to disagree. The Tea Partiers aren’t better than the peasants, they firmly believe they ARE the peasants, downtrodden and unheard. Most TP candidates were pretty clear on what they believed and what they wanted to do, I’ll give them that. And now they are doing what they believe they were elected to do. I’ll give them that too. Too bad that many of the voters who elected these people either didn’t realize how far down the road these folks were willing to go, or thought the actions of these new representatives and senators would only affect the people who deserved it.
    In other words, if they went after medicaid it would only affect shiftless people who didn’t plan ahead, unlike people who understood that having granny on medicaid in the nursing home was just part of protecting family assets.
    And of course no one would really touch medicare, that died with Bush. Or at least no one would touch MY medicare, maybe just those lazy people in line behind me.
    Why voters didn’t understand that these folks were willing to take this to the (literal) finish line is beyond me; they certainly made their intentions clear.
    This should come as no surprise to anyone. This or something like it has been in the works since last November. It was just a matter of pushing the agenda until there was no place left for the opposition to go. The fact that at least part of the opposition was your own party (or the party you used to get elected) is irrelevant.

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  3. Sue said on July 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Oh, and if the worst happens and Hard Decisions Have To Be Made, I hope one of those Hard Decisions involves elected officials deferring their salaries until what’s left of the government gets back on its feet.

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  4. Linda said on July 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Sue, yes, they do think they are peasants, but smarter than the average peasant. If you got them in a room with a majority of Americans, who don’t want their Soc Sec and medicare cut, they would explain that, in the long run, cutting that stuff would be good for everybody. It would hurt a little, but don’t we all have to take a little pain to keep the bad Tax Monster at bay? Of course we do! So bite that bullet!

    This comes as a surprise to the majority of voters, because they voted in the Republicans to punish the Democrats for the bad economy. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who was awake last fall, but that leaves out a lot of people.

    As for your last suggestion HA! That’s never happening.

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  5. Dexter said on July 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    What a horrible detasseling story. How does the law work in these cases? The producer of a satellite radio show I am devoted to lost his mom some time ago; she was the lady who had been blown off her feet by a ConEd manhole cover when some steam pipes exploded underground. She was badly disfigured and she spent the remaining months of her life in severe pain.
    One cannot just Google this information because there seem to be hundreds of cases like this in New York. My point is that this case has been in court for years now. ConEd must own the courthouses and judges too, one could believe.
    Monsanto offered to pay for the girls’ funerals. Mighty big of them.
    Are they liable for loss of two families’ daughters? Will they have to pay $100,000,000 in damages? I’m asking; I don’t know.
    Also, I grew up as a little boy living in stand-alone rural houses which Dad rented. I lived the first thirteen years of my life surrounded by corn fields of northeast Indiana. I regularly helped local farmers bale hay and my older brother worked for farmers performing many jobs. We never heard of detasseling. I never heard of any of my friends detasseling.
    This is a puzzle. Dad was a salesman; he hated farming and refused his birthright to inherit the family farm, so my uncle got it. Dad never discussed farming.
    Is this something I missed , or is detasseling only done in Illinois and Iowa? Well, that is ridiculous…of course it is done in Indiana, and at bargain wages! $8 an hour? What? Ya tryin’ t’ bankrupt the conglomerates? In Indiana…well, check out these wages! As to why I never even heard of detasseling? I guess I led a sheltered life….

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  6. Joe Kobiela said on July 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    If you look at where any new auto plant is built, I don’t think you will find a bar close by. On those nights like we have had this past week, I use to leave a six in a cooler on ice in my car, thinking how good that would taste at 7:00am helped get me through the night. I could be on #3 by the time I got on i69. You think auto workers were over paid? Try 8hr in the tube lines at dana welding brackets on to 70lbs axle tubes, pickingup and placeing each tube 3 or 4 times, and running 4-5 hundred ashift. Lets see 500×4=2000x70lbs=14,000lbs or 7 tons per shift in 100degree heat and humidity.I saw some of the biggest and strongest quit, and some of the smallest excell.Mabey brother Dave or Dexter can way in on factory work.
    Pilot Joe

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  7. nancy said on July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Detasseling is only done for seed corn, Dexter, where you have to guarantee the genetic pedigree of the result. The seed is planted in ABABAB rows, and the Bs are detasseled, guaranteeing only As doing the pollination. At least that’s how I always understood it.

