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The Worst Job I Ever Had?

25 Oct

Like this, but Easter Egg Blue

The Worst Job I Ever Had?

Well, this should be pretty easy, but I struggle with saying it’s ‘the worst’ because of how much I learned from the experience.

I guess it goes with out saying that when you are in high school and living in a very small town (Glendive, Montana- population about 4,000), new opportunities for travel and excitement are few and far between… plus, they are an easy sell to a young man going into the Summer before his Senior year.

The summer of 89 was truly one of those ‘coming of age’ times for my friends and me. I could write a book about that summer. This ‘job’ just kind of kicked it off.

My good friend and classmate, Kevin Brown, told me about an opportunity in Iowa where we could go make a lot of money in just a couple of weeks.

I’m so in.

Sounds exciting… travel, money, road trip, girls maybe! Honestly, he could have said we would be breaking ice blocks in Antarctica and I would have thought it was great… anything to battle the boredom cloud that hangs over most small town teenagers.

The job? Corn Detasseling. What the heck is that?


Detasseling corn is removing the pollen-producing tassel, from the tops of the cornrows and placing them on the ground. It is a form of pollination control, employed to crossbreed, two varieties of corn.

Exciting stuff, right?!

“Yeah!” he says. “We’ll go down for a couple of weeks, make some money and I’m talking 8 bucks an hour, stay at my Aunt’s house and stop over and see my Uncle whose a Catholic Priest!”

“Party on… I’ll back my bag!” I say.

Off we go.

We hit the road that hot July morning in his Easter Egg Blue 1960-something 4-door Dodge Dart. It had no A/C, but it had a killer sound system… and it would fly.

We had the usual provisions…

Chips, Big Gulps, licorice, Funyuns…

Tapes of Poison, Motley Crue, and some mix tapes that we had hoped to use to get some girls ‘in the mood’.

We debated if Poison’s ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn’ should come before or after Warrant’s ‘Heaven’.

That conversation could have lasted three hours.

We were brilliant, huh?

By the time we were halfway across North Dakota, it must have been 100 degrees. Our shirts were off, all 4 windows were down and the seatbacks were wet with sweat. By the way, when the seatbacks were wet, they actually softened the scratchy nylon a bit.

We couldn’t drive fast enough to cool down. So what? We were long gone and bound for greatness and adventures.

It was our ‘Rite Of Passage’.

We pulled into Carroll, Iowa that night at his Aunt and Uncle’s house. They were ‘salt of the earth’ people… the kind of people you want to host your teenagers as they drive across 3 states. Kevin’s cousin, Bobby, gave us the use of his bedroom.

“I’ll take the floor”, I said.

“No, I will”, Kevin, replied.

We flipped for it.

We still couldn’t sleep for being to excited about our big-time moneymaking gig in the morning.

We woke up the next morning at 4am and caught a school bus for an hour ride out to some remote cornfield on a farm that seemed like it 10,000 acres of nothing but corn rows.

Before we got our instructions, we were told to don Hefty trash bags, gloves and a hat over our long-sleeves shirts and jeans. “Why”, I asked.

Then it was explained to me that as you are walking these miles of cornrows that are usually over your head, you would get soaking wet, head to toe, from the morning dew. As an added bonus, you have to stay covered or you will get ‘corn rash’ on your skin. Nice.

About that time, a 12 year-old girl walks over and yells instructions and berates Kevin and me like we are Sgt. Pyle from ‘Full Metal Jacket’. When Kevin and I looked at each other and laughed, she got worse.

The other kids that were mostly our age were afraid of her and maybe we had reason to be too!

We straightened up quickly, got our marching orders and started walking our muddy row, pulling tassels, and quietly trying to make light of our situation with the ‘pig-tailed terrorist’ and hoping she didn’t hear us.  All we saw was corn… corn, corn and more corn.

The sun was coming up. This sucks.

As the day went on, the dew dried up and we could finally take off our trash bags. It didn’t matter. We were soaked, anyway. It was hot, I tell ya.

At noon we got a lunch break back at the bus. Kevin and I stripped almost all of our clothes off and lay in the one shady spot that wasn’t under the bus… in the middle of a 4-way stop. We didn’t care. We took our water thermos and poured that cold water on our heads.

About that time our favorite 12 year-old boss comes over to berate us and tell us to get dressed and get back to work.  She also threatened to fire us and made some other noise.

Off we go, back on another cornrow, but this time without wearing a trash bag like a prom dress.

Aside from the usual insults, a random deer jumping out in front of us, and the oppressive heat and humidity, we made the most of it.

We hopped back on the school bus that afternoon about 4 o’clock and went back to our host’s home where they had a huge dinner for us. We were so thankful and so drained. We were really too tired to talk. Our hosts knew the deal and graciously didn’t require too much conversation.

