My first job off the farm was working at Hickory Farms during my senior year in high school. It consisted of standing alone in a tiny windowless room making cheese logs. I lasted two weeks.
My next off-farm experience (sort of like an out-of-body experience, but different) was a three month stint at the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources as a fire patrolman the second spring fire season after I graduated. I enjoyed the job. I could wear my western boots, my narrow-rimmed Stetson (think Bob Evans), my blue jeans, plus uniform shirts (that they provided) with nifty patches on them that made me look more important than I was. I enjoyed picking up the mic on the two-way in my official state vehicle when someone speeded past me on the interstate and watching them slow down if they happened to spot the mic and my shoulder patch. My real job was contacting volunteer fire departments for their monthly wildfire reports, visiting country fire wardens and seeing that they were adequately supplied and writing burning permits for folks who wanted to burn brush and such. Times that I wasn’t actually doing one of those things, I could drive country roads on high ridges looking for smoke and call it reconnaissance. I saw some pretty scenery and met some interesting people. What’s not to like about a job like that? Unfortunately, it was a temporary position created until they could find a guy with a college degree to do exactly the same thing. It was fun while it lasted.
A few years later, I took a job driving a route truck for Red Rose Feed, which had just been bought out by Carnation. I delivered cattle feed and other “farmy” things to farmers and little country stores spread over about eight counties in West Virginia and a couple in Ohio. It was hard work, but I found the people interesting and the scenery enjoyable. I had worked there less than a year when they demoted the manager who’d been with the company for 30 years and replaced him with some big-city college-educated brat from out-of-state. I saw it was not a company to expect any loyalty from and started looking for other work the next day. The new manager ran the store into the ground in less than five years.
From there, I went to work at a locally owned store that sold stoves, fireplaces and related paraphernalia. I served as clerk, deliveryman, installer and part-time demolition man (the owner also had some old houses that he’d bought to rent). Unfortunately, though I liked the work, the guy had promised himself that he’d be a millionaire by the time he was 40, and he’d just turned 39 and hadn’t made it yet. Hoping to make some quick bucks before his next birthday, only eight months after I’d hired on there, he closed his store and went into real estate at Myrtle Beach.
Later, I drove a mail truck between my hometown and Pittsburgh. It was a twelve hour day with a four hour lay-over in the middle for which I didn’t get paid, but the pay was decent enough, and I enjoyed the driving, so I probably would have stayed there if the woman owner hadn’t fired me illegally to hire her out-of-work father-in-law. I probably could have ultimately caused her to lose her contracts with the postal service, but she was supposed to be a Christian, so I figured the Lord could deal with her. I doubt if He had anything to do with it, but she eventually divorced her husband (her second, at least) and married some other guy, so I assume she also fired his father if he was still there.
Then, I worked at a muzzleloader shop for three-and-a-half years. It worked out pretty well for a while, since the owner needed me full time in the winter, when my work on the farm was slow, but only part-time in the summer when the farm required the most effort. I might have stayed there, too, except his relatives/employees kept goofing off and he eventually demanded that I work for him full time to take up the slack. I explained to him that I made more money on the farm working part-time than I did for him working full time, so we had a parting of the ways. I didn’t really miss him much, as he was neither moral nor immoral, but amoral.
I worked the farm for a few years before going to work at the shovel factory. Work there was actually easier than my work in the Christmas trees and the sawmill, yet harder on the body due to repetitive motion. It paid decently enough and had benefits, though, so I probably would have still been there if it hadn’t moved to China after I’d been there twelve years.
After going to college a couple years under TAA, I ended up doing telemarketing for four years. That was the job from hell. I was literally glad when the place closed, though I had no job to go to, and felt bad for my coworkers.
So here I am, trying to get truck-driving school finished up so I can get a decent job, or at least have more options to choose from. I’m not sure how it will all turn out. Ask me in five years! © 2014