Archived Story

It’s summer time and the jobs are where?

Published 8:46am Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It seems that the mantra for seeking political office these days is akin to the well-known phrase from the real estate business that offers the greatest opportunity for an easy sale: “location, location, location.”

Politically speaking, the candidate seeking office this year is not selling real estate, but let’s change the word and put it into a phrase similar to the above mentioned: “jobs, jobs, jobs.” And I’m not talking about Steve.

I did not really appreciate it when I was a youngster, but growing up on the farm had one benefit that would be quite popular these days. There was always a job to do. Especially as school turned out and the summer months came. Farm kids never had to go out hunting for a job. Unless, of course, they wanted to work in the air conditioning and get paid more than $4 a day.

It’s changed a little now. The crops are different. For instance, there is no longer that staple of the south Georgia farm economy, tobacco. Plus, with all the new and highly effective herbicides, the weeds that used to be pulled by hand now get a drenching by over-the-top spraying and are sent to the weed cemetery without too much human interaction.

There is another factor that prevents just any young person working on the farms these days. The equipment is so expensive. No responsible farmer is going to allow a care-free, chance-taking teenager the opportunity to drive that quarter of a million dollar tractor around acting like he is Evel Knievel. (I know Evel Knievel is old-time, but he’s the most reckless driver I could think of.)

Another job that used to be popularly associated with kids and summertime is lawn maintenance — or as it was known in the old days, cutting the grass. Push mowers that were cranked by pulling on that encircled rope on top of the engine have gone the way of the hand hoe. So have the jobs that filled the summery days of enterprising entrepreneurs who were willing to cut a yard for less than the cost of a new Honda Accord.

Other than cutting the grass, I am not sure what city kids did during the summers. My brother and I, when we were breaking rocks in the hot sun, would imagine our city friends going to the pool and making time with our girlfriends. They were probably envious of all the moo-lah (money) we were making.

We were rolling in the dough. We worked every day; I said there was always something to do. Working every day, though, did not mean we got paid for every day’s work. We only got paid when we worked for someone other than our daddy. I can’t speak for his thinking; he’s better at that than I am.

As I look back, however, I have to think that he had a ledger for all those meals we had eaten since we had been born. Plus, all those nights we had spent luxuriously sleeping in that bedroom with the very comfortable twin beds. Then, there were all those fancy threads that he and momma had bought so that we would be dressed in sartorial splendor. That ledger was pretty full.

So, when we worked on our farm, we were simply paying off the bill. By the way, I’m still paying off that debt and doubt that it will ever be paid in full. Sort of like that ledger, with my name on it, that God has up yonder. Thankfully, neither my parents nor God will hold me entirely responsible for all those debts.

We did get paid when we worked for others. We thought the pay was good, but by today’s standards it wasn’t all that much. In fact, I doubt that anyone would work for “them wages” these days. I’ll give you a for instance.

Saturdays were the days when farm work might be put on hold, if possible. In other words, we got to sleep a little later and, unless the ox was in the ditch, if you know what I mean, there was no gathering of tobacco or pulling weeds in the peanut patch.

Instead, we could make a little extra money for going to the show in the afternoon. Let me explain that “the show” was what we called the theatre, as in the “picture” show. We went to the Park Theatre in Pelham after we had cut the grass at the three houses for which we were responsible.

We cut our yard for free, naturally. It took about an hour. We also cut Granny’s yard. It also took about an hour, but we got a dollar for doing it. Plus, a six-ounce Coca-Cola that we put in the freezer before we started. By the time we finished, it was about half frozen and, if Coca-Cola could have filmed me drinking it, I could have made a million in advertising. It was that good and the faster you drank it, the better!

We had one more yard to cut. That was our neighbor, Nora Mae Hurst and family. It didn’t take quite an hour and we got a dollar there, also. We followed this summertime routine from the time we were old enough to cut grass until we went off to college. We tried to go up on the price one year to a dollar and one-half, but our greed was curtailed by daddy. There would be no wage inflation.

Most of you will understand what I have written. Some might say, “I wouldn’t do it for a dollar.” I’ve got two things to say.

First of all, I don’t remember being asked if we wanted to do it. If I remember correctly, it was part of who we were. There were no negotiations on whether we would do it or what the wages were.

Secondly, a dollar was plenty. The movie only cost a quarter to get in. The all-you-could-eat buffet, which consisted of popcorn and cola, plus a small selection of huge candy bars, only cost another quarter. We got more than our money’s worth and if I could, I would do it all again and not change a thing!

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