From Grade School to Greyed Fools

Let me tell you, there’s something soothing about sitting at a table surrounded by old friends that you once knew forty plus years ago.

And there we were. All gathered again because one of our high school friends had decided to she wanted to celebrate turning the big ‘60’ by having a few of her 180+ fellow grads from 1975 show up at a local restaurant/tavern to help her celebrate the momentous occasion. Most of the members of that class will be turning that auspicious number at some point in 2017 so what better time to get together with people we hadn’t seen in over forty years.

Twelve people ending up at the table once you included friends and spouses. Three of us had been friends since meeting in grade five while the other three had joined the rank of ‘Elgineer’s’ when we met at the beginning of grade seven. We each played a part in the molding of each other’s character from grades five on through to high school, although we didn’t know it at the time.

These people had been a part of my life from those carefree grade school days when the worst that happened to me was when someone stole my lunch and I had to bum a half-sandwich from one of them, to those terrible teen-aged, hormonal angst fueled days of high school where everything minute thing was a major occurrence (or seemed so at the time).

I looked at all those familiar yet slightly altered faces and let my mind wander back in time to specific roles that each of them had played in my life. In most cases, the sound of their voice and laughter was exactly as I remembered it from way back when. For a moment time seemed to slip away and I could picture them as they looked at twelve… fifteen… eighteen. I knew that when I’d hugged the friends who meant so much to me on graduation night that I’d probably never see them again, and that’s why this gathering was a touch more special than an ordinary evening out. I made sure that my sweetie went around snapping pictures of me with my trusty camera phone so that I’d have a hard copy remembrance of this evening, although I doubt my memory will need to see the evidence to be reminded of the joy and happiness being with these lovable and memorable people has brought into my life.

This morning as I was looking at the photos from last night’s reunion, a very old country and western song played through my mind. I think Tom T. Hall said it best when he sang “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, But old dogs and children and watermelon wine©” from the song of the same name.

We were mere children when we met, my friends, and the bonds forged back then are still strong, even if it has been forty plus years since we all sat a table in the cafeteria of our high school bemoaning the fact that our grades sucked, Mr. X was a shitty teacher, and who had an extra cigarette that so and so could bum.

Hey, guys and gals, look around. Somehow we’ve made it this far. Isn’t that a hoot?

Let’s do this again before another forty years has passed, okay?

©Watermelon Wine – Tom T. Hall

 

 

Confessions of a “Spring-aholic”

I have a confession to make. I love dirt… and I love cows. Read on and you’ll find out what they have in common in my mind.

I love the smell of it, the feel of it in the springtime as it ‘smushes’ between my fingers while I’m digging in my flower beds – I love everything about it. Even when my fur-babies track some of it into the house from playing in the backyard, it doesn’t bother me.

For the first 18 years of my life I lived on a working farm near the ocean. While a lot of my friends loved winter, I detested it from a very young age. I’d wait impatiently for warmer weather to arrive and with it the promise of spring.

Things would slowly start to thaw, including the huge manure pile outside the barn door. Melting mounds of snow would create little rivers cutting through the thawing ground on their way to lower elevations. Everyone seemed to be happier, livelier in some way, as if we humans had been in semi-hibernation along with the bears and wildlife that lived back in the woods at the edge of our property.

Flowers Spring 2014

First Spring Flowers 2014

Living on the farm, I’d know exactly when that wonderful day that I called spring would arrive. It never ceased to surprise me when that special occasion suddenly snuck up on me, but I was always overjoyed when I ‘smelled’ it.

That special day happened anywhere between the middle and end of April, depending on how much snow and cold weather we’d had that winter. I usually arrived home from school between 3:45 pm and 4:00 pm. The bus driver let my younger brother and me off the bus at the lower part of our circular driveway and we’d dash up the coal-ash covered lane to the front door of our farmhouse.

Yet on ‘spring’ day, I’d linger on that walk, savouring the announcement of my favorite season – the smell of rotten cow shit permeating through the air. You see, once the ground had dried up enough so that the tractor wouldn’t make ruts in the pasture ground, my Dad would start cleaning out the cow pens that were 3’ to 4’ high in manure, and spread it as fertilizer on our land.

Man, it stunk! Nowadays most people living next to a farm probably file complaints about air pollution when a farmer spreads manure on his property. I don’t even know how they dispose of a full winter’s worth of cow dung these days as I’ve lived in the city for most of the past 30+ years after leaving my family home and am out of touch with today’s farming protocol.

But I still miss that smell.

The only thing that comes close to it is when I’m out cleaning out my flower beds after a hard winter spell. When my nose is close to the earth and that pungent aroma of half-thawed dirt mixed in with last years decayed leaves reaches my nose, I am one happy camper. Those first little tender green shoots of leaves and flowers to come and that amazing one-of-a-kind smell serves as a wonderful reminder that even after a period of harshness, a reprieve of happiness follows.

I love dirt… and I love cows. I think I need to make a visit to a farm in the country to welcome in spring properly.

The Road to Entrepreneurialism is Paved With… Vegetables?