    Joe, I don’t doubt the misery of factory work in weather like this. I’m sure piloting is far more pleasant, and even safer.

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  8. crinoidgirl said on July 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Dexter, detasseling isn’t done for regular feed corn. It’s just for corn being grown for seed by the seed companies, so that corn of one variety isn’t pollinated by its own variety, but by a different variety that it’s grown with, so that a hybrid’s produced.

    ETA: what Nance said

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  9. Dexter said on July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Joe: I brought a twelver to work in my cooler and drained a few cans at breaks when the heat was so bad, as it was in 1988…88 degrees at 3:00 AM? We’d walk to the parking lot and tip a few at break.
    When I worked in heat treat it was worse. I was half-scared back there to begin with so I did no drinking on the job, but I’d march into Cricket’s after my shift and tell Jim the bartender to set me up 4 Miller Hi-Life beers right away. These antics secured my “title” as “Second fastest beer drinker in the history of Cricket’s”.
    I am happy to report that Number One has joined me for those meetings we have in church basements. The ones where there is always a coffee pot on. Man, I haven’t been inside Cricket’s since 1992.

    *thanks for the ‘splainin’, c-girl & nance 🙂

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  10. Joe Kobiela said on July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks Nance,flying is better, but I try not to forget what I had to due in order to spend a morning like today, sitting in the shade at Keenland watching the horses run.
    Pilot Joe

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  11. Catherine said on July 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    My Iowa cousins never detassled corn for their dad, but they walked the beans many, many times. They are now, respectively, a PhD engineer, an PhD/MBA investment banker, and a PhD medical researcher. Nothing like field labor to make you see the utility of advanced degrees.

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  12. Dexter said on July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    best farm memories as a little kid…watching a cow artificially inseminated–what the HELL? … baling straw after the wheat combining was done, loose bales…and a live snake crawls out of the bale headed for me as I was about to hook the bale. No wonder I hate snakes. Damn! And what was an 8 year old doing on a farm wagon anyway? It’s a wonder that farm kids of the 1950s survived .

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  13. Dexter said on July 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Joe: That’s what my daughter’s man says…he loaded trucks at a freight terminal while going to Bowling Green and studying aviation. He said his co-workers laughed at his dream to fly for a profession, but he’s now a senior pilot for NetJets.

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  14. Kath said on July 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I detassled corn for two summers about 30 years ago for the princely sum of $3.35 per hour. We had to be to the employment office by 4:30 in the morning and board school buses to take us to the fields.

    We had gender-segregated work crews. The older boys got to do the more glamorous job of “rogueing” which entailed walking the rows with a shovel and digging up any volunteers from previous plantings. For this highly skilled task, they were paid a dollar more per hour. In my second year, one girl finally made it onto the rogueing crew.

    Being teenage girls we got a big kick out of the fact that we were castrating the corn plants. The row that was not detassled, which was planted about every 10 rows, was called the “stud” row.

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  15. brian stouder said on July 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    The row that was not detassled, which was planted about every 10 rows, was called the “stud” row

    Kath – you just gave me a literary flashback!

    Many years ago, I was reading some fluffy, semi-serious novel* – maybe a Michener something or other? – and a sex-scene came up, and the author (whover it was) made reference to the protagonist’s “steaming stalk”.

    Three decades later I’m still chuckling about that one

    *Very rare anymore. Gimme nonfiction…or a Laura Lippman book

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  16. Deborah said on July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    When Littlebird was 14 or so she detassled corn one summer (for a week or so) when she went to visit her uncle in Kansas (or was it Nebraska?). She can probably tell you how miserable it was. I remember thinking it wasn’t much different than children in Pakistan making rugs because little four year old fingers could get in places that adult fingers could not. Child labor, aren’t there laws about that?

