Russell….Montana 1979

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Worked a job eighteen years. In Maryland. Eighteen years, the same fuckin’ job. Upped ‘n quit one day. Got good ‘n disgusted with the way things was doin’ ‘n walked outta that fuckin’ joint. Worked eighteen years ‘n didn’t have a dime to show for it. Not a dime in my pocket. Figgered I might try my luck elsewheres, so I got on the railroad ‘n headed west, lookin’ for jobs here ‘n there. Worked a couple weeks in Chicago, helpin’ to fix old buildin’s. Got fired from that one. We was runnin’ this long piece a copper tubin’ up a couple floors, ‘n I cut it half an inch shy of how it’s s’posed to be cut, n’ the guy runnin’ the job hollers at me ‘n sez right away to git off the job. Wouldn’t let me finish out the day. I was stayin’ on Madison Street, at the Starr, ‘n nothin’ else turned up, so me ‘n another guy caught outta them Burlin’ton yards over on Laramie.

Been pickin’ up a bit a work here ‘n there, but nothin’ lastin’. Didn’t git no work after that Chicago job till I got to Minot. Me ‘n the guy I was partnered up with was sittin’ in the yards. Had a pot a coffee goin’, ‘n ‘long comes a guy in a pickup, ‘n asks do we wanna work. “Hell yes,” we sez. We weren’t gonna pass up a deal like that, work comin’ right up to ya. We threw the coffee on the fire ‘n hopped in the truck. Didn’t even ask what it was we was goin’ to do.  Turns out it was movin’ a couch. Nothin’ to it. He drove us back to the jungle ‘n sez, “Now, what ya think I owe you boys?” I sez, “Hell, mister, make it easy on yerself; we didn’t work more ‘n ten minutes total.” “Well,” he sez, “here’s five bucks for each a ya.” That ain’t bad for ten minutes work.

It’s jobs like that. Proppin’s the last thing I done. That one, a guy comes down to where that tin shack is in Okanagon. There was four of us jungled down the river from the shack. We’d signed up at the labor office ‘n was waitin’ on a job. Same deal; he sez, “Hop in the truck if yas wanna work.” Man, we was hungry for work. Ev’ry one of us hopped in the back a the truck, took our gear ‘n all. He drove us on out to the orchard. Had enough work for the four of us. That one lasted three days. Ain’t worked since.  Stretched out that proppin’ money a good two ‘n a half weeks. Got some tabacca left ‘n that’s ‘bout it. Got no food, nothin’. Been doin’ without. Been getting’ by on them wild berries that grows up on the hill. Got five er six handfuls in a paper sack, ‘n they gotta last me till I find somethin’. I come up to Montana thinkin’ I’d git me some ranch work. I heard guys tell ‘bout workin’ on these ranches, but there ain’t nothin’ doin’ right now.  I might head back over Spokane way, see what’s doin’ over there. Gotta find me somethin’.

I rid the rails when I was a kid, b’fore settlin’ into that job in Maryland. Been off it a long time, long enough so’s I gotta git use’ to the workin’s a the railroad again. It’s changed in twenty years.  Places it use’to stop, it don’t no more. Towns that ya could count on for work, now ain’t got none. Use’ to be ya could pick up a day er two a work here ‘n there. Hop off the line somewheres ‘n git yerself a little job. But that kind a work, hand labor, is all but dried up. People ain’t needin’ labor like they use’ to.  Machin’ry’s cut into them jobs. Most ev’rythin’s done by machin’ry. Damn few things done by a pair a human hands anymore.

I believe I’d git off the railroad if I found somethin’ perm’nent. Nothin’ to do but keep on the move till I find somethin’. Ain’t likely to happen though. I don’t see no end to this movin’.