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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Working the Addiction


People in my generation have been working for so long that many of us don’t even remember how exactly it was that we got started.  Getting started on almost any other addictive behavior is much easier than the work habit.  On any other addictive behavior you start and next thing you know you are hooked.  Not the work habit, no sir, you actually have to work hard at getting addicted.  I could actually stand up in front of a gathering, introduce myself and say I am a workaholic.

When I think about it, it seems like it was yesterday that I was offered a job (to start the day after the end of the school year).  I was only 12 years old, and I was hired to drive a Ford Ferguson tractor all day long (from sun up to sun down).  My pay was $0.70 per hour; seems like very little money but a 6 day week totaled $42 or better yet I could buy 168 gallons of gasoline.  To put it in perspective at today’s prices 168 gallons of gasoline today would cost $680.04.  Not a bad week’s wages.  My job was fun, what 12 year old doesn’t like the idea of driving all day long.  Unfortunately half way through the summer I was ready to retire.

The job consisted of pulling a flatbed trailer behind the tractor while three college kids (football players from WSU) piled bales of hay as high as they could, only to transport them to various locations to build stacks so high, as to make Aztec Pyramid builders proud.  We worked in 100 plus degree days, and ate our lunch while making the drive from the field to the farm house (we basically got paid for the lunch hour which we didn’t take).  I never gave it much thought but I guess my training as I entered the workforce was the best.  These three college kids were great hard working examples to me for the duration of the summer.

This particular farmer (rancher) was well known for giving young people a break, by offering jobs during the summer break from school.  I was lucky to get one of the jobs because my step-father was the general foreman.  Getting the job was a benefit, but I certainly wasn’t cut any slack.  Much more was expected from me than anyone else on the payroll. I remember overhearing a conversation where my step-father was telling the boss that he didn’t have to pay me full wage (40 cents per hour would be plenty for my age).  The boss (initials A.R.) responded that if I was old enough to put in a day’s work, I deserved a day’s pay.  Two big lessons learned my first summer in the workforce; you deserve the pay you are worth, and great work ethic establishes your reputation.

I hope anyone reading this post will understand that for a first timer (at 12 years of age) putting in a 60 hour week (10 hour days, 6 days a week), with only Sunday for rest, while still keeping up with chores around the house, burning out is a given.  I was never so glad for the start of the new school year at the end of August.  I went on a shopping spree for back to school.  This year it was special I was actually spending my own money.  Blue Jeans $3.95, Converse Tennis Shoes $2.99 (for PE Class only), regular dress shoes for school. Shirts were one or two dollars, ties for dress shirts $0.59 each, as they, say them were the days.  I can’t forget to mention our required stop at A&W Root beer for a grilled ham sandwich with french fries, and a frosty mug of root beer.

Just writing this post makes me long for the good all days of stability, innocence and promise of a better tomorrow.  Well the better tomorrow and many other better tomorrows came, but somehow our lives got derailed along the way.  I managed very well, and am enjoying my life, however, not everyone was as fortunate.  Keep the faith because a better tomorrow is on the way.  The best is yet to come….

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