Sugar Beet Dress

Sugar Beet Dress

A Chapter by Wendy Seames Garner

The sun was starting to set, when they trudged from the field, dirty and exhausted. I've never been so tired in my life.


It was fall, and time to join in with the annual harvest on the farm. The dark haired young teenager surveyed the field she was about to start working in, along with several other sturdy young girls. Ugly sugar beets studded the field. How can something so ugly taste so sweet?

It was the fall of 1942, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, still fresh in everyone's mind, and the reason the field was filled with females. Most of the country's men, and boys, had quickly volunteered to serve their country, doing their patriotic duty. Many teen aged boys didn't even wait until they had graduated! There were a few males still around, those deemed too old, too young, or physically unfit to serve.

As a result, the women and girls were left to bring in the crops, or they would all go hungry. Most of them were unfamiliar to this kind of physical labor. A woman's role had traditionally been to care for the home, cooking meals, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for the children. Now, they were forced to work in the fields, and in the factories.

Yvonne watched the harvester go by, followed by the experienced workers who picked up the beets, lopping of the tops with a machete.  It was Yvonne's job to bend down, scoop up the sugar beets, and place them in a wooden bushel basket.  When the baskets were full, they were taken to the big truck, which followed the women through the field.

"Let's get started ladies," those beets aren't going to hop in the baskets by themselves!" Mr. Fletcher, the field foreman yelled.

It didn't take long for Yvonne's back to start aching from the constant bending. She stood up, brushing a strand of hair from her face, her grimy hand leaving a smudge of dirt across her cheek.

"We need to get this field picked today, standing around is not going to get it done!" yelled Mr. Fletcher.

Reluctantly, Yvonne went back to work.
He thinks I can't do this. I'll show him!

The sun was starting to set, when they trudged from the field, dirty and exhausted. I've never been so tired in my life. How can I do this again tomorrow?  Yvonne climbed into the back of a truck, with several others, and they were driven back to the city.

Yvonne quickly washed up, then gulped down a tasteless supper. Climbing the steps to her bedroom, she thought about falling into bed without changing out of her clothes, but one look at her filthy shirt and jeans told her that her mother wouldn't stand for that. Pulling off the dirty clothes, she dressed in a warm flannel nightgown, then collapsed onto the bed. She didn't hear her sister, Gernith, sneak into bed with her.

"Yvonne, Gernith, rise and shine, time to get up," mother called from the stairway.

Cracking open one eye, Yvonne encountered nothing but blackness.
It can't be time to get up, it's still dark! I don't even remember getting in bed last night. Reluctantly, she climbed out of bed, hauling on a clean shirt and pair of jeans. Grabbing her shoes and socks, she bounced down the stairs, the aroma of fresh brewed coffee spurring her on.

Mother had a breakfast of oatmeal, toast, and coffee already set out on the table, which was covered with a black and white checked table cloth. She was dressed, ready to go to work. David was in his high chair, munching on a piece of toast.

"You'd better hurry, Sis, the truck will be here to pick you up shortly, " mum warned. "Gernith, I'm counting on you to get David to Aunt Naomi's before going to school. I know it's not easy, without Yvonne's help, but we've all got to pull together."

" Don't worry mom, you can count on me, " was Gernith's cheery reply. She jumped up, started untying David's bib, and washed his face and hands.

I miss daddy so much...things would be so different if he were still alive. With that Yvonne got up, took care of her breakfast dishes, and dashed out the front door when she heard the horn honk.

Life continued in this fashion until all the sugar beets had been harvested. Following the final day of harvesting, Mr. Fletcher asked them to line up.
Pay day! Yvonne impatiently waited for Mr. Fletcher to place the bills in her hand. Her eyes widened as she saw how much money he had placed there.  A dollar a day, I've never had so much money before!

"I want to thank you ladies for a job well done. I must admit, I didn't think you could do the job, but you proved me wrong. Thank you!"

With that the ladies all whooped, some throwing straw hats into the air. They talked excitedly on the trip home in the truck.

"I'm going to buy myself a new dress! What about you, Yvonne, how are you going to spend your money?" Mabel inquired .

"Well, I think I'll have to give it to mum, to help with the bills," Yvonne sighed, not meeting the other girl's eyes.

Upon arriving home, Yvonne went straight to her mother, handing over her whole pay. 

"Mum, use this to help pay some of the bills," Yvonne whispered through trembling lips.

With tears in her eyes, her mother counted the money, knowing it was just a drop in the bucket for what was needed. 

"Thank you, Sis, I know how hard you worked for this. It will really help with the bills," her mother said soberly .

Peeling off a few bills from the pile, she pressed them back into Yvonne's hand.

"Take this and get yourself a new dress, Yvonne, you earned it," her mother said taking Yvonne in her arms.

© 2017 Wendy Seames Garner

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Added on November 1, 2017
Last Updated on November 2, 2017
Tags: Sugar Beets, Harvest, World War II, Copy Right Wendy Seames Garner 2


Wendy Seames Garner
Wendy Seames Garner

Lapeer, MI

I believe that every person we meet, every thing we touch has a story. more..