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  17. Little Bird said on July 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I was in Kansas, and I “walked beans”. They gave me a big machete and told me to cut the weeds out of the bean fields. I spent all day in the sun, hunched over the rows, hacking away at weeds. I did it for one day, had a MASSIVE blister on my palm, and vowed never to do that again. I went to work the rest of that “vacation” in a teeny tiny VFW washing dishes for a dollar fifty an hour and counted myself lucky to not be walking beans anymore.

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  18. Sue said on July 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I thought ag laws were purposely different, the reason being that so many farm families have their kids working right alongside mom and dad, and having different laws just for farmers supposedly allows the kids to work in the family business without repercussions.
    Of course, life being what it is, these laws were then turned on their heads, which is how you get the discrepancy in pay and working conditions for farm laborers. I think that’s how Martha Stewart successfully fought a lawsuit by one of her gardeners over working conditions, by calling him an ag worker and arguing that he was not entitled to compensation for things like overtime.
    Or something. I know one farmer, even though I live in semi-rural WI, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.
    On a related note, does anyone know anything about ‘sheltered workshops’? Apparently the latest ‘beat up on Scott Walker’ issue (honestly, the man can’t walk across a room without something going wrong) is about hiring disabled workers. He was a guest (probably of honor) at an anniversary gala of a sheltered workshop last night, which prompted one of the employees to send a letter to the editor of the local paper detailing the conditions and pay of the disabled workers in the company. So, Scott tries to highlight and celebrate a company that supposedly helps the less fortunate get back on their feet, only to have it come out that 300+ of the employees are paid ‘sub-minimum wage’ (some less than $1 an hour), many are kept on a permanent ‘temp’ status, thus depriving them of benefits, and of course no a/c, just a couple of fans that don’t reach everyone. Anyway, as of the gala last night, the whistle blower had not been fired but there had been no defense of or explanation for the accusations.
    I’d feel sorry for Scott if I weren’t smirking maliciously right now.
    So, I’d never heard about this sheltered workshop thing but I guess the model for it is something like Goodwill.

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  19. Dave said on July 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Dexter, you made me remember that in 1971, on spring break, I went with a group to New York City, we spent a week there. We were walking somewhere around the still-building World Trade Center when a manhole cover, directly across a two lane street away from us, suddenly shot up into the sky with a big whoosh, went up what I recall as a considerable height, and landed on the sidewalk. There was no one on that side of the street.

    We thought then, how often does this happen, and what happens if someone is RIGHT THERE when it goes up?

    Never worked in a factory, the closest I came was a chemical cleaning supply company in Columbus, mostly on the delivery truck after my junior year of high school. I did, however, attend an open house held shortly after the GM truck plant opened up here. After standing and watching the assembly line for awhile, all I could think was how could monotonous it looked and I thought I would absolutely despise doing something like that. It wasn’t like I had the most attractive or satisfying job but I liked what I did.

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  20. coozledad said on July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I was going to say that seems like a whole lot of work to produce seeds that are prone to being wiped out by a single strain of blight, but then I realized you’re talking about sweet corn.

    My uncles got out of tobacco farming too soon for me to get green sick from priming leaves, but I’m old enough to remember a couple of crews tying the tobacco to sticks and hanging them in a flue-curing barn. I also got to see a couple of people fall from the top of the barn and pinball through the rafters after passing out in the heat. It’s amazing how far you can fall and live if your fall is broken every five feet or so.
    I wonder how many people have been mangled by a power take-off, or back in the day, the handcrank a lot of tractors employed. Those things just won’t let go of you.

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  21. basset said on July 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Eight dollars an hour to detassel? I got a dollar-sixty down in Greene and Daviess counties in the mid-seventies… quit to work on the railroad at $4.58 an hour and thought that was all the money in the world. Quart of Stroh’s was 79 cents, gas maybe fifty.

    and I remember that Leonard line about stopping off… was it in “Killshot?” Think so… a mother telling her daughter not to marry an ironworker because they don’t come straight home after work, they stop off. And she was good with computers, coulda gone to college, coulda been something.

    Nance, do you have a link to any of those Hamper columns?