That night there was no coin flipping. Kevin and I crashed in the same bed, made the gratuitous gay joke, closed our eyes, saw cornrows and immediately fell asleep.

We were back at it the next morning at 4am… and the next… and on and on.

You would think that with some experience under our belts, now that Sgt. Suzy Slaughter would give us a break.

No such luck.

She was relentless. The funny thing was, that she would get on the bus to go home and seem like a normal 12 year-old girl… just talking about the latest New Kids On The Block song or whatever… no yelling or insults.  I didn’t know whether to be scared or impressed.

As the days went by, we decided we had enough energy to venture out in the evenings. Kevin’s cousin, Bobby got us to go to a couple of parties. We were introduced to people as ‘from Montana’, as if we were from Pluto. Their reaction was about the same, too.

Eventually, we made friends with a few farm girls and a few more keg spouts.  Those fun nights gave us fodder throughout the day and made working much easier. Pretty soon, we couldn’t wait for the nights with those ‘Crazy Iowa Farm-girls’.

We got into quite the routine. I don’t know how we did it. We survived the next week or 2 on a few hours of sleep a night, which made us that more ornery during the day. Ah, youth!

On our last day in the fields, we knew we wanted to give a little payback to our ‘miniature monster’. We didn’t really have a plan, but when I look back on it, I would say that ‘providence’ might have played a role.

Cornfields have these creatures that dash around rather quickly that are called ‘field mice’. They are quick and not easy to catch.

I got lucky. I caught this young mouse when he ran under my shoe. I put him in my shirt pocket and buttoned him in.

When lunch came around, we made our way to the bus a little faster this time. I found our girl’s little red thermos, unscrewed the top, dropped our sacrificial field mouse in the icy waters and screwed the lid back on.

We then trotted back to our spot in the middle of the road, took off most of our clothes, and ate and re-hydrated. Despite our weeks of toiling in those hot fields under the thumb of a four-foot tall, sixth grade, female ogress, we were going to miss this place.

After all, we did make the most of it.

That last afternoon flew by. We boarded the school bus and Kevin and I both sat toward the front, like we planned it, or something. Ten or fifteen minutes went by as we stared out the window and traded raised eyebrows and semi-restrained smiles.

We could hear our tiny boss talking to her friend. We really couldn’t make out what they were talking about. It almost sounded like mumbling at one point when we hear a scream that could have been dubbed from a ‘Halloween’ movie. The bus driver actually laid on the breaks… hard.

Everyone on the bus turned around to see what as the matter… everyone except Kevin and me. We just kept staring out the window and trying with all our might not to look at each other. If we made eye contact, our cover would have been totally blown.

You know how that is with friends… no eye contact and you are golden.

For instance, I have a good friend that I work with, and if someone says something in a meeting that’s not supposed to be funny, but IS… we know we CAN NOT make eye contact or it is OVER! It’s like hearing someone fart in church… Try, just try not to laugh. I dare you.

We left our host’s house the next day in a bittersweet retreat back to Montana. We had some fun times, met some great people, but we were done with ‘corn row’ business. Besides, we had to get home to our ‘huge’ checks waiting on us.

But before we settled in for that long road trip back to Glendive, we stopped in Sioux City to see Kevin’s Uncle, the Catholic priest. I never met the guy and didn’t know what to expect.

Would we sit around all day and pray, chant and wave incense? Would we visit dying people in hospitals? Would we be sleeping in the back of the church on a pew? Do priests live in the church? Will he noticed that my ear was pierced?

So many questions for a dumb teenager like me, but my prejudices were soon shattered.

We pulled up to the church in the Easter Egg car and he was sitting on the steps smoking a cigarette. This was going to be fine.

He was such a cool guy. He made put us up in the rectory attached to the church and gave us our own rooms and made sure we had plenty to eat. He also asked us about our trip. We left out some of the more sordid details, but if the truth were known, we probably needed a confession.

We rested and woke the next morning ready to hit the road. I’ll never forget this day because we woke to some news of a terrible and fiery commercial plane crash.

United Flight 232 crash landed in Sioux City due to engine failure and killed 111 people. 185 people survived.

We hit the road and our revelry turned to more serious topics… parents, college, careers, marriage etc…. for a few minutes anyway.

Before long, we were well on our way back home and trying to decide what we were going to do with the rest of summer… how to make more money, where to go drink beer and not get caught, and more importantly, who had the biggest boobs in our school?

I look back on this trip and think about how fortunate we were just to have this experience and how much we learned. Here are a few nuggets…

  1. Always keep track of your work hours- (we got stiffed and were only paid for about half the time we worked)
  2.  Get it in writing- Always know exactly what you are being paid. (That’s right, you guessed it, our $8 an hour gig, ended up being $4
  3. It’s amazing how fast teenage boys can spot a backyard pool in any town, sneak in, cool off, and be gone before you can blink.
  4. A giant pig can look like a cow from the highway… in Iowa.
  5. When using Ethanol or ‘Corn Gas’ in an old Dodge, it may take 3 to 4 starts and 3-4 minutes to get that old egg running smoothly.
  6. It’s a crazy world out there, but the kindness of strangers is immense.
  7. If you don’t put yourself out there and just ‘do’ new things, you are missing out.

