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I just had to share this rustic, country scene with you. (Please forgive the quality of the photo reproduction. I long for the day I get a scanner!)

Gibson Orchard workers three 007

When I was a young hippie guy, circa 1968, I worked for the Gibson family orchard in West Valley, a rural, agriculturally-dedicated area which lay west of the small town of Yakima, Washington. The two gentlemen portrayed here were World War II veterans who worked full-time at the orchard. They were fine fellows. They put up with us young, crazy kids (because we worked hard).

I love the old, scratched-up wooden cabinets, cubbyholes and vintage tools which make up the background of the photo. We actually used that stuff. Today, that gear would fetch a pretty penny at one of those reclamation companies. The gent in the front, who I believe is “Eldon” or “Everett”, is sporting the classic blue work shirt. We hippie boys (brothers Karl and Chris Baker, Curtis Hearst and myself) took a liking to those shirts, so we journeyed to our little downtown district, to Penney’s, and scored a few. They looked groovy with a red or blue paisley neckerchief. — The perfect hippie garb when paired with shrink-to-fit Levis.

The fellow in back, enjoying some coffee from his thermos, whose name won’t come to me (it’s been nearly fifty years!), talked often about spending time in Hawaii during the war. He always made us laugh when he pronounced it, High-Wah-Ya. He had a good sense of humor.

tractors

We coaxed both men into participating in tractor races with us! We raced early-1950’s vintage tractors along the ditch roads on our way back to the outbuildings, at the end of our shift. One of our racers, Chris Baker, got hurt pretty good on one such occasion, when he fell off the back of the tractor brother Karl was driving.

propped fruit tree limbs

I worked alone much of the time, irrigating, thinning fruit, propping fruit-laden limbs, painting tree roots with a mysterious copper or magnesium substance. (It didn’t kill me — I’m in my late 60’s!) I had a little transistor radio with me, to keep me company. It would only pick up “Country KUTI” radio station. I listened to disk jockey, J. Andy Thompson, with whom I later became friends, spin the latest country records, while I worked with my beloved fruit trees on those hot summer Yakima days. Andy would play recordings of Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell, Charlie Pride….  — I knew a lot about country music for a hippie! I guess that helps explain why I became a country singer, kicking off my career at Yakima’s Mayfair Tavern in 1971.

italian plum tree

Looking back, I realize I truly loved working in that orchard. I learned quite a bit about nurturing fruit trees. A couple of years ago, I discovered an abandoned Italian plum tree on the property my senior apartment building is situated upon. It was obscured by years and years-worth of ivy, blackberry brambles and morning glory. It was in rough shape. I took it under my wing, removing the weeds, watering daily, and thinning the tiny plums down to a reasonable amount, knowing that having fewer plums would mean having bigger, better plums. About a month and a half later, I picked ten pounds of plums from that tree, which I was so happy to share with my neighbors. Guess I learned something in 1968!

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Notes:

Here is a song I probably heard J. Andy Thompson spin a dozen times while I worked in the orchard — a song I sing in concert to this very day:

Sad news about the plum tree: the landlord sent out a work crew to remove the ivy which was taking over our little green area, and a worker lopped off all but the two highest branches of the plum tree. — The two branches that are too high off the ground for me to reach.

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