Celebrating Labor Day
I’ve held a number of jobs and put my hand to a lot of things before settling down to a keyboard, camera and newspaper deadlines.
Paperboy, television repair, dairy farm hand, convenience store clerk, roofer, oil field rough-neck, casket truck driver, sheriff’s department dispatcher and jake-leg carpenter are jobs I have held. Each put money in my back pocket at a particular point in my life and each taught me something new about the world.
My grandfather was a carpenter. My father a military airplane mechanic. I have tried to teach my four boys how to act around a saw, wrench and hammer.
We celebrated Labor Day Monday and as I ate my barbecue, I remembered some of those jobs and the people who taught me how to work with my mind and my hands.
I never got to go to work with my daddy. Uncle Sam has regulations about youngsters being on the flight line of a military airfield.
I did get to go pick him up from work a jillion times and it was there that I learned the smell of jet fuel, hydraulic fluid and men who have worked outside in the elements. It was the military and I learned their vocabulary, too.
One of the things I did see my father do was get up every morning at 5 a.m. so he could be at work by 6. Like clockwork, we could count on him being back home each afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The Department of Defense checks came on the first and 15th like clockwork, too.
There was never a lot of money at my house, but there was always cash-flow. Again, something my father taught me that is so important to a business and a home.
My grandfather came to live with us when I was six. He was the one who taught me how to swing a hammer with my arm, how to draw steadily with a handsaw and how to measure twice and cut once.
He also taught me how to slow down and think. At 70 he could pull nails and move standings studs that a healthy teenager struggled with.
I vividly remember watching him “walk” a stack of bricks more than 30-feet by carefully lifting one corner and spinning that pallet to where he wanted it.
Both my father and grandfather continued to work after they retired.
“A man is made to work,” my father once said. “God made him with broad shoulders, gave him strong arms and legs and a mind to figure it all out.”
I have to believe he probably heard that from his father.
They call it work
I have been one of the fortunate ones who has never been without work for any extended length of time.
I’ve quit jobs, I been fired and I’ve had companies decide to do something different. I have been without work.
Education has played a key roll in my keeping a job in the newspaper business for 25-years. An ability for my next employer to call my previous employer about my work ethic and level of expertise has also helped.
When I see kids not want a high school education, I cringe. You can’t even join the military without a high school diploma.
When I see kids take a job and then just decide not to show up for work, I shake my head. Being at work on time, every day with clear eyes and mind is so basic to keeping any job.
Chickasaw County has chronic unemployment. I repeatedly hear human resource people say many have a problem passing a drug test and won’t get hired. I also hear them say many don’t show up on Monday and are on the brink of being fired.
I’m one of the lucky ones who does something he loves for a living. It has always made getting out of bed on Monday morning a lot easier.
I’m not saying my job is easy. I’m not saying it’s always fun.
There was another thing my daddy used to say when I seemed a little fatigued, frustrated and not liking the task at hand.
“That’s why they call it work,” he explained. “If it was fun all the time they would call it play.”
I now make my living using words. Those are good ones to use from time to time.
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