By Graham Von Carlowitz, For The Miami Student
To say that I am a skilled hand-shaker would be a bit of an embellishment; I don't think I impress too many people in the half-second allotted to do so. I do, however, understand the importance of this custom and thus noticed my hands during the first few weeks of school, when handshakes are exchanged at an impressive rate.
The problem, I noted, was that the hand I bestowed was tattooed with splinters and embroidered with soil stains one can't explain before a handshake. For the last few weeks of summer, I lent my hand to a family flower farm (say that five times fast) in western Pennsylvania, in a town called Mars, no less. At the time, I didn't know why the Pisarčik family had insisted on only hugging ... I'd say I get it now.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd say the majority of Miami's students partake in jobs and internships on the opposite end of the summer job spectrum. Few, if any, trying their hand at work in the thorny fields of a farm. And so, with an opportunity to both boast and broaden my knowledge of farms, I took to learning the way of the farmer.
In terms of similarities to life in Oxford (excluding the surrounding miles of farms), I suppose I could pinpoint waking up early, though Miami thankfully offers no courses at 6 a.m. The family's human alarm clock, one Susie Pisarčik, provided the rousing wakeup calls as well as the gateway to the day's tasks - I soon found that waking was the easiest of them.
Looking back on my first day, I think I was more relatable to the male goat, Basil, than any of the other family members. We were both simple-minded; we both craved raspberries (he to replace his stench of urine and me because there were free raspberries in my face); we both liked ducks, though he actually had a duck companion.
Also, we both became fond of talking to ourselves, albeit his annoying "baahing" was apparently more socially acceptable than my monologues. But I digress.
I did more than mimic a goat. In fact, I was given a wide variety of tasks, only a few of which were garden variety. Sure, there was the pulling of weeds and planting seeds. I even trimmed plants and learned how to bunch flowers. But on a farm, one learns rapidly that there is always something to do. I got the feeling "bored" was only understood as "board," this in relation to a roof in the making. When I wasn't puncturing and pricking my hands with unexpectedly thorny flowers, I was ripping off rooftop shingles along with the skin on my hands.
Still craving more surprises? Well, the Pisarčiks were constantly craving a Mary Poppins track, wait for it... on their vintage record player, or their "Phono," as their antiquated machine is known. Before my visit to this valley, the idea of a soundtrack to my life was about as absurd as Shakespeare being known for his incredible athleticism, but when the Mary Poppins track "Let's Go Fly a Kite" is on repeat, the "working" part of the workday seems to float off into the atmosphere, up where I can't see her.
At the end of the day, what did I learn? Easy: goats are great listeners, don't lose your balance atop a garage, my singing voice isn't unbearable, but most importantly this: These family farmers, these avid agriculturists, didn't conceal their hands by hugging and avoiding a shake, as they are familiar with the arduous work that creates the grimy grip. They need not show it off. They only need to show their passion, just one of the countless desirable traits held by these masters of their craft.
Say what you will about necessary experience at internships, I'm sure some of it is valid. But I'd rather fly a kite in Pennsylvania any day of the week.
Twas the true Farmer's School I attended.