Work has value beyond wages

Walla Walla woman learned life lessons about work in migrant family.

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Jolene Pond, who worked harvests as a girl growing up on the road in a seasonal labor family, owns A Red Door Salon in Walla Walla, to which she brings a life and work ethic learned from long experience.

Stand up, work hard and move forward - feeling positive and grateful along the way.

Such is Jolene Pond's life and work ethic, learned over the years as a child moving around the country with her family to pick fruits and vegetables and applied today as the owner of A Red Door Salon in Walla Walla.

"My dad liked to travel and he could do almost anything," said Pond, 51. "We didn't have a lot of money financially but we learned some major life lessons."

Contrast that with current economic and social conditions, including rampant, prolonged unemployment despite a labor shortage in agriculture. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire recently called the farm labor shortage a crisis, calling for Congress to allow more foreign workers in the country to help with harvests.

Indeed, some Washington growers arranged for prison inmates to help harvest fruit this year.

"I would think with the unemployment rate as high as it is, people would do anything - including cleaning toilet bowls - if they knew it was an option," said Pond, adding that she thinks the idea to allow more workers into the country to do seasonal and other lower-paying labor is "a ton of crap."

"Are you going to lose your home or go out and pick apples? There's more honor in providing for yourself."

Working harvest jobs gave Pond and her family the life they wanted, with flexibility, travel and freedom.

Her late father, Jim Arterburn, was a Renaissance man of many talents who with his wife was devoted to their family.

"Dad loved rocks, geology and nature. In that way we were rich beyond belief. I remember laying in the leaves in Colorado, watching and learning about beavers. It was a course on what nature really is."

And it was a life in which riches rarely came in the form of money.

"We learned a lot of vivid life lessons; these are things you don't forget," she said. "My parents raised five kids in a 14-foot trailer house."

She recalls one cross-country trip to Washington from Florida when the family parked in a wooded rest area with a scenic view.

"Mom fixed home-made pancakes and syrup. It was real thin, runny syrup and I started complaining: ‘Why can't we have syrup from the store?' " she said. "I was a teenager. She told me not only do you get to have homemade pancakes and syrup but you get this view."

Her default setting is to see positives and believe in the best of everyone.

"Most parents are doing what they have to do to take care of their families," she said. "We worked together as a team. There was a sense of unity and love and respect for one another. We'd travel, pick fruits and vegetables and we survived."

Life moved on, and Pond is married with grown children now. She and her husband Kevin enjoy concerts and garden work. They also spend peaceful evenings watching the stars.

"We just watch the sky, talk and look at things," she said.

She loves the drive down the Columbia River gorge, it makes her think of her father. They used to drive there and he would talk about rocks, and events that happened millions of years ago.

"He wasn't formally taught but he was so smart about things," she said.

Among his lessons was that attitude is everything.

"In this country if you say you cannot, you're selling yourself down the river," Pond said. "The poorest of the poor in this country are better off than anywhere in the world. There's so much opportunity and nobody takes advantage of it. Anybody can do anything they choose to do.

"You have to invest in yourself, you are so worth that. If you need the money, then you decide to work that extra ten hours. I'm amazed at the excuses of why we don't have what we want."

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