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  22. Deborah said on July 29, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Sue, many years ago when I worked for an architecture firm in St. Louis we used to hire sheltered workshops to package our marketing material. Folding things, putting them in envelopes, that kind of thing. It was really cost effective and the way it was described to us, WE were doing them a favor and paying them too. At the time we thought it was great, now that I think back on it I can’t believe we thought that way. I have no idea what the working conditions were, I never saw them, I sure hope they were OK.

    Funny how I misremembered Littlebird’s summer experience at her uncle’s. Maybe partly because I went to college in rural Nebraska so I probably heard a lot of detassling corn stories from my friends there.

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  23. prospero said on July 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    My first job after college was stacking cores for transformers in a Westinghouse plant. Absolutely brutal. The cores are made of hundreds of laminations of sheet steel, sharp as a ginsu in a variety of sizes some weighing hundreds of lbs., some so small the stacker has a hard time pulling the layers from within the cylinder. Believe it or don’t the small cores were worst. Working from the middle out, the sheets has to be fanned into a comb shaped fistureso that several layers were stacked to that all the seams in a row were staggered. The job paid $12/hr. but it was incredibly difficult to “run standard”, certain numbers of cores per shift. It was common practice for everybody to pitch in to help when any one of us had to meet the standard to stay on the line. I’ve never had an actual nightmare in my life, but when I worked that job, I had recurring dreams of wrestling with lizards that bit my hands.

    At lunch on second shift the parking lot emptied as everyone in the plant went up the street to the package store. Mickey’s Big Mouths were the drug du jour. I stuck the job out for 6 months, but had I faced a lifetime in that factory, suicide would have been a serious consideration. Words fail to express how wretched this job was. I got an assembly line job in Ann Arbor when I was in HS, for more money than anybody I knew was making. It was so stultifying I went back to doing janitorial work at Metropolitan Hospital on 12th and Tuxedo in Detroit for less than half the money. This was pretty embarrassing because the hospital was part of the UAW’s health plan, so I’d see the guys I had worked the line with and took a lot of ribbing.

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  24. prospero said on July 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Blue Collar is a movie written and directed by Paul Schrader, with Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto and Richard Pryor. This is the best artistic presentation of factory work I’ve ever seen. Not on Netflix unfortunately. The script contains the word fuck, in all its permutations 173 times, according to IMDb.

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  25. MichaelG said on July 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Pioneer Woman has very good portraits of family ranch life. All the kids work all the time and these are very prosperous people. You have to wade through a lot of her cutsy wutsy stuff but the working day posts are kind of worth it. Scroll down to July 18 for example.

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  26. Sherri said on July 29, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    My grandfather had a tobacco farm, and fortunately I never had to do anything more than help out occasionally when there was a hurry to get the crop in the barn. I never had to climb up in the barn, though; I was barely strong enough to carry the sticks with the plants on them to the barn to be passed up. That was enough involvement with tobacco to convince me of two things: I never wanted to smoke and I never wanted to do physical labor for a living.

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  27. alex said on July 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Kids get paid $8/hour for detasseling? Shit, I doubt that’s what they’re getting paid here in Hoosiertucky. $9 seems to be the going rate these days at a whole lot of supposedly real jobs.

    Since we’re supposed to provide the bloggage, Salon today is all about dicks and pussies.

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  28. coozledad said on July 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Sherri: The bizarre thing about a lot of those tobacco farmers was their diet vs. the relative absence of body fat. My memories are of a bunch of gaunt leathery old Baptists mumbling prayers over the noonday feed of ham, corn bread, and greens. Some of the women put on body fat, but it seems like there were even more who were thin and very tightly wound.
    Quite a few of these people believed they lived among ghosts. It still unsettles me to think about it. I wonder if they weren’t the teetotalers they claimed to be. Judging from the liquor bottles I find out here by the barns, tobacco curing was accompanied in the off hours by athletic drinking.

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  29. Dexter said on July 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    alex, that link I posted advertises $7.25 an hour, out of Plymouth, Indiana.

