"Hey, Mister!" called the voice. "Are you okay?"
I struggled to focus on the source of the noise. I finally managed to force my eyes open. A man was standing over me, peering down. I didn't recognize him. Why was he bothering me?
"You must have banged your head, Mister," he suggested. "It's kinda bloody in the back. How did you get here, anyway?"
Sitting up was a painful effort, but I managed it. I looked around at my surroundings. How did I get here? I tried to remember how I came to be in some sort of rock pile. When that didn't work, I tried to remember if I had a car. Still, nothing. I kept reaching back farther into time, but I couldn't formulate a memory of any kind.
"Where am I?" I asked.
"Right now, you're sitting in Dan Flood's stone yard, if that's what you're asking," responded the man.
"What state, what country are we in?"
"Well, that's a pretty strange question. This is Pennsylvania. Don't you know what country it's in?" asked the man as if he was talking to a true moron.
"Yes! I do!" I exclaimed. "It's in the United States!"
I felt tremendous relief. I was able to remember something! I began thinking about things I knew, and about what seemed to be blank. I knew the states, colors, words, and clothes. I knew the man next to me was unkempt and thin. I knew I could hear birds in the trees.
I didn't know how I got to this place. I didn't know my age. I didn't even know my name! Then I realized that I knew my identification would be in my wallet. I reached to my back pocket and it was empty. No wallet. I thrust my hands into my Dockers and found nothing. I looked at my fingers. No ring, but it looked like a worn circle on my ring finger. Was I divorced?
"Do you know me?" I asked the man watching me.
"Not really," he replied. "Are you on TV or something that I should?"
"I don't know. I just don't know. I can't remember anything at all about who I am," I admitted worriedly.
"Wow! That's like a movie or something," responded the fellow. "Can you remember where you live?"
"If I could do that, I'd remember something about myself, wouldn't I? I don't have any money or identification on me. What am I going to do?" I wondered.
"Dan is always looking for workers," offered the only man on the planet that I knew even existed. "Why not get a job with him and see if your memory comes back?"
I could see this fellow wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but his suggestion made sense. I would need money and a place to live. I didn't even know what education or skills I might be able to call upon.
"My name's Stan," offered the fellow as he put his hand out.
"John Deere," I answered as I shook his hand.
The man looked at me with a puzzled expression, then he turned his head
to look at the bucket loader parked nearby. A big grin swept across his face.
"I get it! That name's been used before, but hell, my dad was named Stan, same as me. Pleased to meet you, John," chuckled Stan. "It's a damn good thing for you that the Kubota was parked at the other end of the yard!"
"Do you think you could talk to your boss about giving me a job?" I asked. "I don't have a social security number or anything. He won't be able to run a check on me."
"Well, don't let that worry you, John. The boss isn't all that excited about paying taxes anyway. He pays cash at the end of every week. He'll give you ten bucks for every pallet of stone you stack and wire," replied Stan. "Do you have any other clothes? Those pants won't last more than a couple days."
"Stan, all I have is what you see, as far as I know. I'll have to buy some once I make some money," I reasoned. "Take me to your leader."
"You woke up in my yard and want a job?" asked the man smoking the cigar. "How the hell did you get here? Where are you from?"
"Well, Dan," laughed Stan. "What part of can't remember anything don't you get? John can't remember anything about himself. Nothing. He needs a job until he figures out who the hell he is. He might pile rock for years without figuring it out."
That thought seemed to cheer up the man called Dan. He would have an indentured servant for an indefinite period. How come I could remember what an indentured servant was and not my name?"
"Okay, John Deere. I'll give you eight bucks a pallet for every pallet of rock you stack and wire."
"Bullshit! I'll start at ten and once I learn the ropes, I'll expect more," I responded quickly.
"How the hell do you know I pay... ? Stan, you got a big mouth!" bitched Dan as he figured out my information source. "Help Stan do a couple pallets for training and then you can start your own pallet. Stan, get his head cleaned up and show him the ropes."
