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The Book

The Crop Duster’s Daughter

My name is Rhonda, and I’m the baby of the family with three older siblings, Steve, Ben, and Laurie. I grew up flagging farmers’ fields with my brothers and sister and mixing and loading chemicals into the hopper of the Pawnee 235 spray rig, a workhorse in the industry. My clothes although always washed, retained the taint of these toxic chemicals, something my classmates never failed to mention.

My first job began at the ripe age of five years old, when I was paid a dime for every fuselage I washed, which at the height of business was about thirteen airplanes. When I was six, I was put on runway duty. I rode my Shetland pony, Silver, up and down the runway picking up any nails, screws, or chards of glass that might puncture a tire. I got a penny for every item retrieved and this was in addition to the fuselage follies. Child labor, my foot! These were just chores!