Monday, October 22, 2012

Collecting Cans and Crawfish

My first job I took at the age of 3.  I was a thief. 

My dad, piss poor due to piss poor decisions, made it so we (my brother and sister) had to share a large McDonald's soda in an effort to save money.  He would strong-arm bites out of our REGULAR hamburgers (because Big Macs was what only the rich kids could afford - and you CAN follow up with any of my relatives and they will attest to this) because he himself couldn't afford a burger for himself and needed us to "share." Christmas was nothing more than a ruse for our parents to excuse what should have been normal purchases for children implied with parenthood (clothing) as "cherish gifts" while toys were never at the forefront.  What kid doesn't want another freaking sweater from St. Nick.  Toys were rare, pants were common.  And if we dared to complain, "Jesus will send you to hell" or some variation of material possessions being evil.  And so VERY early on I realized that if I was going to make any money, it wasn't going to come from my parents.  It was going to come from me.

My exploits into capitalism were amateurish at best.  My very FIRST foray into enriching myself was rummaging through the coats in the closet at the age of 3.  Scouring the pockets of every coat, I would manage to find loose coinage, the value of which I was unaware of because I had no concept of "cents" let alone currency.  Whatever it was, I was excited when I found a quarter with its intricate eagle design and intuitively knew it was worth more than the bland, boring Jeffersonian nickel. 

Technically this was theft.  I was stealing from my parents.  So at the age of 4 I went professional.  I earned my money the honest way from the Milwaukee County Zoo.

How?

Well, the soda machines had a fair amount of loose change hiding underneath their structures which permitted an already skinny 4-7 year old to fish out with his arm and make off with.  Every year and every trip to the zoo I would ignore the animals and go straight to the soda machines.   I think one day I made off with about $2, which was a fortune in 1980 dollars.  To hell with the alligators and gorillas.  I was making bookoo coin.

By 1981 I decided to become very entrepreneurial and try my hand at salesmanship.  I was going to sell frogs at church.

"Sunday Vacation Bible School" - which was nothing more than the worst, most boring form of baby sitting for Christian parents too lazy to take care of their kids during summer - was mandatory for me, because...well...my dad was the pastor.  But there were benefits of being the preacher's kid.  Namely the exhaust port of the church made for a great humid environment where frogs and toads would spawn on the north recessed basement window of the church.  I would hop down.  My brother, 2 years my junior, would lower a bucket with a string attached to it.  I'd load up the bucket with frogs and toads, hop back up and then stand at the entry to the church in anticipation of the Sunday Vacation Bible School students.

Why in anticipation for the Sunday Vacation Bible School students?

Because according to the Wisconsin Synod your children were required to bring offerings to Sunday Vacation Bible school and we knew those kids would gladly hock the 25 cents their folks gave them for a frog instead of donating it to some collection plate.

Our brilliant, grandiose capitalist plot would have succeeded had it not been for the observant teacher who, while handing out the collection plate, realized more than a normal number of children were holding frogs and toads and not one of them had cash nor coin.

Again, you ask any of my relatives, and they will attest that all of the above is 100% true.

Now, admittedly all of my early ventures into business were that of a naive toddler who didn't know "bounds" "rules" "limits" and..well..."law."  But when I was 8 I can honestly attest to having my first REAL  legitimate job.

I went straight.  I started collecting cans.

My dad, after divorcing, moved out to Michigan, where we would spend summers with him.  At the time you could get a whole 10 cents per car, and sometimes you'd get a full 20 cents for a large glass beer bottle.  Knowing I would get another sweater and no candy for Christmas, it was, despite my age, a very CLEAR sign of freedom to me that if I collected enough cans I could buy myself whatever I wanted.  NOBODY could stop me, I was in complete control of my future.

So I spent a summer collecting cans.

Dumpster diving.  Going to the beach to solicit empty beer cans from the locals.  Knocking on doors.  And over the course of the summer I earned myself a full $100.  I collected 1,000 cans, the 1,000th of which the recycler gave back to me as a trophy. (I actually turned it into a trophy, until my step dad threw it away assuming it was garbage).

However, I had a side business.  My 8 year old self knew the importance of diversification.

Crawfish.

Specifically, fishing out crawfish from the Black River in Michigan and selling them at 5 cents a pop to the local bait shop.

This was not as lucrative as collecting cans, but between my siblings and myself, we would literally "clear the market" of unwanted cans and bottles within a week in the town.  You could tell there were less cans and I intuitively KNEW it was because we cleaned house the week before.  Once collecting cans became less lucrative, we'd focus our efforts on our crawfish operations and increase our profits.  I was able to turn a bucket of crawfish into several boxes of Nerds and Tart n' Tinys at the local gas station.

