Mixsonian Larry

Computer Programmer

I continued to work in the Soils department though the summer and things were going pretty well until the early August when I was told the grant money they had been paying me would run out at the end of the month so I started looking for another job.  I first checked at the computer center who they said they didn’t have any openings.  The end of the month came and I was out of a job.  Fortunately, a few days later Marsha called me and said that another professor, Dr. Hammond had some new grant money and asked if I wanted to come back to work.  Of course, I said yes and in September I was back working in the Soils Science officially as a Computer Programmer I. Even better  I got a raise to $2.25 an hour. Apparently, Dr. Hammond had received considerable grant money from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to study pine tree growth.  Paper companies were big donors to IFAS for doing research because they had millions of acres of pine trees in Florida that were grown for pulp wood used in making paper.

I enjoyed working for Dr. Hammond, instead of the big lab on the first floor of McCarty hall that was shared by the PHD students, I worked in Dr. Hammond’s small bedroom sized personal lab on the second floor. One of the main things I did was determine the water flow rate of soil samples.  Dr. Hammond had hundreds of soil samples taken all over the state of Florida. The soil samples were for three feet of soil that were in small metal rings two inches in diameter and one inch thick.  The samples were put into a contraption in which water was forced to flow though the sample to determine the flow rate.  I spent many hours loading the samples into the contraption and then measuring the amount of water that flowed though them.   Another experiment that Dr. Hammond had underway was determining the amount of water in the soil. For this he had an acre plot of pine trees out in the country. The plot had pine trees about six inches in diameter planted in nice even rows about ten feet apart.  Amongst the trees were about a dozen, three inch diameter well holes.  Dr. Hammond had device that had a twenty foot cable with some sort of radioactive element on theRadioactive end which would be lowered into the hole and report back the amount of water.  The device was in a box with a yellow radioactive symbol on the top and quite heavy since it was lined with lead to protect the user.   The first time I went into the field with Dr. Hammond and he showed me where the well holes were and how to use the device.  After that first time I went back several times on my own to take the measurements.

It was easy work, much simpler that the lab work I had done before, and I often would have little to do.  It would take five minutes to load a sample into the soil water flow device and then wait fifteen minutes to record the results.  On some days there were no samples and I would just sit in the lab and read a book.   Part of my work was entering the data into the computer terminal and then running a statistical program to process it.

Later I found out that Dr. Hammond’s son, who would have been my age, had committed suicide a couple of years earlier and I think that Dr. Hammond might have thought of me as the son that he had lost.

Dr. Hammond sponsored a workshop on a computer program called Continuous System Modeling Program which he invited me to go to since I would be running the program for him.  I felt somewhat out of place because all the other attendees were professors or graduate students.

Soils Workshop
Dr. Hammond front row right, Dick McCurdy standing far right, I'm on back row right of center with moustache.

I had developed a crush on Marsha and one weekend I went over to her apartment to see her unannounced.  I knocked on her door, she answered and greeted me and invited me in.  We sat in her living room on the couch, and she put on Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s album and we sat there and talked for a few minutes then she asked if I wanted to smoke a joint. I said yes and she said she had one in her bedroom. As we got up the song “Lucky Man” begin to play and I thought I just might get lucky that day as I followed her into the bedroom.

He had white horses
And ladies by the score
All dressed in satin And waiting by the door  

Ooh, what a lucky man he was
Ooh, what a lucky man he was

We sat on her bed and began to smoke the joint.  Just when I thought something might happen the doorbell rang, and I followed her back into the living room where she answered the door finding an older man who she knew and invited him in.  After introducing him, she said they had plans and so I said goodbye and left.  I wasn’t so lucky that day but the following week I bought the album, and “Lucky Man” became one of my favorite songs.  The last time I saw Marsha was after she was in a rather serious car accident and was in the hospital in Daytona Beach.  Dick suggested we drive over to see her which we did.  We drove over to Daytona in Dick’s little MG sports car where we saw her in the hospital.  She was pretty banged up, face cut from glass, a broken arm, but she was going to be okay.  After we visited for a while, we left to return home. Dick suggested I drive on the way home since he drove on the way over and somehow I got on  Interstate 95 going south instead of north and it was two exits later before we realized we were going the wrong direction and had to turn around.  

Updated: 12-08-2022

The Whole Earth