Monday, May 16, 2011

Cutting the Grass

I've been doing it since I was about 10.  It was a chore that was handed down from my father to me.  My brothers all had the job so when it my turn, it was my turn.  I learned to cut straight making neat rows with the wheel marks.  Nice lines that showed I cared about neatness, and I did.

Soon it became a way to earn money.  There was no First National Bank of Mom and Dad.  Yes, they bought food and shelter, clothes and school books, transportation and the occasional vacation.

But we had to make or pay for own fun.  Want one of those neat toys from the back pages of the comics (that we bought with our money), you pay for it from what you've earned.

And what you earned didn't include an allowance.  There was no such thing.  You lived in this house you were expected to contribute.   Back in those days, there were fights, literally, to see who got the paper routes when one came open.  Oh, and they would come open, prove yourself to be undependable or unreliable, and you got fired from being a paper-carrier.  Forever.  No second chances.  Done.  And you would be looked down upon by your peers.  You failed at being a newspaper boy.  That might cost you your friendship, parents would talk bad about the boy.  Now days it adults in cars; then, it was kids on foot or bikes. Humping 40+ pounds of newspapers.   The job sucked; rain, snow, 100 degrees+  it did not matter.  The papers were plopped in bundles at the end of your driveway and you had to get them delivered or risk losing the job.
So you did it.  The first life lesson in "Suck it up, Princess."  You want that fancy new bike, it has a cost.  10 degrees below 0 on a February morning and you better not hit metal part at the bottom of the screen doors and make the dogs bark.   Papers were delivered to the porch, or in between the screen and the front door.  Not tossed in the driveway to get all wet and soggy.

Then you had to go around every week to collect the money.  You had to sell also.  If someone wasn't taking the paper, you knocked on those doors until they told you to never come back, or a new family moved in.  You had to make change and turn in the receipts, and then get yelled out because your still delivering papers to those two or three houses who's owners are never home to collect from, but are the first to call if the paper is so much as a minute late.

It was a different world, you held the job until you got what you wanted out of it.  That new bike or other expensive goody.  You had the job for a couple of years, then you announced that you didn't want to do it any more.  You're older and looking move up to a part time job somewhere.  Anywhere indoors.  And not at 4am every morning.  Every morning.  Not one day off.  Unless you had the Afternoon paper.  Then you got Sunday's off, because they didn't have a Sunday edition. But it paid less. 

And we cut grass in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter.  If they didn't have their own kids too do it,  you could guarantee that they would come and take a gander at your own lawn and see if you trimmed and made straight lines.  It had better look nice or it was "No thanks, kid.  I do it myself."  Sometimes we did not get the job not because we couldn't cut straight lines, but they did it themselves because there just wasn't money in the budget to hire out the neighbor kid.  $5 to cut the grass was a lot of money in those days.  You could feed a family of 4 at McDonalds for $5. And get change back.   

Snow, on the other hand, there always seemed to be money in the budget to hire those two idiot neighbor kids.  $5 between the two of 'em to hand shovel 100+ feet of two cars wide,12 inch deep wet, slushy, driven over snow.  Yep, stay in there where it's warm and then point out all the spots that still need to be chiseled free of ice before paying up.  And guess what, the reason we tore through it in no time is because we both have a crush on your daughter.  And we'd shovel your driveway for free just to impress her as to how strong and tough we are.  But it's getting dark and we have to move on to the next house.  We will hand shovel 10-15 driveways a day after a heavy snow fall.  And come home well after dark, cold, wet, hungry and tired.  Inhale whatever Mom made for dinner, and go back for seconds and thirds; shortly after we'd collapse in bed and thank G-d that we didn't have to get up at 4am any more and deliver newspapers.


  1. The birth of the American Entreprenuer.

    And when you were old enough to detassle corn for the first time??? Cha Ching!

    Then for the first "real" job -- working in an ice cream store. And flirting with the college boys who lived across the street.. . .

  2. And the college boys loved to go get Ice Cream.