A couple weeks ago I was telling about while growing up our kitchen table had places for six people. We were a family of five and the sixth place was usually taken by the hired man my dad used through the year except for winter.
That led me to remember the various hired men that sat at the table during the ’50s and ’60s. Most of them were boys who were in their late teens, finishing high school or recently graduated.
When they were not helping bale hay and straw or helping with livestock chores – tending to the cattle, hogs, and chickens – they could always haul manure. There was a lot of manure.
However, there was one hired man who was not in his late teens. He was an older man and worked for my dad for many years. His name was Albert, but my dad called him by his nickname, “Sid.”
I called him Albert because that was his name. I do not know how he got to be called Sid and there is a lot more I do not know about him, despite working for my dad for around 10 years.
He was an elderly man, about 60, and arrived each morning in his green early-’50s, two-door Chevrolet.
He was very soft spoken and almost never spoke at all. A conversation with Albert was not possible.
I believe my dad enjoyed his quiet, competent way of getting his work done.
He had never married and lived in a house in town, renting a bedroom from a widowed lady. What he did before working for my dad, I do not know.
But I do know he had two things he enjoyed, fishing and smoking cigarettes.
Almost everyone smoked in those days, my parents were the exception, so Albert’s cigarettes made him like everyone else.
His cigarettes were his constant companion. He seemed to enjoy solitary work such as cultivating corn, and the he cultivated a lot of corn with the John Deere A and front-mounted cultivator.
I remember my mother preparing a mid-morning and mid-afternoon lunch for Albert, and it was the job of my sisters and me to walk to where he was cultivating to deliver it to him.
He would stop to eat and eat in silence. I remember asking him questions while he ate and his answers were usually “yes” or “no” and that was it. He did not have anything else to add.
The longest conversation I remember my dad and Albert having was during a noon meal at the kitchen table. My dad asked him how the cultivating was going.
“Be nice to have an umbrella,” was Albert’s reply he said with a smile.
My dad made a trip to the John Deere dealer and Albert had a yellow cloth umbrella with the John Deere logo on it the next day and for the rest of his cultivating duties for several years.
I can honestly say he wore out several umbrellas.
It also made him a lot easier to locate when we looked across a cornfield for that spot of yellow when we delivered his lunch.
I think it was the late-’60s when my dad told me Albert had passed away.
His grave marker is near the path close to the front of our church’s cemetery. I usually walk past it when I am at the cemetery for funerals.
The marker notes his name, year of birth and year of death. It also says he was a PFC in World War I. I did not know that until I read it.
To me, Albert was like those cigarettes he enjoyed. He was here for a moment, provided some pleasure to those around him and then when done, was extinguished.
I remember listening to an African storyteller saying that there is a belief in a tribe in Africa that a man is not dead until he has been forgotten.
Maybe that is why I am writing this about a very quiet, pleasant man whose requirements of life were so minimal.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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