I soon realized the job wasn't rocket science. Stan showed me how he piled rocks on a pallet. He kept the outside edges fairly straight, and even with the side of the pallet. When he had it about waist high, he took what looked like chicken wire and nailed the bottom to the pallet. Then he circled the pallet with it, trying his best to keep the wire tight. Then he cut off the wire, leaving enough to overlap where he started. Then he stapled the wire to the pallet all the way around and took pieces of wire and drew the overlapped wire tight together. It effectively kept the pile of rocks on the pallet while the guy on the forklift carried it away.
Men were constantly hauling all kinds of rocks into the stone yard. I never knew there were so many kinds of rock and stone in Pennsylvania. I was hired to stack fieldstone, which seemed to come mostly from old stonewalls between properties, or used to separate woods from meadows and pastures.
There was Pennsylvania blue stone, which I learned was found only in this area of Pennsylvania and parts of near-by New York. It was layered and came in thicknesses of half an inch and up. It had been created by ocean waters eons ago.
Now and then a load of stone that had washed from a creek was brought in. These rocks were mostly round and polished smooth from streams running over them for centuries.
It took two of us over half an hour to complete a pallet. In an eight-hour day, that would make one hundred and sixty dollars, if I could work at the same rate as the two of us. I didn't know what I used to earn, but that seemed like enough to live on. I began my first solo pallet. Then reality came to bite me in the ass.
It quickly realized that while I had no idea what my occupation had been, it obviously hadn't involved much physical labor. My back began to ache in the first hour. My stomach was constantly in my way. My fingers began to bleed. Stan saw how I was suffering and took me to the office again.
I came out wearing a special pair of gloves that were made just for rock piling. They were going to cost me twenty dollars out of my first week's pay. Then I wondered what day of the week it was?
I finished two pallets that day. I was sore, my pants were torn and my feet hurt. I had made enough to pay for the gloves I was using!
There were a dozen men piling rock and they all had their laugh at my expense. They even had a pool going about how long I would last. They didn't even conceal it from me. They didn't really care that I knew they doubted my determination. The thing they didn't consider was that I had no place to go.
At the end of the day, Stan offered to let me stay at his place. He lived in a trailer a few miles from the stone yard. I found out that Dan Flood owned the trailer and rented it to Stan. It reminded me of the old coalmines and the company towns.
Stan's place was surprisingly clean. I had adjusted my opinion of Stan several times during the day. His clothes were badly worn and he wasn't an Ivy Leaguer, but he treated me kindly and he worked hard. That was certainly more than a lot of people.
Stan made us a couple hamburgers. That was when I realized I hadn't eaten since, who knew when? I was famished. They were, truthfully, the best burgers I could ever remember eating! Stan had the only bedroom so he gave me a light blanket and pointed to the couch. He sat in a chair to watch TV. I was asleep before the first commercial was over.
Stan woke me up in a very short while. I wondered what was wrong.
"John, it's after five! You can't sleep all day. Get up and ready for work. I'll make a breakfast."
This time, I ate the best breakfast in memory. I picked up the dirty dishes and quickly washed them. I could tell that Stan approved of that. I couldn't afford to wear out the only welcome I had!
The second day was even worse. I managed three pallets and started another, but my back was killing me. My stomach muscles hurt and my head would buzz from time to time. By the time Stan drove me to his place that night, I could barely get out of his pickup. We ate a dinner of macaroni and cheese and washed it down with a beer. Then I gingerly stretched out on the sofa. My back was hurting so badly, I knew I would never sleep.
"John! Get up! It's after five," called Stan as he cooked breakfast.
I was stiff, but at least I could move! I ate my breakfast like a wolf and washed the dishes. My pants were in tatters. By noon, I had finished my started pallet from the previous day and completed two others. My back was sore, but I found that if I kept moving, it loosened up. My legs were a mess, however.
Stan once again led me to the office. I came out wearing a pair of chap-like things that buckled on over what had once been my Dockers.
"How come no one else wears these, Stan?" I asked.
.... There is more of this story ...