Chapter 216.1 – Educated Youth (1a)
1975, Shangmu Village
Shangmu Village is a small village in the Water Town of Jiangnan.
It is located on the west side of a large river that flows into the sea. There is a small river winding through the village. The land is fertile and rich in water and grass. The people who live here have lived by farming and raising silkworms for generations.
It is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, and the weather is neither cold nor hot. The villagers in Shangmu Village are busy digging sweet potatoes.
Shangmu Village has always grown rice. Some land grows two crops a year, and some land grows one crop a year. In this rotation, the annual output of rice is still good, but most of the rice must be handed over to the public. There is no way to eat white rice all at once.
Therefore, the sweet potatoes dug today are especially important—they all rely on sweet potatoes to fill their stomachs!
Digging sweet potatoes is an individual task. Early in the morning, young adults in the village use iron rakes to turn over the ground where the sweet potato vines have been cut.
Gu Mingxiu was turning the ground.
He was very thin, but his strength was not small. As soon as he raked it down, a large piece of mud and many sweet potatoes were turned out.
The women in the village use their hands to pick up the mud blocks they dug out, find sweet potatoes from them, and throw them into the bamboo basket next to them.
Occasionally, they will see some big sweet potatoes being pierced by Gu Mingxiu’s iron rake, and they will sigh: “Such a big sweet potato, it’s a pity.”
While talking, they threw the damaged sweet potatoes into another bamboo basket—such sweet potatoes can’t be left for a long time, they have to be eaten quickly.
Gu Mingxiu kept turning the ground. The women followed him and other people who turned the ground to pick up sweet potatoes. Behind them, there were some children with runny noses, holding a basket and picking up what was dropped by the woman in front, some finger-sized sweet potatoes, or sweet potato roots.
These little sweet potatoes are full of “fiber”, that is, coarse plant fiber, but they can fill their stomachs anyway, so no one is willing to waste it.
Moreover, the big sweet potatoes have to be handed over to the village chief to distribute them, but these small sweet potatoes can be taken home directly.
In order to get more sweet potatoes home, some women will let their children stay behind them, and then deliberately drop some bigger, egg-sized sweet potatoes, and those children’s harvest will be much richer.
They are all village folks, and no one usually says anything.
As they were working, someone suddenly said, “Where’s the educated youth? Not here again?”
Their village is next to a town, they have small land and more people. Not many educated youths came here, and most of them are relatives of the villagers. People in the nearby towns want to go to the countryside, and they all choose neighboring villages. Many of them went to live directly with their relatives.
But the educated youth is different. He came from Beijing two years ago.
That’s the capital!
When he first came, the villagers were very curious, and they all went to see him specially, but now…the villagers are all afraid of him.
This educated youth is tall and big, and looks very strong, but he is too lazy!
He has been here for two years, he still cannot do the work in the field properly. All he knows is to hide at home and be lazy.
“That said, the educated youth is really too lazy.”
“Zhang Zugen’s daughter also fell in love with him before, and recently, she was also discouraged.”
“Can she not be discouraged? He is so lazy, he gets poorer and poorer…”
This educated youth, the people in the village really don’t know what to say about him.
When he first arrived, he looked glamorous, and his leather shoes were all polished. Everyone thought that his family must be rich, but they weren’t.
In the past two years, no one has sent him anything!
In the first year, he was able to live on by selling the things he brought, and in the second year, he was able to live by borrowing food from the village and the people around him.
This borrowed grain from the village, he had to write down every penny. He doesn’t always show up for work, and he certainly can’t pay back at the end of the year. This…
More importantly, the villagers also learned that his family’s background is not very good.
People in this Jiangnan water town have soft personalities. In recent years, it has been so chaotic outside. Sometimes, officials will also pull people from their side to criticize, but the toss is not serious. No one does anything to the educated youth, but everyone does not want to approach him.
Even if he is well-educated, because of laziness and bad background, the girls who had been in love with his face at first retreated one after another.
Everyone in the village feels that if the educated youth keeps going like this, he will probably be a bachelor for a lifetime!
As for the other person in the village who may be bachelor for a lifetime, it is Gu Mingxiu who is working hard to smash the ground.
