We had quite a bit of rain here in NE TN yesterday and then last night it got serious several times. In fact it was enough that it woke me up and I definitely have hearing loss. And one of our neighbors here in the RV park was leaving while I was out walking Buddy just before good light and stopped and wanted to talk about how much it had rained overnight. I discovered by looking at the license plate on his Motor Home, Alaska. My first thought was they get a lot of rain there too don’t they? But then it hit me that a lot of their rain is white and very cold.
Anyway the amount we received brought to mind a memory from another time. I was maybe 15 or 16, and working for my brother Hubert on the grove he was foreman of. It had to be summer if I was working for him and in SE FL that is thunderstorm season and sometimes a lot of them. This was one of those times of plenty. Rain that is. Water standing everywhere and not draining out of the orange groves fast enough. Understand that a flood in SE FL citrus groves does not mean water is several foot deep but more like inches deep around the base of the trees. OH there is the normal slow flow of natural drainage but it isn’t really moving it is just standing there getting warm and the temperatures are still in the eighties or nineties all day every day. The water starts to warm up and if left too long will sour around the roots of the trees and they will die from it.
The water had to be pumped out of the groves into the drainage ditches to save the trees. All the groves had large pumps to pump water both into the groves in a drought, assuming a water supply was available, and out in case of high water. These pumps were gas engine powered and often times needed oil added to it either because it was old and burnt oil and the pump itself would need oil added after several hours of running. Or overheat due to loss of water either from water loss or getting hot enough to boil it out. It was not like today where it could be monitored from long distances by computer or even your phone it was someone on site or at the very least stopping by on a regular basis to insure everything was alright and we was getting that water out of there. Hence the need for a highly skilled person like myself at the time to sit there check the oil, gas and water levels as needed and pour some in if.
Depending on circumstances one person could monitor several if they were close enough together and that person had transportation to go from one to the other. That was not my situation. One pump in a pump house about 10 foot square with a big gasoline engine with tin roof and sides. The muffler and most of the sound and exhaust was vented outside. I think! A few cans of gas as needed some oil just in case a flashlight to see to get around and do my job and whatever I brought to eat and drink. Guess I could have carried a book to read but there were no electric light in this pump house so nothing to be able to read by. The flashlight was for work not pleasure. The bathroom was anywhere in that several hundred acres you might want to pick. There was plenty of mosquitoes there to keep you company when you went out. They did not come in inside much. To noisy and I don’t think they liked the exhaust fumes either. No company anywhere around even if you were willing to walk to it and back. Distances to neighbors in the area was measured in miles not blocks. No lights of any type as far as you could see. Part of that may have been because you were surrounded by large trees for those same miles but there really was not anyone around. You got a problem? Figure it out. And if you can’t fix it I’ll pick you up about 7 in the morning anyway since there was no way for me to let him know. But watch that pump and make sure it doesn’t run out of anything it needs. It was well before dark when he dropped me off.
Did I mention this was not a Union Job?
Now if you would add to all of this the imagination of a mid teenage boy and just maybe you can get some idea of what my night was like. Heavy overcast. Thunderstorms rolling through on a regular basis no light. Nothing to occupy the mind and you can’t go to sleep.
I knew in the rational part of my mind that there were no Lions Tigers or Bears out there but that did not stop me from hearing them. Or those monsters or bad men my mind made up either.
Really it wasn’t to bad. I was getting paid to sit on my butt, on a metal 5 gallon bucket leaned back against the tin wall legs stuck out in front of me and only occasionally have to get up to check fluid levels and temperature to insure everything was good. That went well till sometime early in the morning a thunderstorm came through. The thunder rolled, lightning flashed and I got a pretty good jolt of electricity from that tin wall. Then it was move that 5 gallon metal bucket I was sitting on out to the middle of the room and sit there. Have to stay awake now or you are going to fall off that bucket. I’m guessing that didn’t happen more than once. There were not many needs to go to the bathroom either. Mosquitoes made sure of that. I remember standing there attending to business and watching the exposed skin of my arm turn black with mosquitoes. Looked down and discovered it was happening in other areas as well.
My brother, Hubert, did show up to pick me up just about 7 as he said he would. The rain finally quit. The water was pumped out and the trees didn’t die so I guess it was worth the effort. Oh and I did get paid for it. The money went right into the family budget to help all of us and I lived through it. It may have even helped me be the person I am today. Some that know me may not think that is so good but I kind of like me, I hope you like you too,
Should you have any curiosity about the area I am talking about get yourself a map of
Florida. On the east coast about 3/4s of the way down you will see Fort Pierce or Fort Pierce Inlet. Go West about 12 miles and that is the general area of this particular story. That orange grove and most of the others in that area no longer exist. Continue on west for another 8 to 10 miles make a circle with about a 5 mile radius beginning at hwy 68 and Header Canal Road intersection and that is where the majority of my (formative?) years was spent. Still not many people living there but a lot more now than then.
Just memories. Ain’t they grand?
I do realize this has nothing to do with Hobby Farming in todays sense but it did and does relate to the things my family did while living on someone else’s large farm on a small scale to improve their lifestyle through agriculture and farming options. The only thing they knew.