From there I ended up working as a shit shoveler in the 7th grade.  And I don't make that up, I was indeed a shit shoveler.  I worked at an industrial greenhouse where we had to shovel and mix various sorts of manure with various sorts of ingredients because different types of manure have different nutritional properties for different plants.  After that I worked at a locker plant cleaning up dead cow parts.  After that I laid sod and installed retaining walls for a landscaping firm.  And after that I played campus cop at the U of MN (which I think most of you are familiar with).  

Now, why did I bring up my entire pre-adult resume?  Well certainly not to get an "awww, wook at da cwute wittle Captain."

I bring it up because I am done listening to the excuses of the youth today who think they have it tough who, by the age of 25, have never worked a real job that even comes close to what I did back in 1980 as a kindergartener. 

Whether it's been tutoring these adult children or trying to teach them in college or whether it's the latest incarnation of OWS/hipster purified douchebaggery, I'm done with it.  I'm sick of it.  I have no patience for these spoiled brats.

You little children have NO CLUE, NONE  as to what it takes to succeed, let alone merely get by and support yourselves.  You have parental subsidy, governmental subsidy, all of which not only shields you from the full effects of the real world, it stunts your growth from ever becoming a real adult.  Worse still, it spoils you in the truest sense of the word.  It decays you, it destroys your worth.  It makes you a worthless human being because instead of offering something of value to society, be it a skill or labor, you offer nothing.  And even worse than that you are entitled.  You demand, because of your mere existence, other people take care of you.  You're entitled to this.  YOu have a right to that.  Gimme food, jobs, health care, housing and spending money.

While all you've managed to do in your entire life is spend your daddy's credit card and drive mommy's car.

Ultimately it is the reason I don't care about the "plight" of college students.  NONE of you come anywhere near supporting yourself, and certainly nowhere near to the point you can claim you're "independent" (feminists, women's studies majors, pay particular note).

No, you are for the most part the most pathetic excuses for "adult" human beings I've ever witnessed.  And while admittedly, I was not the most "normal" 7 year old, at the age of 7 I was already more of a responsible, independent adult than most of you were, or ever will be, even at the age of 32 while you live in your mom's basement.

So the next time you protest something being unfair while your mom and dad and Obama are paying for 99% of your expenses (of course, all the while you claim to be an "independent adult") just look at the little 8 year old dumpster diving for cans and realize he's a better man than you are.

27 comments:

cdw said...

At age 11 I was delivering home magazines at night in the City of Toronto. I made $1.50 per hour. Best job I ever had.

cdw said...

At age 11 I was delivering magazines to homes in the city of Toronto at night. I made $1.50 per hour, best job I ever had.

Carnivore said...

What concerns me the most is the complaint that many young adults don't know basic work skills. By that, I mean simple stuff like arriving on time, every day; purposely not staying out until 3AM during the week because you have to be at work and attentive at your job; trying your best and working through boredom (as if most people have exciting jobs). That's so basic, everyone from janitor to CEO has to do. I don't blame them, I blame those who didn't teach and instill these traits.

thewomanandthedragon said...

LOVE this post - I, too, came from a very poor family; girls earned money by babysitting, which I started doing by age 10.

My next door neighbors moved away but didn't sell their house; they kept it so that they could allow each of their children in turn to live in it with their spouses in order to save money for their own homes. No problem, but the youngest girl moved in with her husband and two children and promptly got divorced. She then got pregnant by another guy, who immediately ditched her. She's on WIC and medicaid and she lives in her parents' house scot-free. One day outside she started telling me all about how hard her life is compared to mine because she's a single mom on her own and has no one to help her and has to manage all by herself. I didn't say anything, but I thought, "Huh?! You have a free house, free food, and free medical care! My husband shovels your walk. The neighbor on the other side mows your lawn. I watch your kids. What exactly are you "managing" on your own?" Lazy slut.

- sunshinemary

Kindjal said...

Now that's what I call a true story. I don't even feel sorry for you. Instead, I'm proud of you not only for all the scut work, but for being a conservative who grew up poor.

Hard work is invigourating. Nobody ever wrote a famous novel or movie about what it's like to collect welfare.

One of the good things about the decline is that ass-busters like us will become prime human resources. The decline just might make us rich, if it comes soon enough.

Your story made me want to go out and do something today.

Andrew said...

I'm about 9 years your junior and I also feel this fed up and crotchety with people in their early 20's who bitch and moan.

It's interesting how similar our childhoods were. I was busy hustling at about the same age.

