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Story ID:10628
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Gilboa New York USA
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By Fred Wickert

When I was a boy in high school there were a few farms on the South Gilboa Road and a couple more on State Route #23 between Grand Gorge and Stamford, NY that raised a lot of cabbage and cauliflower. More of the latter.

There was a truck stop in Grand Gorge which is now the Creek Side Diner. Based there was a fleet of six cauliflower trucks. Every night each of those trucks pulled out with a full load going to markets in Long Island, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. They had to be at the loading docks of the markets when they opened around 4:00 A.M. in the morning.

The farms were located on the border between the county of Delaware and county of Schoharie and they were on the border between Gilboa and the Town of Roxbury. Grand Gorge is a hamlet of Roxbury. In Gilboa, the road was named South Gilboa Road because it was on the South end of the town and the county. The road itself went East and West and was and is also known to local folk as Windy Ridge. As you can imagine, it is on a ridge and it is windy there.

When it came time to harvest the cauliflower there was no local labor available. School children could only work after school and on weekends. The solution was to go to New York City with a truck. There, as many as twenty Puerto Rican's at a time were hired and brought to the town to work harvesting cauliflower.

One of the farmers, a man named Imer Conroe had constructed a few shacks for the workers to live in while they were here to harvest the crop. Frequently he went to inspect the shacks. Every day he found all the screens removed from the windows and the windows open. He carefully put all the screens back on. The next day the screens were all off again and he put them back on. He could not understand why all the window screens were removed like that.

One day, I don’t recall why, there was no work to do in the fields and the workers had the day off. Imer went to look at the shacks again as he did every day. Again, the screens were all off from the windows. He picked up one of the screens and began to reattach it. He was stopped by two of the Puerto Rican’s. They pleaded with him to leave the screens off.

Imer told them the screens needed to be on to keep the flies out. “Oh no no no,” replied the men. “Flies already inside. Take screen off so fly can get outside!” Of course, Imer threw up his hands and gave up. He left and decided no more will he replace the screens. Of course he did not keep this to himself and word quickly spread throughout the region resulting in many a loud guffaw.

I was a teenager at the time but I never forgot it. Now I am 81 years old. Yesterday and today whenever I enter the kitchen I encounter so many flies it is beyond belief. I have no idea where they are all coming from. I have killed so many flies with the fly swatter my arms are tired. I have swept so many off the kitchen floor that I have killed that it feels like being in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I came upstairs this evening about 5:30 to find the kitchen full of flies again. I have no idea where they are all coming from. I noticed the screen on the kitchen window over the sink. The screen was black with them. There must have been 50 flies there. I remembered the Puerto Rican's from decades ago that worked in the cauliflower. I opened the screen and shook it a little. All the flies flew outside. I secured the screen. The kitchen was empty of flies.

I returned to the kitchen again around 9:00 P.M. Once again there was a large group of flies clinging to the inside of the screen. I opened the screen and they all flew outside. I secured the screen and went down stairs. I returned to the kitchen shortly after 11:00 P.M. There were no flies in the kitchen. I have come to the conclusion that those Puerto Rican workers were not so dumb after all. They were on to something!

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