By Daris Howard
Arden stormed into the house and dropped into a chair, tired and discouraged.
His wife, Rachel, brought him a cold drink of water. “How’s the harvest going, Dear?”
He shook his head. “Not well. With all of the men gone off to fight Hitler, getting the beets topped and off to market seems impossible. I thought it was an answer to my prayers when they decided to let the schools out for harvest so the boys could help. But they have no motivation to work.”
“Can’t the school officials do something?” Rachel asked.
“They just transport them here on the busses. They can’t make them work. I’ve tried everything I can think of to get them to move faster – coercion, pep talks, and even bribery.”
Jean, Arden’s eighteen-year-old daughter, walked in and heard the last of the conversation. She asked her father some questions, and he again expressed his frustration.
“If your brothers were home, instead of off to the war, we would have had the harvest in by now.”
“Well, they’re not,” Jean said, “so if we have to, you and I will do it by ourselves.”
“I don’t know, Jean,” Arden replied. “Having you work with all those boys is not good. They will tease you mercilessly. Maybe I will just tell the school officials not to bring them back tomorrow and we can start then.”
Jean complained that it would be another day lost, and the evening air was already feeling like winter was closing in. “Besides,” she added, “I’m not afraid of their teasing.”
Arden reluctantly agreed, and the two of them made their way to the field. Jean ignored the laughter of the boys and their rude jokes as she approached.
While her father started up the equipment, Jean began topping beats and tossing them into the row to be loaded into the truck. She worked furiously, ignoring the comments of the boys. The boys also went back to work, but didn’t appear to be in any hurry. Soon she had moved far ahead of them and was working quickly down her row.
One of the boys noticed, and he spoke to the others. They looked at how far she was, having done more than all of them put together, and suddenly everything changed. They were not about to be beat by a girl. The topped beets started flying into the rows. In turn, that made it possible to load the truck quickly.
It wasn’t long until the truck was full and heading off of the field, and another was moving into its place. The boys weren’t laughing now. They were working hard and fast. She worked fast too, and the trucks were filled at a tremendous pace.
The biggest problem was getting them unloaded and back fast enough to keep everyone busy. At times, when no truck was available, Jean took a break and drank some water. She would make sure the boys had some as well.
When a truck returned, she immediately went back to work. The boys joined her, none of them wanting to fall behind and have her beat them. Once, she glanced over at her father as he worked to keep the trucks rolling, and he smiled at her.
Within only a few days, their crop was harvested and the last truck was on its way. As Arden visited with the school officials, one of the boys came over to Jean.
“If I am ever in a tight spot and need a partner to work with, I want you on my team.”
The other boys laughed, and then they all headed to the bus. As they drove away, they all waved to her.
Arden put his arm around her. “I guess you found the one thing that could get them to work.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“You challenged their pride.”
Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist and playwright, is author of “Super Cowboy Rides” and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com