Orchard Shock

The Kaiser and I were watching Bottle Shock on DVD a couple of weeks ago. It’s a nice little movie about an underdog, which in this case is not a person but a wine. It’s set in the Napa Valley in the 1970’s, which actually reminded me a lot of another valley in the 1970’s, the one where I grew up. The difference is that instead of acres and acres of vineyards, my valley had acres and acres of fruit trees. The vineyards came later.

But the similarities struck me: Both the Napa vineyards and the Okanagan orchards were (and are) sun drenched, green, and surrounded by dry hillsides. The 1976 setting meant that the same pickup trucks were driving up the same dusty roads we had, and the soundtrack could have been lifted from our portable radio as it sat blaring on the edge of a bin. I think I even recognized a couple of the characters in their 1976 outfits and hair – didn’t they pick cherries for us once? Talk about flashbacks. I could almost feel the heat of the sun, and the rungs of the ladder under my feet (is this thing going to hold or do I need to jam the pole harder into the ground?). Reaching up all day, and carrying heavy pails or picking sacks around. Finally hearing the roar of the tractor and the smell of diesel as the day ended and I could drag myself back up to the house, baked in dried sweat and desperate for a swim at the beach, if only someone would drive us down so we wouldn’t have to walk…

“Hey, that looks like fun.” It was the Kaiser, pointing at the TV screen.


“Working in a vineyard. It looks like fun. You get to be outdoors in that nice scenery.”

It did look like fun. People in the movie weren’t working all that hard. Mostly it was about the scenery and the subplots, not the actual work. Work is boring – why dwell on that? Like in sitcoms where you know in your head these characters have actual jobs they go to and probably hate, but you only see the fun bits of their lives.

And then it hit me: It wasn’t fun for me because I was essentially a serf, working for the local baron (in this case my dad) who wouldn’t even give me a ride to the beach after my back breaking toil. Child labour, that’s what it was. What 10-year-old wants to drag a 12-foot ladder around all day while their friends are playing in tree houses and going camping?

Yeah, if I had the millions to buy a few acres of land in prime orchard country, I’d do it. There are some fantastic things about it that make up for the uncertainty and hard work. But next time I get to be the baron.


~ by standupmimi on May 8, 2009.

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