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Date:4/16/2014 6:10:29 PM
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Pickin' Pickles, Part I
"Lay that pickle down, Babe,
Lay that pickle down,
Pickle Packin' Mama,
Lay that pickle down."

I think that it was my Aunt June (Marion) Benedum who changed the lyrics of "Pistol Packin' Mama" to reflect the yearly ordeal her relation went through each summer "pickin' pickles". It started in 1968, when Pa figured that he had enough child labor to start putting in a field of cucumbers under contract with the Bond Pickle Company of Oconto, Wisconsin. Since that year, we Truckeys have always called cucumbers "pickles". After all, it was for the "Pickle" company that we were working. Even today, 45 years later, I have to pause a second before remembering to say "cucumber" to those outside the family. There's a grim logic to it, you know. "Cucumbers" are lush, green, and tasty. They are used in crunchy cucumber sandwiches, oft-times served on white bread with the crust trimmed off, or in cucumber salads, drenched in either Italian dressing or in some type of mayonnaise dressing. Hence, the term, "cool as a cucumber".

On the other hand, "pickin' pickles" is done in the heat of High Summer. We picked them while stooping over or kneeling in the sandy soil with the sun beating down on our backs. Before that, we boys hoed the pickle field twice in the month of June. Our hands first got calloused by the hoe and then blackened and toughened from picking the spiked cucumbers themselves in July and August. We dealt with bees, spiders, snakes and mice as we picked the patch daily. Besides, "pickin' pickles" is alliteratively easy on a "campesino's" tongue.

Pa used to put the contract under the names of Big Brother Tommy and myself. This way there was no income tax, as we were minors. Pa bought the seed, the fertilizer and the gas for the tractor. Half of the money from the pickles went to pay for that and the rest we got to keep. Of course us kids had to use that money to buy our school supplies and clothes for the upcoming school year. If we were lucky, we had a few dollars to spend on frivolites. Tommy put his money in the bank. Wayne bought comic books. I used to buy a half a pound of ju-jus, or rubber candy, as we called it. I would make that little white paper bag last a week. (Fortunately, my brothers didn't care for the stuff) More about "pickle pickin'" to come. --Gary
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