My dad was a workhorse.

He plowed with mules in the 1930s

in our field in Bainbridge

My father, Ray Longenecker age 21, plowing with mules, 1936



Later I stood beside him on a mechanical “beast”

here in the same field

cultivating the soil with a Massey-Harris tractor

soon to plant tomatoes.

Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge



Poet Marge Piercy expresses the physicality of manual labor in these two stanzes from To Be of Use


Memoir Moment: My Dad after Work in Grandma Longenecker’s Kitchen

In my early teenage years, I sensed that my dad had a fair amount of stress at the shop, where he was sole proprietor with one other mechanic hired to fix equipment. “They hornswaggled me,” he said when a company didn’t follow through on promises or when farmers shirked paying their bills. Once in a while I heard the epithet “Shitmolink,” a word I think he made up to pronounce contempt for anyone who “hornswaggled” him. Then I saw a blue vein throb on the side of his forehead, probably evidence of the high blood pressure his doctor later diagnosed. He never used other four-letter curse words.


I noticed he let loose with men at the shop though or with friends or relatives during social occasions. Sometimes he attempted humor with lame expressions, remarkable only because I seldom heard him say anything funny or witty at home:

“If you don’t watch out I’ll put your head between your ears!”

“Are you glad you’re happy?” a bland question I didn’t hear often but when I did, I knew Daddy was expressing his own contentment, however fleeting.


End of an Era: My father died in 1986 and his business was sold in August 1987.

Did you live on a farm? Have a garden?

Could you or any of your relatives be classified as workhorses?

What kind of physical work do you remember doing as a child?