Gu Mingxiu is the best-looking person in their village. He is not worse than an educated youth. He works hard. When he was fifteen years old, he was able to earn the same work points as an adult when he was working in the farm.
But he also has fatal flaws.
First of all, his family background is also bad—Gu Mingxiu’s grandfather was the big landlord of the village.
The Gu family used to be in the raw silk business.
Their family built a large yard with a wall of three meters high by the big river and built a dock. For decades in the morning, when the cocoons are collected every year, people nearby shake their boats to sell the cocoons here. On this dock, that is where people come and go, and the silver banknotes are carried in bamboo baskets.
The Gu family’s old man was once unspeakably impressive, and Gu Mingxiu’s grandfather, who had gone to the big city to study, was the only one who did so in the village.
It is a pity that the times have changed too fast.
Before Gu Mingxiu was born, the Gu family was already ruined. Not long after he was born, his father committed suicide for various reasons. After that, Gu Mingxiu’s mother took Gu Mingxiu and married an old bachelor in the village who could not marry a wife, and gave birth to four more children.
But even if Gu Mingxiu’s mother remarried, Gu Mingxiu’s backgroung is still not good. Many people are unwilling to marry him, let alone… he is still dragged down by his family.
When Gu Mingxiu was at his stepfather’s house, he was seen as a drag oil bottle. He needed to do farm work to take care of his younger siblings when he was young. He was also the son of a landlord. He was always bullied in the village, and he had a bad life.
But even so, God still won’t let him go.
When Gu Mingxiu was fourteen years old, his stepfather got sick and his belly grew bigger and bigger. He went to the hospital and the doctor said that he couldn’t be cured, so he died.
His mother was in poor health. She was pregnant with a child and fell ill all of a sudden. Later, when she gave birth, the child’s feet came out first…
The midwife pulled hard, and his mother also died.
Gu Mingxiu is twenty this year. There are no elders in the family. There are four half-brothers and sisters to take care of. The youngest is only six years old… Who wants to marry him?
However, although Gu Mingxiu’s father was a landlord, the old man of the Gu family had always been kind to people. Gu Mingxiu was miserable, so the villagers were still friendly to Gu Mingxiu.
Only occasionally, when there’s a criticism meeting, Gu Mingxiu will still be pulled out and criticized.
These days, it is also unavoidable.
The sun was gradually setting from the west, and it was time to call it a day.
The educated youth still did not come to the field.
The aunts couldn’t help sighing again.
“It’s really rare to see someone as lazy as that educated youth!” one of them said: “He is like this, sooner or later he will starve to death.”
Gu Mingxiu who was carrying an iron rake, was walking towards the place where farm tools were stored in the village. He couldn’t help but say: “He is sick…”
“Sick? You’re the only one who believes in this kind of nonsense.” The gossiping women rolled their eyes. With that fat and fair look of the educated youth, sick?
Gu Mingxiu didn’t agree with these women’s words, but he didn’t like to argue with others, so he closed his mouth and said nothing.
There used to be a small temple in Shangmu Village, which houses several Bodhisattvas. This temple was built by the Gu family, but in the early years, the clay Bodhisattvas in the temple had been thrown away. Now this temple has become the place where the village would store various things.
The tractors in the village, the farming tools that everyone used, the grain harvested, and so on, are all placed in this temple.
Gu Mingxiu put down the iron rake and returned home.
A few years ago, the village once made a big pot of rice, but now it has stopped doing it. The food is divided into different families.
At this time, compared to when there was a famine more than ten years ago, everyone’s life is much better. Like Gu Mingxiu’s family, only Gu Mingxiu is a strong laborer. Three of the four younger siblings are in their teens and want to study. The youngest, because he was suffocated in their mother’s belly became sickly and frail, and always had a bad life.
However, sweet potatoes have been harvested in the past few days, and the village has divided the sweet potatoes that were damaged during the digging process early, so that they will not be hungry.
When Gu Mingxiu came home, he smelled of roasted sweet potatoes.
Gu Mingxiu’s four younger siblings are two men and two women.
