The work was hard at the golf course, but it beat milking cows. Once Dad sold the cows, five days before high school graduation, I soon found myself underemployed, and the golf course seemed to be just the place for a former dairy farmer to get his fair share of manual labor.
I say underemployed because, technically, I had a couple of jobs. First, there was feeding the youngstock in the feedlot on the farm. Dad kept about twenty steers on the property to feed up and sell out once they were big enough. Before leaving for work, it was my job to carry out the five gallon buckets of feed into the big wooden trough. Once week, I’d grind the feed and put it in place in the old feed room in the barn. In addition, the hay feeder always had to be stocked so that the cattle had both their grain and their roughage.
The other job was as a shift supervisor at the new sandwich shop in the hometown, Subby’s. There it was all food service all the time, and I found myself working twenty to thirty hours a week, mainly from five until eleven each evening.
But that wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, but more importantly, pay my way through college. Though a shift supervisor earned a handsome $5.00 per hour, that was not nearly as much as I thought I would need to get me through my first year at NDSU.
So off to the golf course I went, continuing the trend of manual labor, and this for a whooping $4.75 per hour (the pay was lower, but the hours were longer….).
The first couple of days at the course was an intense bout of very physical labor. We had to aerate the greens. At most golf courses, this job had been automated. The labor involved in the process of making sure that the greens didn’t get root bound was fairly automated and scientific.
The simple process was a machine took plugs of soil out of the ground, the plugs of earth were gathered up and disposed of, leaving a green carpet of grass with quarter inch holes throughout. A mixture of the right soil type to provide adequate drainage and support to the grass was then spread over the greens and worked into the openings.
On the surface, very easy – and on the biggest golf course, a very automated process.
On our little depression era golf course, not so easy.
The plugs were taken out with a 1960′s era machine that rattled and shook its way across the greens, like working a bucking donkey around the greens…backwards. Then there was the issue of the plugs of dirt and grass. These had to be removed from the greens. We used snow shovels, something that there was plenty of in the far reaches of Minnesota. Slowly, we scrapped the wet soil and grass mixture of the greens and into a waiting trailer (made out of an old pick up box of course…).
Then it was sanding the greens…which meant taking the old Farmall H with the loader with the manual dump, and filling the same rickety pickup truck box trailer (that had to be dumped and manually scraped clean) that had the plugs and filling it with sand (no analysis – the greens were clay and silt, they needed sand). With the same snow shovels, we applied the sand evenly across the greens.
Then, the most automated part of the process – we attached a big broom attachment, five feet wide and mounted on a metal frame – to the back of a golf cart – then we proceeded to spin and sweep the sand into the holes in the green.