When I was a kid at the age of 12, I started going to work with my father the builder. He actually did own and run a small construction company. The first day I had off school, he woke me at 5 am, and we drove to the other side of Baltimore and were on the job site before 7:00 am.
I ended up being a laborer, and I heard a lot about not working hard enough. I was good at running errands. On the plus side, I learned to drive a farm tractor and could tow a long trailer with wood or block or brick on it, so I was perfect for delivering supplies to different houses, as long as the county didn't own the street.
I also learned the rudiments of driving a bulldozer. My father was severely less enthusiastic about me driving a bulldozer than a farm tractor. My dad was a CPA and a lawyer before he decided to build houses. Today I can understand his reasoning. Imagine hitting anything with a farm tractor, then imagine hitting the same thing with a bulldozer. Complicate things by having to be a responsible adult and having to explain to a judge why a 12 year old was driving a bulldozer or a tractor. Remember, we skipped a car entirely.
We typically got home at 7:00 pm. Rain or shine, my ass had been kicked. We're talking tired. Bone tired. Finally, at the end of August, I got two weeks off. Vacation. I had been paid a buck an hour, but I was actually given $10 in cash, and $30 in a check that I would never get to cash.
I worked for my father until I was 18, when I was drafted by my uncle to work in his rubber factory. I tried stints in places like fast food restaurants, etc. since neither my father nor my uncle really understood nepotism, rather they understood that if they made your life miserable, you would instantly see the value of an education. They never believed me when I told them I valued an education, they just kept up the pressure.
Some other time I'll tell you stories of near death, or driving my great aunt to the airport covered from head to toe in black rubber dust and having my great uncle say "kiss your aunt good bye" and leaving black marks on her face. Today, I am going to tell you of one of the last projects my father had for me just before I went to school.
He was renovating a beautiful old townhouse and they had to dig a trench from the curb to the house to install the utilities. The trench has to be 8 feet deep. The backhoe we had was only capable of going down 6 feet. It was raining. I was told to get into the trench and shovel out the last two feet of mud. I was halfway up to my knees in mud, shoveling, and then throwing the mud up and out of the hole. Not all of it made it. There wasn't another person to help, like letting me fill a bucket with mud, and have them haul it up and dump it. When I was finished, I was covered with mud, and completely exhausted. By this time I knew that part of what my father was trying to teach me was the value of an education. I knew he didn't realize that he was also teaching me over and over again that working hard didn't buy you anything if you didn't get to work smart. Digging the trench was one of those events that just stuck with me, right through to today, 40 years later.
I came home and found a guy at the bottom of a hole in my front yard. He works for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the local water authority. They are replacing the water mains. I looked in the hole
and this guy was down there, in the hole. He didn't want me to take his picture. He was afraid I was looking for him to be committing some violation. I told him the story. I may blow the picture up and hang it on the wall in my office for motivation.
I took the picture below so you can see he was standing in water.
If you look at the picture below, it appears he was almost up to his waist. I did offer him an ice cold Sam Adams Oktoberfest, but he turned me down. He did thank me for telling him about the motivation to go to school.
Little did he know how long I went to school. The next time I retire, I'll probably go back to school again. Why did I put the pictures at the end? So I don't have to see them a lot. It's not my favorite memory.