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Mine Creek Revelations: The Pickle Plant

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YES, I AM STILL HERE peeking out my window on Main Street, and I hope that both of my regular readers will forgive for repeating this column from Oct. 10, 2018.

I am just too worn out from trying to help the Razorbacks. Plus, I’m trying to save money so I can send some skeezix to Texas A&M to help their football coach’s moving expenses.

Only the Aggies would fire a coach who has been a fairly consistent winner and has NEVER lost a game by wide margin (I’m thinking about you, Sam Pittman).

So, below find the repeated bit of wisdom.

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 FOR THE 12th or 15th October in a row, former Nashville Scrapper Tommy Younk hosted a bunch of NHS classmates of his era for a fishfry at his cabin off the beaten track at Camp Albert Pike.

Before I go any farther let me tell you that Tommy’s cabin is for sale. It’s a nice two-story cabin surrounded by trees and within a stone’s throw of the Little Missouri River. To get to the cabin one must ford a shallow creek and drive about a quarter of a mile on a narrow gravel trail.

There’s a nice deck. And that’s where about 15 or so buddies gathered. The number of attendees varies every year but most graduated from Nashville High School within three or four years on either side of 1960. There have been doctors, lawyers, engineers, airline pilots, scientists, preachers, educators, pharmacists, a lot of insurance agents, law enforcement and some aging gents with no visible means of support.

The 2018 reunion was blessed because no one was newly missing permanently. We sat out on on the deck on a pleasant blue sky day, smelling the Ouachita mountains, and watching the occasional falling leaf float past. Royce Scott had catfish rolling in the deep fryer.

Life is good.

Many important topics were covered. Were your ears burning Saturday about noon? We did the obligatory talking about girlfriends and glorious football victories over De Queen and Ashdown.

One of the topics was summer jobs.

We all had summer jobs. Sometimes the football coach ‘found’ jobs for us. In that case you could count on the work being really hard, the kind that builds muscles and endurance offseason.

But without exception, nearly all of us worked to buy clothes for the next school year (at this point an orchestra should begin playing sensitive music that evokes visions of tough times).

Obviously many summers were spent in peach orchards or at peach sheds. It could very hard work, with the attendant itch of peach fuzz. One peach job I was never familiar with was working at a place called the ‘steer cooler.’ At least it sounded like everyone called it ‘steer.’ Maybe it was just our country accents trying to say ‘stair cooler.’ It was the place where baskets of peaches were taken to be cooled for transport across the country. It was hard work and the hours could be exceptionally long, but the pay was a little better than if you were working at a shed. Also, the steer cooler was in town, so you didn’t have to hitch a ride to the peach sheds which were always at Highland or Bingen or out toward Lockesburg several miles.

Another summer job was at the basket factory. Making baskets and crates required moist wood slats and dry kiln heat. Then the assembled baskets or crates had to be loaded in precise rows on trucks. Or, worse, boxcars. I cannot believe that several of us didn’t die in an unvented  boxcar baking in the sun on the railroad siding at the basket factory. We worked in mortal fear of the owner, Mr. Jack Bennett, and the foreman, Mr. Earl Jones. Neither man was taller than about 5’4” but we still quaked when they came to make sure we weren’t lollygagging.

Another job was at the pickle plant. It was located in the 500 bock of South Front Street, but you could smell it all over town. Farmers would bring their cucumbers, and the boys would load them into enormous vats which were filled with stinky brine. The work included pushing wheelbarrows of salt and cukes and other stuff that you don’t want to know about that was a part of your mom’s dinner table pickles.

Then there was the ice plant, where working temperatures ranged from Arctic to Sahara, depending upon the chore and the task’s location on the ice plant campus. There were other jobs, of course.

We’re really sorry for talking about the girls.

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THINGS I LEARNED by opening email: Then there was the time Fruit of the Loom took Hanes to court … It was a brief case.

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WORD GAMES. The twins: One and Done. College athletes.

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HE SAID: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President

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SHE SAID:  “Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” Mary Kay Ash, businesswoman

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SWEET DREAMS, Baby

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