I must say I consider myself extremely blessed to have been in the graces of such interesting and famously wholesome people. It’s important that we don’t lose the enthusiasm and excitement of experiencing new things. It’s plentiful in our youth, but we gradually can lose it.

The life lessons we learn on these expeditions can priceless (at any age), even if they have come at the expense of a young field mouse from the fields of Iowa.

Thanks For Reading,


This post is part of Theme Thursday, 20 questions/get to know you blog.  I picked 1 question. Such an enigma, right? 🙂 Please check out my partners in crime. Thave lots more for you to enjoy!

Something Clever 2.0

Cloudy With a Chance of Wine

The Next Step

A Calibama State of Mind

Mom With Her Running Shoes On

Who Woulda Thought?

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Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom

Halloween- Meet the ‘Goat Family’

18 Oct

I recently moved with my wife, 2 young boys and a baby girl. The one thing we knew that we were going to miss were our neighbors.  They are our extended family. They are fun and they are real and we love them.

We managed to sell our house quickly and found a place with more room for our expanding family. We bought in a newer development and had no idea what the new neighbors were going to be like.

You really never know, do you?

Well, as we moved in, we met almost all of our surrounding neighbors and they have been great… all but one husband and wife that live across the street.

The only thing we’ve gotten from these folks are glares, stares and dirty looks. I guess we should be thankful that that is ALL we’ve gotten.

Our next-door neighbors had personal visits from them. They felt the need to scream at them and their two toddlers for having a moving truck on the street for a ½ day. It wasn’t blocking anyone or in anyone’s way. They actually came over to their house twice and were extremely rude. Welcome to the neighborhood, right?

My children will wave and say hi, as kids do, and get nothing back.

This is how the happy couple earned the nickname ‘Goat Lady’ and ‘Goat Man’, from my 5 and 7 year-old boys. Henceforth, in honor of my genius children, this is how I will refer to them… ‘The Goat Family’.

And it gets better…

A few weeks ago, we decided to have our kids’ pictures taken together. You know how stressful that can be. The photographer decided to sit them on the curb on the Goat Family’s side of street for a few pictures. As soon as they sat down, the ‘Goat Man’ came out and stood in his driveway, arms folded, just to make sure we didn’t enter his territory. I even gave him a wave to say, ‘Hi’. He just stood there, sneering with his arms crossed. Nice.

Ok, here comes the really weird part… and my wife was the first one to notice this…

Whenever we, or any of our neighbors, have company over or the kids are outside playing, (which is often) the Goat Family will come outside, grab large branches and line them in stacks along the street and their driveway. I guess someone driving too close to the curb on their side of the street is just too much to bare.

Their house is on 3 acres, so this is no small task. They also have a huge, iron driveway gate with big brick columns on either side.

They have done it countless times.

It is one of the strangest rituals I have seen.

I must be quite honest. It doesn’t bother me like it does the other people. It’s quite entertaining, actually.

That doesn’t mean I will continue to enable the Goat Family’s odd behavior.

You have to ask yourself, “What do you do for neighbors like this?” How do you reach out? How can you help them see the error of their ways?

Do you get in a big shouting match and end up settling your differences on Jerry Springer?

No, not today, anyway…

It’s simple… you have to illustrate the ridiculous, with the ridiculous.

So, a plan was devised.

This, my friends is why me and my 9-month old baby girl spent the whole day Monday in our Honda minivan, ‘borrowing’ vast amounts of bright-orange road safety cones.

Can you say ‘Raising Arizona’?

By the way, you could be driving 100mph in a ball of flames, and you still wouldn’t get noticed in a minivan. Score one for the breeders.

I think Halloween will be the perfect night to stay up late, have a few beers, sneak out and line their whole house with orange safety cones. Maybe a couple of hundred of them.

More like 150, though, I lost count.

This a good for 3 reasons…

  1. It makes a point
  2. It’s really fun
  3. I’ll feel much better

Will it change their attitude?

Probably not.

Will they still scowl at my children?


Do people take themselves way too seriously in this short ride of life?

You bet they do.

So let this be my ‘shot across the bow’ in the war on humor and neighborly love!

And if they don’t ‘get it’… there is always Christmas…

And I love to decorate 🙂

But you are lucky now, because this post is part of Theme Thursday, and my partners in crime have lots more for you to enjoy. So grab some candy and keep reading!!

Something Clever 2.0 Calibama State of Mind

Cloudy With a Chance of Wine Next Step

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