he did not particularly regret at the time. In his own words, "the work had become rather easy by the third year."
His boyhood experiences did much to develop his self-reliance and mechanical abilities, traits that served him well in his laboratory career. He knew the demands and satisfaction that come with hard physical labor. His determination to secure an education was tolerated by his parents so that he was able to complete high school (as the only boy in a graduating class of four), an accomplishment that required a fourteen-mile round trip on horseback over a ridge "too dry to farm and too high to irrigate."
Determined to continue in college, Bleakney took a year out to earn money.1 This provided him experience in the fields of Oregon harvesting wheat behind a team of twenty-seven mules. He recounted with pride in later years that during this period his pay was 30% higher than the average field hand's because he had learned to handle wheat sacks so skillfully that he could tie the ear of the sack, roll the seam, put in fifteen stitches, tie the other ear, dethread the needle, and rethread it ready for the next sack in twelve seconds. Since the wheat came out at about three sacks per minute, this left him eight seconds to dump the sack in a straight line for later pick up. This quantitative analysis of his achievement was typical of him. Bleakney never lost respect for people who could do things with their hands, an attitude appreciated by his subsequent graduate students who might not be slated for outstanding careers in theoretical physics. At the end of that year, with about $1,000 saved to start college, he entered Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, as a member of the class of 1924. Here he worked his way through odd jobs that included firing furnaces and peeling potatoes at a hotel as pay for his dinner. He was also able to win letters in football and track.
As an undergraduate Bleakney majored in physics. Here