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A Farmer Again

     Midway through my three years, eight months of service, I grew tired of being broke most of the time and decided it was time to find work on my off duty hours.  I drove out the main gate to find work.  Half mile from the gate I observed bales of hay lying in a rancher's field. In an hour I had located the rancher and asked if he needed help to haul in the hay.  He didn't need help, but sent me to see the man who owned the baler. I met Mr. Russell about an hour later and he hired me to work on one side of his 3 wire baler.  It took one man on the tractor and two on the bailer to run the machine.  In the area near Travis AFB the rancher's baled both hay and grain crops for cattle feed.  Most of the baling had to be done after dark because the hay got so dry after cutting it wouldn't compact until some evening moisture was absorbed into it.  We baled from about 10PM every night until 6AM when I had to rush to the base, shower, eat and report for work on  a B-29 crew.  I caught a few naps inside the airplane when maintenance was done, and about three hours sleep at Mr. Russell's place while waiting for the hay to absorb enough moisture for the night's baling.  There were nights when a dry wind would come from the north and we had to stop baling for two reasons.  It was a fire hazard to be in a field with equipment that could start a fire, and the hay would dry out so much the baler would lose its ability to operate.  The machine needed a hard bale of hay in the exit stage to resist the force of the plunger which compressed the hay coming in.  When that exit bale became soft, there was no way to compress hay.
     The job was ideal for me.  It kept me from spending money while getting extra pay.  Mr. Russell and his family became great friends.  I worked for him for several months until the baling season ended. 

Chinese Ketchup     

        For about four weeks a bunch of airmen and I worked on the night shift at a tomato cannery in Rio Vista.  The cannery was owned and operated by Chinese.  We could eat all the tomatoes we wanted. One night I had the job of putting salt, onion powder, and other ingredients into a circular vat that was about 10 feet deep and 10 feet in diameter.  What came out after a few hours of cooking was ketchup.
        When asked if I could run a forklift I said "sure."  I learned in about 2 minutes.  For several nights I unloaded tractor trailers with the fork lift.  The pallets were moved to a conveyor belt where men dumped the tomatoes into a water tank so the conveyor could pick them up.  The floor got so greasy from tomatoes that dropped on the floor and were run over by the forklift that it was like driving on ice.  I enjoyed driving the empty forklift back to the truck.  On the way I would turn the wheel and spin a 360 to make the job more entertaining.