EXCERPT 2: from The Polish Experience

After Thanksgiving, the weather became much colder and the sunshine dropped dramatically as clouds dominated the Polish sky. The fields were bare and dreary. The only reminder that they had once been alive with sugar beets came when tractors passed the house, pulling carts piled high with those sugar beets . Although they were clearly on their way to some destination where they could be loaded for shipment, those same carts often returned, still loaded with their cargo. Perhaps the price of transport changed each day and the farm- ers were waiting for the best price. The explanation for the multiple trips did turn out to be financial. The price for sugar beets fluctuated daily. Since these farm- ers had no phones, they would drive to the train depot pulling their beets and check the going price for that day. If the price was good, they sold their beets to a dealer at the depot. Since diesel fuel was inexpensive, the cost of driving to the depot each day was much less than they might make if they waited for the best price.

The colder nights and the ever colder house made it clear that it was time to start the home heating system. Jacek, our landlord, had installed a brand new coal furnace to pump hot water through the radiators in every room of the house. He had also purchased a truckload of high quality coke, which lay piled by the side of the house. A small window could be opened so I could shovel the coke into the furnace room . The room also contained a pile of a soft brown coal to bring the furnace to a temperature to ignite the coke. It seemed very logical. The soft coal was fired by using paper and wood in the furnace . However, the kindling wood had to be gathered. A chicken coop behind the door factory was now a heap of boards. These boards could be broken to the proper size for kindling, but that requires tools. I had a saw and hammer. Sawing wood to size, is a slow tedious process when the boards are nailed together so that , no matter how you set the saw, a second piece of lumber is always in the way. Because the boards were connected and piled on top of each other, it was also almost impossible to lever one board up to break it so that it could be removed from the oversized pile of pick-up sticks. By the time I'd liberated three or four pieces of kindling, I was done for that day. In retrospect, a sledgehammer would have been