Outstanding In Their Field

Outstanding in their Field.1

In 1906, at the age of 13, my Grandpa Conrad left Germany aboard the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II and emigrated through Ellis Island on September 11th. My recent trip to Hawaii was my first time on a plane or being in an airport since 2015. Do you remember a little over a year ago when I wrote about owning over 75 pairs of gloves? Is it safe to assume that we all have seen the recent news stories about undocumented/illegal immigrants being bussed from Texas to northern cities? Could all these topics be related?

John Doe, not his real name, recently came to purchase his bi-weekly load of hay from me to feed his sheep. He brought two young boys/men with him. I knew he had a plethora of children, but he informed me they were not his kids. He told me they could not speak any English and were from Boston.

John Doe proceeded to tell me the details, which I still find hard to believe, or maybe I shouldn’t. The boys’ father was still in Boston, and their mother was in Indiana. She wanted John Doe to keep the boys working on his farm and pay them. They were 14 and 18. They had been bussed to Boston from Texas. They were recent refugees that had emigrated from Venezuela. John Doe stated, “You should see how much they eat; they must have missed a lot of meals.”

This is when I noticed that they were not wearing gloves even though the temperature was 18 degrees. I had to wonder what they had experienced those couple of brutally cold days before Christmas. I went to my truck and was able to find three pairs of gloves, including a brand-new pair my friend Steve had given me only days before. Later I got to another farm and found more gloves and gave them to the boys with some money.

They were very appreciative. We tried to speak, but my Spanish is “no muy Buena”, and they “no hablo ingles.” John Doe showed me his phone and how they communicated via texting using the smartphone’s translation. I bet my grandpa would have loved something like that over 100 years ago as a 13-year-old German boy when he arrived traveling alone.

How similar, and/or different, is their story compared to my grandpas. He managed to travel from New York to Plainfield and became a farmhand. I am not sure if he had any family in Will County when he arrived. Conrad eventually became a tenant farmer, married, and raised a family, including my dad, on the west side of Joliet in the 1920s.

Being engrossed with my farm work makes it easy for me to be ignorant about many things outside my life on the farm. When I traveled through the airports on my recent trip to Hawaii, every restroom had signs in multiple languages with information on how to report any suspicious persons that may be involved in Human trafficking. I trust that John Doe was not partaking in human trafficking; his story about the boys seemed legitimate, and the boys were very happy.

Perhaps I should learn more Spanish in case the boys make it back with John Doe for another load of hay soon. I will be ready with more cold-weather gear and gloves. I also plan to give them a tutorial on how to stack hay. There is much room for improvement; I suspect it was probably their first-time stacking bales.

Here is another tidbit I learned this week. Bi-weekly can mean every two weeks or twice a week. There is so much more this farmer needs to learn.

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