The Old Farmhouse Barn Aug 27 12 adjI know. Strange title for a blog post but after you read the remainder of the story, you’ll know why I’ve chosen this  as the introductory line.

I suspect if you were to take a poll of 100 business owners, all of them can pinpoint the main reason why they took the plunge into entrepreneurialism. I also know that being their own ‘boss’ would most likely rank in the top 5 answers to that question. For me, my entrepreneur ideas took root when I was 8 years old, literally and figuratively.

I was born and raised in an 18 room farmhouse situated on 200 acres (more or less) of relatively fertile ground, located in a fairly remote rural area of New Brunswick, alongside the coastline of the Northumberland Strait. My father was a self-employed business man, who held down 2 demanding jobs: that of being an owner of his own front-end loader/backhoe during the day, and in all the hours before 8:00 am and after 5:00 pm, he toiled at his true love, that of farming.

As most of the people in the area did, we too, grew our own vegetables and harvested them for winter. The trouble was my Dad thought that a ½ acre of garden simply wasn’t enough to feed our huge family (including myself, there were only 4 of us children), so therefore a second ½ acre or more was ploughed, seeded and tended which grew only potatoes, turnip and cabbage. For those of you who’ve never tended gardens of that size, let me assure you that it takes a LOT of hoeing, weeding, tilling etc. to maintain something of that size.

Over the years, people from nearby towns constructed cottages along the beautiful coastline and my older brother had started what we called the ‘vegetable route’ supplying the ‘cottagers’ with fresh vegetables once they came into season.

The summer I turned 8, my brother decided he was too old to be doing this piddly work and passed the baton down to me. My father sat me down at the end of June and said, “I’ll make you a deal. If you take over the cottage route, I’ll split the money we make with you at the end of August.” Well, to an 8 year old girl, in 1965, the promise of actual dollar bills seemed like a tremendous idea, so we shook hands and a deal was struck. All the monies collected were to be deposited in an old tobacco can which sat at the back of the sideboard in the kitchen and divided just before school started in September.

I still didn’t have a bicycle yet (although I should add I’d started nagging my parents 2 years prior for one!), so twice a week I’d either walk the 2 mile route, knock on the cottager’s doors, smile and ask, “Do you need any vegetables this week?” and proceed to rattle off what offerings were available, or on the odd occasion my Mum would drive me in our family car. I’d write down their orders in a tiny coil-bound flip-top book, move on to the next cottage and repeat the process. When the last cottage was duly asked for an order, I’d walk back home and then my mother and I would tally up how many bunches of carrots, beets, radishes, pounds of peas, beans, or potatoes etc. we’d need to pick, wash, and pack to deliver later that day.

I should also mention here that a ‘bunch’ of carrots consisted of 12 firm, bright orange beauties, all nicely washed and tied with a piece of left-over baler twine, which sold for the princely sum of $.25/per bunch. (Yes, I’m that old!)

The hazy days of summer quickly passed and the garden once again yielded a wonderful crop. I cannot tell you how many trips I made down the cottager’s route; the tons of weeds I pulled from those rows of vegetables; the mosquito bites I received from pushing through the thorny raspberry bushes in search of the bigger, more tastier morsels, or how happy I was to hand a brown paper bag full of produce to the respective buyers and say, “That comes to $ 1.85 please” and run home to stash the cash into the tobacco can.

Cooler days rolled in and September 1st arrived. Dad decided that the Saturday night before Labour Day was to be the big reveal and division of funds. I could hardly wait.

With both of us sitting at the sturdy weathered farmhouse kitchen table, he dumped the contents of the tobacco can and started counting. After 20 minutes or so, we had the grand sum of… $ 60.00 (give or take a few pennies). Woo hoo! I would get $ 30.00 for working the entire summer!

And that’s when I learned my first lesson in entrepreneurship from my Dad.

He looked at me and said: “Before we split this money, the first $20.00 is mine because I paid for the seeds, fertilizer, and gas for the tractor and tiller.” “What do you mean, Dad? You’re taking more money than me!”, I defiantly said.  He smiled and replied, “Remember, little girl. Being in business costs money, and you can’t make money if you don’t spend money.”

Hmpf!

In the end I took my precious $20.00 or so and stashed it away in my empty Cherry Blossom candy bar box that served as my piggy bank from whence I carefully doled out a dime here or a quarter then which was spent on trips to the general store to buy penny candy on Saturday nights.

I continued to do the summer cottage vegetable route until I was 15 and got my first ‘real’ job washing dishes and peeling produce at a new restaurant/gas bar that had opened the summer of 1972 about a mile from my home. I then passed the vegetable route on to my youngest brother who was around 8 at the time… and HE had a bike! (Lucky kid!)

That meager paying, labor intensive summer job lit a spark deep inside me and I knew that at some point in my life I would become an entrepreneur. In April of 2006 I finally opened my existing wordsmith business.

No, I don’t keep my money in an empty candy bar box today, but I do pay my bills on time and try and put aside a smidgen for ‘rainy days.’

And I still tend to a teeny vegetable garden just because:-)

Fresh tomatoes from my garden Sept. 2012

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