It's making me wonder about that whole nature versus nurture thing, are hustlers born or made?

jso said...

I definitely agree that the modern generation of hipsters aren't even trying to find a way to live in a capitalist society (and even the ones who think they are disgust me, "masturbation brothers chocolate" being the first example that comes to mind), but I don't know if gathering and selling crawfish straight from the river would be feasible in our modern age. we have all heard the story about the little girl who's lemonade stand was shut down by the law because she didn't have a license to sell food or whatever bullcrap. the government is doing a great job of discouraging people from taking initiative for the sake of making a profit.

in this economy, who has the money to spare for a 25 cent frog or 10 cent crawfish?

daniel_ream said...

I'm having trouble seeing how the frog-collecting job wasn't entirely legitimate. You were removing pests from the premises of the church and providing pets to the neighbourhood children.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Captain. I'm a few years older than you but always had two jobs as a teenager. One to pay my bills (rent was due upon my 18th birthday) and one for the things I wanted. I often skipped school to go to work because as a senior I only needed 2 credits for graduation and the rest of the day was fluff.

What is truly sad about this generation is that they will never have that “I get it” moment where all the advice and wisdom from the older people in their life becomes clear and obvious.

The advice they have received all their life was to be a lazy piece of crap and let someone else take care of them. They watched their single mothers have no jobs yet have money. They were/are able to live at home indefinitely with no financial obligation or domestic responsibility. I know a 26 year old guy who lives at home and his parents pay him to cut the grass.

I know there will always be a generation gap but unlike past gaps, when I look around, I don’t see many young people with potential who will eventually mature and make their way in the world. Like you, I see a bunch of sniveling, lazy little crybaby’s who want everything handed to them.

It is evident when you have a generation that has not paid dick squat into the system but are lambasting the Boomers for stealing their retirement. I’ve been hearing this a lot lately…from people who are yet to hold a job in their mid 20’s.

Paul said...

On occasion I wonder how much of this wasn't the purposeful, desired effect of so many child labour laws, etc. Seriously.

Could a grade 7 (my daughter's grade, btw) work in any industrial greenhouse, or other setting, these days, if they wanted to? Or dad demanded it? In my jurisdiction, I don't believe they could. My daughter babysits, I can't think of much else she'd be 'allowed' to do.

Anonymous said...

feels sad bro

Eric B said...

Which Black River if you don't mind me asking? There are several in Michigan and one was near where I grew up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_River_(Michigan)

sth_txs said...

I was fortunate to have 2 parent family, but I to recall the summer days I spent riding my bicycle along a rural road to collect aluminum cans and a handful of lawn mowing jobs (I wish I had a nickel for every square foot of grass I've mowed).

I remember trying to save so I could help buy an Atari 800XL computer and disk drive. I got the computer! :)

I never starved or had to share at McDonalds, but I was taught the value of work and thrift.

Roberto Severino said...

The decline/economic crash/fiscal cliff is coming and a lot of people aren't bothering to listen and still think getting an arbitrary, vague "education" will solve all one's problems and entitle them to the American dream. Sigh. Getting a government check without bothering to do anything to earn it disgusts me to no end unless you are legitimately poor and can't find work in your chosen profession. Thank God the truth is being told via the blogosphere and how people reading these blogs will be prepared for the tough realities of life. Entrepreneurship and self motivation are the ways of the future.

Already the company that owns the house I live in is sending people over to inspect it so they can sell it to another owner, so my family will probably have to move in the near future, even though I've already been through an attempted foreclosure that lasted a year long. Things are not going to get any better in 2013, but worse.

Ratt said...

Hear Hear Captain. Well said and needed to be said. All 5 of us kids got one gift at Christmas and your Birthday, and that was it, and you did not complain. Started mowing lawns at 9, bailed hay at 12, moved up to Sonic Drive-In by 13, at 14 back to bailing hay, mowing lawns and throwing papers, joined the Navy at 17, left home and never looked back.

But I am guilty about giving my 11 year a few nice gifts for Christmas and her Birthday, but danggit, she is a lil go getter, dances, ballet, Judo, swims and does gymnastics and goes to Church every Sunday and stays on the Honor Roll. As a matter of fact she got in a lil trouble at school when her Social Studies Teacher asked her what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans. She said, I quote; " My Dad says Democrats raise taxes and Republicans lower them." Me and the Teacher had a lil talk, we are good to go.

Unknown said...

Captain, I can identify.

I can still remember how awestruck I was holding the first crisp twenty dollar bill I earned from walking the ditches and collecting bottles. I have worked hard in the years since, doing any blue collar job I could find to keep me employed, including nightshift while I went to college. Landscaping, cleaning, farm work, construction, line cutting, golf course labourer, quick oil change pit dweller. Things didn't get easier once out of college either.