    Little Bird, my dog is getting even with the mean beans for you…last night she stretched her leash all the way out and shit in the bean field adjacent to our walk-path.

    prospero, amen. That movie showed it like it was. “8 Mile” shows how high tonnage presses run, too: remember where eminem worked? That shit is real.

    brianstouder, the movie prospero references was also played out at IUPUFW as a stage production. It was very good; I actually went there to see it. Excellent work.

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  30. Kirk said on July 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    When I was a senior in high school, I qualified for a modest scholarship offered by my dad’s company. Receiving it involved having lunch with the board of directors. When I met the uberboss, he offered a right paw devoid of digits, save a thumb. His left hand was configured the same way. The guy (who happened to be from my hometown) was savvy enough to be chairman of the board of Nationwide Insurance but not smart enough to turn off a corn picker (at least twice) before trying to un-jam it. He was far from the last farmer I met who was shy at least a finger or two.

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  31. LAMary said on July 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Younger son has been doing brush clearance, garage cleaning, and demolition work for the guy across the street who inherited four lots with four old houses on them. The previous owner was a packrat and a cheapskate. That left houses filled floor to ceiling with stuff, six garages filled with stuff, and four lots that look like a jungle. My son saw the new owner over there surveying the scene and offered his services for ten bucks an hour, packing up crap, hacking vines, and demolishing stuff. He comes home tired and filthy with a roll of bills every night and he actually told me there was something really satisfying about physical work and seeing a project completed.

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  32. John G. Wallace said on July 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I wanted to thank Basset and Dexter and for introducing me to Ben Hamper’s writing. Being originally from New Jersey I have to admit I was a little uncomfortable with his Bruce bashing, although Bruce has been living large for decades. It feels like breaking the Omerta to question “the Boss.” Springsteen does do a great deal of charity work, mostly for food banks – but working class roots are not the same as being working class.
    G-V’s, houses on the water in Rumson, and an affair with a 911 widow spoiled the image for me years ago, as did the close to $100 ticket prices, and the rich, young guys working on Wall Street audience at most of his shows.
    I try to separate a performer’s music (or an actor or writer’s work) from their real life. I do like most of his older music and a live show is a great experience. He can be a pompous ass – I saw one of the Madison Square Garden Shows that were filmed for Live in New York City, this was pre-911 and Bruce was at verbal war with the NYPD over “American Skin (41 Shots), his song about the shooting of Amadou Diallo. Bruce scolded the crowd like an angry teacher for clapping in rhythm.
    It was funny reading Hamper’s accounting of his newfound friendship with Nils Lofgren and his wife. The wife was reading Hamper’s writings, but very slowly, and he didn’t want her to get to the Springsteen column before Michael Moore got to meet Springsteen.
    I read the first 5 chapters of Rivethead online and have reserved the book at the library. It’s worth a read, especially GM’s plan to motivate the line workers and improve quality by introducing a costume character cat, named Howie Makem who would walk around the plant and wave his Q-for-Quality stamped paws at the assembly line workers.
    I’ve had many jobs, never in a factory setting though. I can attest to the boozy build quality of the era because at one point in my life I was selling Chevrolet’s while working freelance also. The dealership’s owner was driving a Caprice Classic Brougham ( his son drove a Vette) and the car had a persistent rattle. One the service manager yanked open the passenger side front door panel he found the problem – an empty bottle of Budweiser.

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  33. coozledad said on July 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    LA Mary: Your son might be interested in this site. These are fun landscaping tools and work a hell of a lot better than string trimmers. Sounds like he needs a Styria brush blade.

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  34. John G. Wallace said on July 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    And thanks to my searching for the correct spelling of Amadou Diallo and Google Calculator please allow me to note, 41 shots = 1.81877207 liters.

    That seems like an appropriate footnote after reading some of Hamper’s book.

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  35. prospero said on July 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm


    I just rented Blue Collar for 2.99 at the Itunes store to watch tonight. Incredible performances by all three leads. I think it may have been the first time I really paid attention to Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, two of my favorite actors, about as intense as can be.

    LAMary, I love doing that sort of work. Honestlyy working in a factory struck me as something that would precipitate schizophrenia, at least in me. A few summers ago one of my brothers and I built a 12×50 wood deck with hand tools for my mom and dad in a day. Beer never tasted better than the Foster’s oil cans when we finished up in the dark. The result was extremely satisfying.

