About 30 minutes into my job as a picker, the strawberry fairy left her first gift.
On one of the beds of berries that seemed to stretch forever into the Santa Maria marine layer, Elvia Lopez had laid a little bundle of picked fruit.
She and the other three dozen Mexican immigrants in the field were bent at an almost 90-degree angle, using two hands to pack strawberries into plastic containers that they pushed along on ungainly one-wheeled carts.
They moved forward, relentlessly, ever bent, following a hulking machine with a conveyor belt that spirited away their fruit. But Lopez, a 31-year-old immigrant from Baja California, knew I was falling behind.
And she responded with an act of kindness.