Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Work Ethos



For part of my life, I was raised on a small farm. My old man had me out mowing the lawn when I was in grade school. Mowing also included thwacking the weeds down in this one hellfire area that was steep, large, and too rock-infested for the mower. This was an era when motorized weed eaters and such tools were still to be invented; hence, the weed wacker used was a variation of a sharp scythe at the end of a metal pole that one whisked back and forth. Also included in these youthful chores were digging post holes in rock-like ground, weeding the onions, and so forth. In short, my old man taught-forced me to work hard and to shut up about it. Back talk was taken care of with a 14"X5"X5/8" wooden board applied to the glutes at velocity; this man was a veteran school principal in an age when whooping ass in the office was as common as greasy breaded fish on Fridays. (Today’s time out’s. . . HA!)

When young, I hated hard physical labor but did it because I was told to do it with no other option. In HS, I did this work to get spending money, working on a horse ranch shoveling out stalls. In college, I did such labor over the summers to pay for tuition and books. I still hated the work but did it because it needed to be done. The motivation changed from a wood board to a financial necessity.

Attitude about such labor has changed over the years.

With aging, I have come to very much enjoy hard physical labor, though done periodically to allow time to rest and recharge. A special point of enjoyment is digging in the dirt. A farmer who hired me once said, “you dig the cleanest holes and trenches I have ever seen.” (DEFINITELY something to put on the resume!) He then threw me on a tractor for the rest of the summer to cultivate the soil around the newly sprouted beans. The other help ran them over or uprooted them, he explained. The rest of the summer was quite enjoyable trucking around remote fields on my tractor watching the birds, the creegles, and crop-dusters. (A creegle is a cross between an eagle and a crow. And have you ever seen a bi-plane fly UNDER power lines at close range and then shoot vertically up into the air only to swoop back down and repeat?! These fellows are amazing!) 

I tell clients who are going to do their own work, from roofing to crawl space excavation to whatever: Now you are going to find out who your true friends are! Nothing shows authentic friendship like work that is face-down-in-the-dirt, grubby, excruciatingly difficult. Everything else is simple acquaintanceship. Inside, I am also thinking that these peoples’ personal mettle will also be tested. Will they finish the job or hand it off to a company to finish it. . .