    I was riding home with groceries an hour ago next to a fairway. There’s a high hurricane fence and a thicket of bamboo along the golf course property line. Some duffer hit a shot of such monumental atrociousness that a ball made it through all the way to conk me in the eye. I’ve got a serious shiner and half my forehead is black an blueswollen like a Canamid. Twelve bottles of Guinness in my panniers, didn’t break a one. Somehow I didn’t fall. That had to be as bad a golf shot as it’s possible to hit. Scared the shit out of me. It felt like getting hit by a baseball. I yelled “Nice shot , asshole” over the fence.

    Members of Congress get paid for this?I wonder if House Republicans will show up in nuns habits to heist Medicare and Social Security.
    Jon Stewart mocking GOP motivational techniques. Extremely funny.

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  36. LAMary said on July 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I’m really proud of my son for taking the initiative and asking for work. He also babysits for a neighbor’s 2 year old so clearly, he’s got some good life skills going on. School is not his thing, at least yet, but I’m ok with him figuring out what he loves to do and proceeding accordingly. It took a while for me to get to this point. I needed to see he wasn’t just lazy. His older brother loves school and is all about reading and writing, so it ain’t nurture, it’s nature.

    And thanks for the link, Cooz. Now I know what a snath is.

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  37. Dexter said on July 30, 2011 at 1:43 am

    prospero, seriously, ‘scuse me for laughing so hard, but I also was hit by an errant ball once.
    Back in the 1990s the Toledo Mud Hens still played at the old racetrack in Maumee at the fairgrounds, which years ago had been converted into a baseball stadium.
    It is only 70 minutes from home, so I attended games sporadically.
    One Sunday I had organized a family outing at the place, Ned Skeldon Stadium it was called.
    Everyone drove in from different directions, and I was standing outside the gate waiting for the families to converge and we could all go in together.
    The games were broadcast and I had my radio on because everyone was late. I remember it well…Frank “The Cat” Catalanotto fouled one over the grandstand roof…I heard a WATCH OUT! and I covered my head, sort of figuring out the baseball might be heading my way , as I had heard that Frank had fouled one over the roof…just then a sharp pain…I had been hit square in the ass!
    There was a bicycle posse out there, kids who patrolled the area to get those foul balls, and a kid got my ass-ball.
    Yes, everyone showed up just after this, and I told my tail, er …tale. heh heh
    I don’t think they believed my story, except my wife, because I showed her my bruised cheek. And no, she did not kiss it to make it better. Of course not. 🙂

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  38. moe99 said on July 30, 2011 at 2:39 am

    I post this for Brian because I think he’s the civil war aficianado here. But it is interesting in its own right. Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.

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  39. prospero said on July 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Dexter. I had a friend named Tony Hart who was a football player at Holy Cross, whose hometown was Cleveland. I’ve actually seen Mud Hens games. I used to have a uniform shirt but I’m afraid it’s one of those things lost to a light-fingered gf over the years. No mistaking I got hit. My face looks like I need Mick to cut me. What amazing colors show up in a black eye. I’d say it’s aubergine this morning with that motor oil in a puddle iridescence, which reminds me, I’m beating the 100 deg. this afternoon and undertaking a pan of eggplant parm. Fresh mozzarella is on sale at the grocery store, but I should probably wear a pith helmet on the bike ride. If I’d broken any beers, I’d have been mightily pissed off. As it was, the only bad thing is not being able to ridicule the jackass’ links ineptitude personally.

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  40. John Brown said on July 30, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Near the G.E. plant on Broadway in Fort Wayne during the late seventies and early eighties, there were 6 or 7 bars within walking distance of the workers. As jobs moved to Mexico, bars closed. Only two survived.

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  41. prospero said on July 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

    How Republicans in Congress are behaving dangerously irresponsibly regarding the debt ceiling, according to a guy that was the head of W’s Council of Economic advisers. Even a dumb wet-brain like Boehner ought to be able to understand this. Hell, this should be simple enough for the average knuckle-dragging, drooling teabagger

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  42. coozledad said on July 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

    They need to drop a subpoena on Pammy.

