Arts & Life

Summer Sounds: Farm Work

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Amy Dickinson describes the incident that makes her think of the sound of shovels penetrating hard dirt as part of our series Summer Sounds. Her dad once forced Amy, her sisters and a cousin to dig in the hot summer sun in the fruitless pursuit of saving a crop.


Now we're going to explore another summer sound.

(Soundbite of various sounds)

SIEGEL: Our series is connecting people's memories of summer to a specific sound. Today, this memory from writer Amy Dickinson.

Ms. AMY DICKINSON (Writer): The summer I was 9, my father plowed under 50 acres of corn and planted sugar beets.

(Soundbite of shoveling)

Ms. DICKINSON: My old man was an eternal optimist with terminal bad luck. Our little dairy farm was going under. He was highly susceptible to the idea of a miracle crop, like sugar beets was supposed to be. That summer, we had a bad drought.

The fertilizer he had spread to make the sugar beets grow had somehow killed the plants. Or maybe he got some bad seed. Whatever the cause, we had 50 acres of weeds where the sugar beets were supposed to be.

One blazing hot day, he sent my two older sisters and me out to the field to try to pull out the weeds, to see if we could find any plants. Our shovels and trowels chipped at the dirt.

(Soundbite of shoveling)

Ms. DICKINSON: We were a rag-tag chain gang, the metallic sound of a shovel hitting a rock. I can still hear it.

(Soundbite of shoveling)

Ms. DICKINSON: A while later, my dad walked up to us. We were smeared with dust. Never mind, he said; forget it. And then he threw his pickaxe into the back of the truck and drove away.

SIEGEL: That story about a summer sound came from Amy Dickinson. And you can share your story at Please put Summer Sounds in the subject line.

(Soundbite of music)


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