We’ve been based in Bundaberg for just over a month now and have already harnessed a lifetime’s supply of experiences. Since we’ve been working I’ve discovered that fruit picking is nothing like the romantic earthy holiday job that I’d imagined.
We started out at a capsicum farm run by a Sicilian farmer with an accent as thick as his thumbs. We picked the Don’s capsicums for three days. It’s back-breaking work bending over capsicum vines all day. Standing up straight afterwards is near impossible and man, did I get sick of looking at capsicums. On the first day I thought, “Wow, it’s so wonderful to be working on the land. Life’s sweet – la la la.” The second day felt like I was searching for Easter eggs I’d hidden myself. On the third day I wanted to hijack the tractor and drive it all over the fucking plants.
Fortunately, the market price of capsicums dropped that day and we were kicked off the farm.
We got some shed work packing zucchinis. Thank God, I thought, no more breaking bodies over vines. WRONG! Now it was time for my brain cells to suffer. I felt my IQ dropping as I packed thousands of zucchinis into boxes for 11 hours. An hour into it my eyes started playing tricks on me. The zucchinis morphed into different things: corn, bananas, cigars, dildos. It was as though my brain just couldn’t register another zucchini. But let me tell you about the people…
The first person we met at the shed was Ned. And let me just say that I am not exaggerating here for the purpose of story-telling. Bucktoothed and bung-eyed, young Ned rocked up on his fork-lift and the first words out of his mouth were: “Hey Ma, can I have a Coke?” We turned around to see his ma. Imagine a beachball wearing a K-mart frock (floral, you know the ones). She had no teeth. Behind her were the rest of our colleagues: seven gruff middle-aged women in filthy singlets, two pregnant and pissed-off teenagers (who we later discovered were sisters) and a couple of grease-smeared men roadmapped with jail tatts.
Our new boss, a millionaire farmer, strolled in with bare feet. When I asked if he’d been at the beach he looked at me like I was the daftest bugger alive, then shook his head and said, “Nah, I never wear shoes.”
After a week in the packing shed, we heard there was some citrus to be picked in Munduberra and we headed out west. Munduberra is a sweet little town, pretty much two trailer parks, two pubs and an IGA store. We picked mandarins and it was good work. I finally had a job where I got to carry a ladder around and it felt good. I bought myself a flannelette shirt and some tight jeans and started using “bloody” a lot in my sentences. We made some good friends and things were good. Until the rain set in.
For six days and six nights it bucketed. The campsite resembled a battlefield as people dug trenches around their tents. A simple trip to the loo was an ordeal. No one was working so no one had money and everyone was confined to their damp dwellings. It was miserable. The guys in the tent next to ours had planned ahead and packed their Playstation so their site became the party house and we had the experience of falling asleep to the sweet sound of automatic weapons blasting into the night.
As the rain continued to fall, the work dried up until we were forced to re-consider our options. When our friend packed up his tent to discover a snake curled underneath his mattress we thought it was a good time to return to Bundaberg with our tails between our legs and ask for our jobs back at the shed…
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