Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Beet Fields

At my local library I stumbled upon a surprising story in the quick reads section. Called The Beet Fields its largely about a migrant labourer working a series off seasonal jobs, getting his start in picking Beets. He's a young run away who doesn't really know much about how things work, though he quickly learns. Through out the story he befriends other outcasts and is exploited by the members of ordinary and respectable society. The farmers who hire migrant workers and the local Sheriff, typically the hero's in rural American tales are the villains.

Its possibly the most class conscious story I've read in a long time, it demonstrates the effects of capitalism on labour and how people from very different backgrounds can build concrete links and practice solidarity just by being human beings. All without one word of jargon in its 100+ pages. Its strength is in its devotion to its framing, its all from the boys perspective, his conclusion come across as common sense and a result of his kind nature.

So I'll be transcribing it.

The Beet Fields

By Gary Paulsen

This one’s for Gito

Definitions, field (fi:ld), n. a wide or open expanse

Shee gave me of the Tree, and I did eate.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

1955. The boy’s life truly began when he was sixteen years old, sleeping in the grubby apartment, in his small room, on the couch that folded out into a bed. He was only half awake, fighting sleep: half dreaming, half knowing. His mother was there beside him.

She had come to his bed many times drunk, to sleep, as she had slept with him when he was a small boy during the war, when his father was away in the army. She was the mother and he was the boy and they lived alone. All his life she had fallen asleep near him, two, three nights a week, and he would either slide to the side away from her or ease out onto the floor and pull a blanket down to sleep there while she passed out, mumbling drunkenly about his father. Always about the father.

But tonight, even half dreaming, he knew something was different, wrong, about her need for him, and he rolled and pushed and stood away in lonely horror while she lay their moaning, half conscious, the drunk smell of her filling his shabby room, dark except for the light from a streetlamp a block away. And he ran…

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