Off to a slow start, jobwise

Labor Day weekend always has me pondering the various jobs I've held over the years.

And it's a sobering reminder that I was canned for being an abysmal failure in my very first job as a working stiff nearly half a century ago.

Fired. As in, "Yer outta here, bub."

The job was pulling weeds out of a flower garden proudly kept by a stern second-grade teacher in my hometown of Kerby. There were lush red roses, cheerful Shasta daisies and bright yellow daylilies flourishing in the colorful patch.

This strict taskmaster did not suffer weeds gladly in her flower garden. To her, they were no better than unruly urchins who did not abide by her no-nonsense rules. They needed to be weeded out.

I was a discipline-challenged youngster who had just completed the fourth grade. My brother Charles, a year older and much more responsible, was hired as first weeder. I tagged along as his assistant.

Our pay? A whopping 25 cents an hour.

Charles took to weed-pulling like an IRS agent to a tax audit. He quickly put his section of the flower bed in order.

My corner looked like a wild boar had rooted through it, leaving a trail of broken flowers. Just as I was trying to hide the crumpled body of another dead daylily, I looked up into the cold gray eyes of the scowling school marm.


"We will not be needing your services anymore," she crisply informed the cowering flower slayer at the end of that first morning. Charles rightfully kept the job for the summer.

My next job was working part-time for elderly neighbors who kept a couple of milk cows on their farm. Call it sour milk, but I could never quite grasp the job. The cows never stood still, unless one had stepped on my foot. I was udderly, er, utterly unqualified for the job.

Next came a stint as a hired hand helping the neighbor's adult son cut Port Orford cedar bolts for the local arrow factory. I was paid $1 a day for lugging the bolts up the side of a mountain to his old pickup truck.

He tended to drink a bit. Sometimes, when he was hounded by hangovers, he turned to the hair of the dog to get through the day. It made for interesting rides as the old rig careened around narrow mountain roads.

By the time I was in my mid-teens in the late 1960s, bucking hay at $1.25 an hour was a coveted job in Southern Oregon. Pitching bales of hay onto a flat-bed truck under the broiling summer sun was hard work. But it was a great way to get in shape for football and wrestling seasons.

Other jobs included picking beans, setting chokers and chasing on the landing in the logging woods, serving a hitch in the Marine Corps and working in security.

The jobs made me realize I really didn't want to work for a living. So I became a journalist, a pleasant career that has stretched from Alaska to California's Bay Area on more than a dozen papers.

Still, there are those days when I'd rather pull weeds than pound out thoughts on a keyboard.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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