Arriving in Scottsbluff


We got to Scottsbluff in May of nineteen twenty. I don’t know why we didn’t keep on goin’, so we didn’t have to be Nebraskans − Colorado or California or any other place to go.

But we didn’t stop at the houses where the sugar company put the people they hired. My dad arranged with a farmer that we was gonna stop at his place, and he was waiting for us. I don’t remember his name.

We went to live in a one-room school, way out on the farm, in a school they didn’t use no more − a country school. It was all alone in the middle of a field that they had beets planted there. It didn’t even have a single tree. They told us that they started to plant in April, but the beets wasn’t gonna be ready to thin until about June.

So, we started to fix our house. The school we lived in was just one room. It had a stage like for a piano and so the school children could go up to sing and things like that. On the stage, my dad put a stove and the kitchen. Right away, he put up some ropes to hang sheets to make bedrooms.

Oh! Coming here from such a nice home! Because we had a real good home in Kansas City. Our house wasn’t too bad. That’s why my mom didn’t want to come.

When the thinning started, all of us were out there in the field with my dad. The farmer was the one who showed us how to do the work − which ones were the beets and the ones that wasn’t. The leaves of the beets had little red lines on them, and the weeds didn’t. And we were suppose to leave just one plant, twelve inches apart. We used a short hoe to do the work.

The farmer told us, “Your mom can use a long hoe, and she can leave little bunches of two or three plants. One of the children can follow her, and where the hoe leaves a little bunch, they can take out the other ones and leave just one.”

I remember my mom so much because she was expecting Joaquín. He was born in August, but he died a few months later from diphtheria. As soon as she finished her house work, she went out to the field that was right outside the door of the little school.

Nos dijo, “I’m gonna see if I can help a little bit.”  ’Cause she didn’t know nothin’ about working outside the house. In Mexico, women don’t go out looking for work. A woman belongs in the house, no matter where she lives. Her work is in the kitchen. But here, she used a long hoe to thin, and she put Jobita behind her picking the doubles. Jobita was barely nine years old.

Mi mamá le dijo, “Look, pull out the weeds and the doubles so you leave just one little plant.” So, there goes Jobita, picking the doubles.

Until the farmer comes to look. “Hey!” he said when he saw her, “She’s not doing right here. She’s leaving only one leaf.” But he just laughed. Because they told her just one matita, but I think she didn’t understand that it meant just one plant.

¡Y fíjate! Alta was just seven years old, so my dad had to teach her. She was so little, so they gave her a short hoe, and there she goes, thinning on the rows behind the house however she could.

Cuca was five years old, but she had to take care of Juan and Carlos that was still little babies. Mom hoeing and hoeing, and the little kids sitting there in the hot sun. They looked so sad over there on the end of the rows.

So there goes Mom, little by little, takin’ ’er time. She did a round on the rows, then she went right away to see how the kids were. At noon, she left ’er hoe and hurried up to make dinner. In the afternoon, the same thing to make supper for everybody.

She worked like that until we finished the thinning. On that first year, my mom thinned five acres all by herself.

Back to Excerpts