I wondered why I was the only one that wanted to go to the farm with grandpa. All of my older cousins came up with reasons why they couldn’t go with us. Even Mom didn’t want to come. I should have caught the hint when I had the chance, but I was only eight, too young to realize that going to the macadamia nut farm was not going to be carefree fun. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to learn that hard work pays off.
The road was bumpy. I bounced in the seat, the belt digging into my neck each time. The smell of the sweat stained seats stung my nose as the wind whipped around the cabin of the truck. The engine moaned as we slowly climbed the twisting dirt road. Grandpa drove, eyes focused on the road, a mischievous smirk planted on his face. I could see the trees. We were getting close.
We pulled off the road and stopped at the metal gate. Grandpa put the truck in park, then quickly climbed out and unlocked the gate. With a strong push, the gate swung open to let us through. He got back in, and we drove up the path, passing a number of trees.
The farm was beautiful. The trees had grown in perfect rows, fitting closely together at their tops, creating a green canopy above our heads. We parked in a small opening. I quickly clicked off my seat belt and bounced out of the truck. Grandpa came around to my side and handed me a giant woven sack. It was so big that I could have climbed inside and someone could have tied it shut. I wondered what it was for. I hoped I didn’t need to clean the leaves on the ground. There were leaves everywhere. The trees went on as far as I could see in every direction.
“Grandpa, what are we gonna do up here?” I asked. “We don’t have to pick up all the leaves, do we?”
Grandpa laughed. “No. We’re going to pick up the nuts”
I was excited. This was the first time I was getting to help grandpa pick up the mac nuts. This was going to be fun, and all my cousins were going to miss out.
Grandpa walked over to the closest tree. He bent over and carefully picked the fallen mac nuts off the ground, tossing them into the bag as he went. I chose the tree next to his. I squatted down and started to follow suit. One, two, three. The nuts fell into the sack.
“Ouch!” The leaf stabbed me in the pad of my index finger.
“Careful, the leaves are pokey,” said grandpa.
I looked up and acknowledged his warning. I continued to pick up the nuts, moving the leaves cautiously and still getting stabbed over and over again. I slowly moved around my tree, securing every last nut I could in my bag like a hungry squirrel.
By then, the sun was high and even the thick covering of the trees couldn’t keep the heat away. Sweat started to drip down my face as I moved to the next tree. Grandpa was already three trees away. He was much better at this than I was.
By the time I finished my third tree, I was sure it was time to go soon. We must have been there for hours. I looked around for grandpa. He was two rows up and a few trees down.
“Grandpa, are we almost done?” I shouted.
He chuckled. “Not until we fill up our bags.”
The horror struck like a hot frying pan to my face. Fill up the bag? I didn’t even have half a bag. Not even one third of a bag! I was surely going to die here.
Four trees later, I was beaten. My hands had been nipped by those pesky leaves more times than I could remember, the heat was obnoxious, and my legs were dead. My hands were filthy from the ground, and I had hanabata, that’s what we called the sticky snot that came out of our noses, running down my face, not to mention all the dried hanabata that I had wiped on the sleeve of my favorite Power Rangers T-shirt.
At least my bag was slowly getting filled, which proved to only be a new problem. Now I had to drag the heavy bag with me as I moved.
Grandpa was such a show off. He had already filled his sack and started a new one. I wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t deserve it. He tricked me. This was not fun.
The sun was much lower by now. My bag of nuts was finally nearing the top. Grandpa had filled his second bag and came to check on me.
“I think that’s about it,” he smiled.
“Finally…,” I mumbled.
Grandpa tied up my bag and tossed it into the truck bed with his bags. I didn’t hesitate. I ran, jumped into the truck and strapped myself in before he could change his mind.
Grandpa locked the gate as we left, and we drove back down the hill in silence. When we got back to town, grandpa pulled into the store parking lot. He pulled out his wallet and handed me twenty dollars.
“You worked hard today,” he looked serious. “You deserve a good snack”
I had never earned my own money before. Twenty dollars felt like hitting the jackpot. We went into the store, and I decided to get only one ice cream. I didn’t want to spend my money all at once. I worked so hard for it. I proudly handed my money to the cashier, and she gave me nineteen dollars back.
I was beaten down, tired, and felt like I would be permanently hunched over, but I was left with a sense of accomplishment. Working on the farm was hard, but that was the best ice cream I ever had, and I still had leftover money to save. I’ll never forget my day on the macadamia nut farm.