The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 26, 2012

Mike Pound: Thirty years later, who could have predicted where they’d be?

Late Tuesday morning I ambled over to the Webb City Farmers Market.

I am thinking about doing a food story next week on tomatoes and figured that before I did I should make sure field tomatoes are available now. Turns out they are.

By the way, I’m not sure that 30 years ago I could have seen myself writing about tomatoes at this point in my life. I’m not saying I would have had anything against writing about tomatoes, it’s just that 30 years ago I would have figured tomatoes would be a random thing to write about. But I’m guessing many of us are doing things today that we probably didn’t see ourselves doing 30 years ago.

If you live around here you don’t need me to tell you that it was hot Tuesday. It wasn’t just “Hot enough for you?” hot, it was “Wow! Did you see that? That guy just blew up!” hot.

For some reason, walking through the pavilion at the farmers market took me back to a long hot summer in the late 1970s when I was working in the oil fields of eastern Oklahoma. Maybe it was the heat or maybe is was the fresh produce on display at the market, but I was reminded of my oil field days.

A friend of mine named Mick had a stepfather who was a geologist with a small independent oil company in Pawhuska, Okla. It was Mick’s stepfather who got us our jobs. Mainly what we did was fill in on oil rigs when other workers either failed to show up, were on vacation or didn’t feel like doing whatever it is we wound up doing. We tended to get the dirtiest and hardest jobs.

When there wasn’t work on the rigs, the owners of the oil company would send us out behind the offices to pull nails out of a large pile of lumber taken from old dilapidated houses.

Have you ever spent eight hours pulling nails out of old lumber?

Don’t.

Sometimes the oil company owners would send us out to repaint oil storage tanks. Repainting storage tanks was only slightly better than pulling nails. One week in July we were sent to repaint oil tanks in an isolated part of Oklahoma. It was hot that week, so hot, in fact, that our bosses told us to start work at 6 a.m. and to stop at around 2 or 3 p.m.

The highlight of that week was lunch. Every day at about 11 a.m. we would climb off the tanks, hop into a pickup truck and drive to the Roller Rink Inn. I’m not sure where the Roller Rink Inn was, other than it appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. It had a lunch buffet, but it wasn’t an ordinary buffet. It was loaded with pan-fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh rolls and — perhaps the best part — tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and other produce pulled directly out a garden in the back of the restaurant.

I’m pretty sure there are better things then pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and a plate of fresh, slightly chilled tomatoes and cucumbers, but I’m not sure what they would be.

We would sit under the antique air conditioner that was struggling to fight off the heat and stuff ourselves until it was time to pile back into the pickup for the ride back to the storage tanks.

A few months later I went back to college with a new appreciation for education. I decided I didn’t want to spend my life working in the oil fields.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t think, all these years later, that I would be writing about tomatoes and the Roller Rink Inn. But I’m thinking, if someone had told me back then that’s what I would be doing, I probably would have been OK with that.

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