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  43. prospero said on July 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    A beautiful comment on the Utoya shootings by Jo Nesbo, and a recommendation of his excellent mystery, The Snowman.

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  44. Dexter said on July 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    John Brown: Broadway Joe’s. For a while, my hangout…I lived just north, up on West Washington.
    If I wanted just a quick beer, The Brass Rail…but damn, that place was sort of depressing. I can’t remember the other bars’ names now. I tried and tried to get hired at G.E., but that damn recession….
    G.E. was great for guys that weren’t going to college right out of high school, but wanted a skilled trade. They had a great apprenticeship program for tool makers. A lot of my friends got that training and had good lives because of skilled trades paychecks, which are substantially more than machinist and labor paychecks.

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  45. moe99 said on July 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    C’dad, I find it extremely interesting that LGF would go to those lengths to expose Gellar. What gives here?

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  46. coozledad said on July 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    moe99: The scales fell from Charles Johnson’s eyes when he noticed Pam was hanging out with what’s essentially the new League of British Fascists. Republicans, even the Jewish ones, just can’t help but get in the sack with the blackshirts. It’s their ideological event horizon.

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  47. beb said on July 30, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Moe, as I recall Johnson, the owner of Little Green Footballs had a falling out with conservatives a couple years ago when he discovered that while he was a conservative he wasn’t an idiot. And like the founder of MediaMatters, discovered that the moment he refused to parrot the party line he became a pariah to the fundies. So without knowing the details of the case I’m guessing this is just long stand bad blood.

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  48. Sherri said on July 30, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Coozledad: I ate a lot of those noonday meals at my grandparents table with the field hands, and yes, there was no shortage of fat in those meals. But tobacco farming is hard physical labor, so you can take in a lot of calories doing it without putting on weight. Plus, the noon meal was “dinner,” not lunch, and the evening meal was “supper,” and was much lighter. When I left the south, it took me longer to get used to saying lunch and dinner than it did to stop saying y’all.

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  49. prospero said on July 31, 2011 at 12:04 am

    AREN’T THE INJURIES THE STORIES? NO SHIT LITTLE GIRL? This fhost stor goes on and on

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  50. joel hanes said on July 31, 2011 at 2:41 am

    My little sister Kay walked beans for on the farm of a family friend for a summer in the early 1970s – tanned, sun-bleached, fit, and strong, she was acclaimed “Sunflower Queeen” for the summer.

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  51. brian stouder said on July 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Moe – thanks for the link; a great article indeed.

    When one reads about the intense politics if 19th century America, and our consequent catastrophic Constitutional breakdown, the striking thing is how intensely disliked Lincoln was, by the abolitionists and other true-believers, at that time.

    In fact, President Obama mentioned the Emancipation Proclamation last week (possibly this moment was what triggered the essay that Moe linked) while speaking to students, and pointed out that it would surely have drawn the ire of Huffington Post (et al), had they existed then. A cynic could say that the president struck at slavery where he could NOT affect it (in areas “then in rebellion”) and left it alone where he COULD affect it (in loyal states like Maryland or Kentucky) – so that the act did precisely nothing when it was issued.

    Interestingly, our 16th president always thought that that act – issuing the Emancipation Proclamation – would be what he would be remembered for, and lots and lots of statues of Lincoln (usually placed in parks or town squares) in the years after the war have him holding a document (said to be the EP). But as we moved into the 20th century, those same statues were often said to portray him holding the Gettysburg Address. (I suppose “new birth of freedom” – referring to a nation – is sufficiently airy and wispy, compared to “henceforth and forever free” – referring specifically to Americans of African descent)

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  52. Dave said on July 31, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I believe this is the Ben Hamper Springsteen column:

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  53. nancy said on July 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    It is indeed, Dave. Thanks for finding it. I’d forgotten the line about Billy Joel giving stubble burn to Christie Brinkley. Funny.

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  54. basset said on July 31, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Most of that column was repeated in “Rivethead.” Suppose I should go Google Hamper and see what he’s doing now.

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