By Don C. Reed

Wanting to earn money to buy a ring for my high school girlfriend, I got on the truck to the strawberry fields.

“Dollar a row,” the foreman said, “Don’t bruise the fruit, or you don’t get paid.”

The row before me was just a quarter mile long, but it seemed to stretch endlessly, under the increasing heat of the sun. I bent way over and started twisting off the huge berries, some so big they would not fit in the green plastic boxes .

“Don’t eat too many,” said the man beside me, “make you sick”.

I tried to take his advice, but I had never eaten strawberries so big. It took several bites to consume. And the flavor!

The workers passed me up, picking twice as fast as I did.

Pain stabbed into my back, and not mere muscular fatigue. This was vertebrae pressing the spinal cord, pain you couldn’t get used to.

I finished my first row, turned in the berries, got my pay slip — one dollar.

“You too slow,” said an elderly Mexican lady, “No make money that way. Come here, sit in the shade, I show you.” She smiled; I followed, sat down under the tree.

“Pluck the stems,” she said, fingers flying. I followed her example, as best I could, setting aside the biggest strawberries for jam.

I saw a child crawl into a large cardboard box, big enough to hold a piano.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Where we sleep,” she said.

I began to remember the previous berries, the ones I had eaten before.

Finally I had to ask: “Donde esta el banyo?”

“Go behind the bushes,” she said, “What we do.”

I tried to explain that was not possible; finally she shrugged and pointed.

It was a primitive porta-potty, made of dark shingled wood, very old. Reluctantly I approached it, lifted the latch. A horde of black flies buzzed away…

“We follow the harvest”, my new friend explained, “Apples, apricots, berries, work you Anglos mostly won’t do. When is gone, we go home, come back next year.”

To me, these were heroic lives: constant struggle, just to keep their families alive.

One man told me he sent money home, so his mother could buy food.

Another was saving his earnings, much as he could; he was buying bricks, a few at a time, building a wall — gradually making a house.

Former President Donald J. Trump wants to build a wall too, but not for a house. He wants to keep the Mexicans out, people like the ones I worked beside.

Think of Donald Trump’s billionaire background, everything handed to him on a silver platter. Trump denies this, saying he “only” inherited one million dollars from his father, Fred Trump, and that was a loan, when he turned 21. Even so. how many of us are handed a million dollar check to get started in business?

Is Trump a “self-made man”? Hardly.

“According to a New York Times report in 2018, Trump received… $413 million (in 2018 prices) from his father’s business empire…

“The Times found 295 distinct streams of revenue that Fred Trump created over five decades…to channel his wealth to his son…he was a millionaire by age 8.” (1)

And what does Trump say about migrant field workers? Does he at least show them respect, being supposedly a friend of the working man?

Just the opposite. He calls them filthy names, “rapists”, and “drug dealers”. (2)

As for “rapist”, was not Trump himself convicted of sexual abuse? (3)

And “drug dealers”? I am told the most common method of drug smuggling now is to send it through the mail, or by air — how high a wall would it take to keep out a plane? (4)

How many new workers should we welcome in?

I do not know what the answer is, but I do see Trump not wanting us to solve it in a bipartisan way. He wants to build his campaign for President on that issue again, keeping us divided, manufacturing hate for brown-skinned workers

But we will not be tricked forever.

As Lincoln said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time. But you cannot fool all the people, all the time”. (5)

I do not trust Donald Trump, who ordered 5,000 children separated from their migrant parents. (6)

I am proud to support Joe, who reversed that cruel policy. (7)

And I will always remember the kindness and courage of the workers in the strawberry fields.








Don C. Reed is a writer in California.

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