The Wilson Story


Pea Vinery

    When I was eighteen I was old enough to work for Del Monte, thus earning over a dollar an hour.  At this age they could work you around the clock and did.  My first job was at the pea vinery in Lake Shore (I think).  Work started at 3 am in the morning and ended around 5 pm in the evening. Thus, a long day could be 14 hours or better $14 dollars which was more than double earnings hauling hay. 

The standard work was to unload pea vines from trucks, wagons, or loads dumped on the ground. The vines had been harvested in the field by the farmers.  Some farmers would rather unload their own but others would pay Del Monte to unload them.  The smart farmers unloaded their own and took their time to get maximum yield.  We would unload as fast as possible probably loosing peas.  Some farmers would fill their wagons by machines or fork lifts making it almost impossible to unload.  The problem was when you tried to get a pitchfork full of peas you either got the whole load or none.  The difficulty was trying to get a forkful that you could lift and feed into the vinery.  Peas were the hardest things to work with that I ever encountered, because the green vines with their tendrils seemed to cling together.  

    The vines containing peas were fed into a hopper and in turn into a rotating drum with counter rotating beaters.  The beaters would cause the pods to pop open and the peas would fall through holes in the drum.  When things were working right the peas would fall out in the center of the drum. If we fed to fast many would not make it out in the beating process.  If we went to slow they would fall out just after entering the drum.  This allowed us to adjust our feeding rate.  The peas would roll down a sloping belt to the boxes at the bottom.  The belt would remove dirt and small leaves and drop them onto a belt to join the vines going to the stacking yard or ensilage pile.  There was a man and a horse that would spread the spent vines around building a large square pile of vines.  This would grow through out the season.  I was impressed the the horse never fell off the pile as it got very high 15-20 feet or more.  The worker and horse built a ramp so they could get down each day.  The juice from the stack would run to a settling pond.  I was told that the gas given off by the pea juice would burn if you tossed a match into it, but don’t do it. So I never tried.  I hated the odor.

    The workers were double the number of unloading stations so that we could take turns unloading and resting during the day.  It was sort of exciting to get the first load as everyone started together so you could see who was the fastest.  I always raced with everyone and usually did rather well except for this one skinny farm kid.  I was racing and he was working at his normal pace and he was done when I was half done.  I had never had anyone blow me away by that amount in my whole life, not even Boyd would beat me by that much.  He was six feet tall and weighed 115.  This was the first time that I had encountered a truly hyper person.  When I first found at that he earned $1.25 an hour I was upset after trying to beat him through a load I recognized that he was under paid.  At breakfast or lunch breaks he would take a sack of sandwiches made from a whole loaf of bread and devour it.  His parents went on vacation during pea season and his mother filled a large freezer with lunches to last the week. That was in the day of large trunk type freezers.  He was our mythological worker as was Babe and the Blue Ox to the loggers, only he was real.

    Some interesting events that happened during this season was the day that my pants were ripped from me by a revolving sprocket, the day Kate and I went to LA Goon for a musical and my  I first ride Buster with out dad’s help.  The loss of my pants was explained elsewhere in detail.  I had my pant leg get caught in a sprocket and my pants were wound up until the were ripped from my body.  One minute I was in Levis the next in my shorts. The next was that Kate and I went on a date just after work to Salt Lake City and heard a singing group.  I took her home changed clothes and made it to work.  I wanted and got to unload the first load and set on a bench and fell asleep when it was my turn to get the next load no one could wake me.  The boss poured dirt into my ear to wake me and I didn’t even stir for quite some time finally I awakened with an ear full of mud.  You know 18 year olds need some sleep. One day worked was canceled due to rain so I decided to go for a horse back ride up the canyon and chose to go on Buster for some reason.  I was getting to big for my britches I guess.  I saddled Buster with the new saddle (Dad’s) and went to get on Buster in the barnyard and he went to bucking.  He hit a bale of hay and went down with me on him.  I tried to stay on but he got up to quick.  (You could see scratch marks on the saddle where I tried to hang on.)  With me lying to the side of the bale with my left foot stuck in the stirrup, he bucked once more and hit the bale and came down with his fore leg in my chest.  It seemed like several hours before I could take a breath.  I finally got my wind and got back on and we rode all day up the canyon.  I gave him a work out but as usual that first block was very exciting on Buster. I should have taken Ginger.