His stepfather’s surname is also Gu, his younger siblings are also the same as his surname. Among them, the eldest brother is 15 this year, called Gu Yubao, the second sister is 13 this year, called Gu Yulan, the third sister is 12 this year, called Gu Yuxian, and the youngest is a boy, 6 years old this year, called Gu Yukang.
At this moment, the third sister, Gu Yuxian, has just cooked the sweet potatoes.
Wash the sweet potatoes and put them in the iron pan and cook for a long time. The sweet potatoes are stuck on the iron pan. When the sweet potatoes are burnt on one side, the sweet potatoes will be cooked. When the sweet potatoes are being cooked, she also put a bowl on the steaming rack. Put in a little bit of rice and steam a bowl of rice.
This meal is for Gu Yukang.
Gu Yukang is weak but has a stubborn temper. He doesn’t eat sweet potatoes. Even if only sweet potatoes are available, he will never eat sweet potatoes, and will keep on crying.
Gu Mingxiu was never picky about food. He went home, washed his hands, took the sweet potato from the pot and ate it with the skin.
While eating, Gu Yubao, who was in junior high school in town, came back.
Their village is very close to the town. The children in the village go to the primary school in the village. The school is the three-meter-high walled old house of the Gu family. Everyone in junior high school went to the town to study.
Of course, most people don’t go to junior high school.
“What’s there to eat at home today?” Gu Yubao went into the kitchen and was unhappy when he saw that there were only sweet potatoes in the pot: “Only sweet potatoes?”
After he finished speaking, he saw the rice next to it: “Give me this bowl of rice.”
“This is Yukang’s.” Gu Yuxian wanted to stop her second brother, but Gu Yubao picked up the bowl and, without even using chopsticks, took a sip directly on the bowl of rice that was steamed to a charred yellow color with a hint of burnt sweet potato flavor.
“This is Yukang’s,” Gu Mingxiu frowned and said.
“Big brother, I want to eat rice too.” Gu Yubao reached out for his chopsticks.
“You ate it at noon and you had eggs.” Gu Mingxiu grabbed the bowl.
Gu Yubao was in junior high school in town and brought rice every day.
They have been eating badly at home, but Gu Yubao said that people at school are eating well. Eating poorly is a disgrace. Gu Mingxiu can only let him bring rice to school, and every day, he would also boil an egg, cut in half and drizzled with soy sauce to give him as food.
“I still want to eat it tonight,” Gu Yubao said confidently.
When Gu Mingxiu’s stepfather and mother were still alive, the most favored was Gu Yubao, after all, it was his stepfather’s first child and son.
It is also because of this that Gu Yubao has developed the temperament that needs to get what he wants since he was a child.
Gu Mingxiu used to be obedient to Gu Yubao, but today he was tired all day and had something on his mind, so he said: “If you make trouble again, you will bring sweet potato to school tomorrow.”
After speaking, Gu Mingxiu gave the bowl on his hand to Gu Yuxian.
Gu Yubao frowned, feeling dissatisfied.
Gu Yuxian was afraid that Gu Yubao would be upset again, and hurriedly took a bowl to feed Gu Yukang. Six-year-old Gu Yukang, they didn’t know if it was because he had been suffocated in their mother’s belly for a long time, but he was a bit dull. Already six years old and still can’t do a lot of things that normal six-year olds can do, whenever he needed something, he will always shout brother or sister.
“You are too good to that fool!” Gu Yubao curled his lips and chose the sweet potato with the best appearance.
A bit of a background if you’re unfamiliar with the setting. At that time, there was a big cleanup. Landlords and capitalists were like… a big nope. Because they were growing too powerful/influential and the nation was like going in a different direction, this one old man in power said… that’s a big NOPE. Politics. A lot of politics. Chaos. Books were burned. Vases were smashed. Lands/Houses were seized. A lot of cleanups. The end.
So Ah Xiu, because he came from a family of landlords, his background was not good. :/
Educated Youths – they are the intellectuals who were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by peasants — as part of the 4 cleanups (politics, economy, organization, ideology).
The Village’s Big Pot of Rice — like a big canteen for farmers