I figure I was working 3500 hrs per year for the first 5 years after I graduated from college, but I was debt free and was able to pay cash for additional training I needed to advance in my field. Went through a few lay-offs as the industry I chose to work in tanked after 9/11 but I am working in a job that I enjoy immensely now. I wouldn't be where I am if I didn't have a strong work ethic and desire to stay out of debt.

I have to admit, it never occured to me to sell all the crayfish I caught to the local bait shop. I could have been rich!

ScottH said...

This brings back memories. I found golf balls in the weeds along the golf course behind our house and sold them back to the golfers. Bought my own set of clubs with the proceeds at eight years old.

William said...

The only thing wrong with the 25 cent frog idea is that I didn't think of it! It had everything: a good supply of material, a market with ready money, and a workforce with a natural aptitude. Too bad the regulators shut you down.

I remember very fondly harvesting squirrels, skinning them, and selling the stretched skins to the guy down the road. The biggest problem I had was racing my dog to the squirrel after the squirrel was shot. If he got there first there was a hell of a fight.

Stryker said...

I always had two jobs as a teenager and through college. Worked on a dairy farm and also for a local town in their Park Maintenance Dept. Also did construction and worked in a Christmas tree yard.

A question for you Cap,is your dad still a pastor?

she said: said...

It's weird how all of this changed in one generation. This kind of thing used to be more of the norm. Latch key kids we used to be called.

When I was growing up everyone used to work in factories. In Silicon Valley they just made the name better. Quality control. And they vowed they didn't want their kids to end up that way. So they sent them all to college. The end.

I mean, it was suppose to be a happy story. But it didn't end that way. I understand why it happened that way though.

My SIL had a kid just come though (college educated) who couldn't figure out how to measure out a building with a rolling tape measure. The kind police use.

Somewhere college turned out to be a puppy mill, and they just didn't learn anything useful. They have lost all of the critical thinking skills that people who didn't have the benefit of a functional family or back up plan. These things force to to work your shit out. Or you wind up on the street. Period.


Anonymous said...

http://i.chzbgr.com/completestore/2010/2/5/129099105014972909.jpg

Anonymous said...

I remember picking rocks and walking beans and picking sweet corn by hand and mowing yards. My kids were conr monkeys - detasseling corn, putting bags over ears and pollinating corn.

These days, you can't get kids to pick rocks or walk beans cutting corn from the rows. You now have to pay them minimum wage which made those jobs go away.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with sharing a large soda?
-Pete EE

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with sharing a large soda?
-Pete EE

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with sharing a large soda?
-Pete EE

Schnoorky said...

Love your story. My parents made the boys work the farm, make our own money and we had to buy our clothes starting in the third grade. My sister was more cared for but she had to do housework. Kind of old fashioned that way. Our parents also made us save 75% of all money we earned, we could spend 25% on whatever we wanted. Knowing the value of dollar meant we pretty much saved 100%. To make money I trapped, coon hunted, fished (sold cleaned bullheads for 50 cents each), picked berries & sold them door to door, baled hay, fenced, tore down barns & sold the old lumber & tin, worked at the hardware store, picked up cans, picked & sold morel mushrooms, raised cattle, mowed lawns, gambled on the school bus with a stacked deck, sold gum/candy at school, babysat and I'm sure countless other things I've forgotten. All of this from 1st grade through high school. Needless to say we each had tens of thousands of dollars saved up by the time we left home. Very good way to raise kids. Now each of us is either a very successful business owner or very successful professional. We will never go hungry or be without. Now just need to transmit this to our own kids. Easier said than done......

Anonymous said...

Love your story. My parents made the boys work the farm, make our own money and we had to buy our clothes starting in the third grade. My sister was more cared for but she had to do housework. Kind of old fashioned that way. Our parents also made us save 75% of all money we earned, we could spend 25% on whatever we wanted. Knowing the value of dollar meant we pretty much saved 100%. To make money I trapped, coon hunted, fished (sold cleaned bullheads for 50 cents each), picked berries & sold them door to door, baled hay, fenced, tore down barns & sold the old lumber & tin, worked at the hardware store, picked up cans, picked & sold morel mushrooms, raised cattle, mowed lawns, gambled on the school bus with a stacked deck, sold gum/candy at school, babysat and I'm sure countless other things I've forgotten. All of this from 1st grade through high school. Needless to say we each had tens of thousands of dollars saved up by the time we left home. Very good way to raise kids. Now each of us is either a very successful business owner or very successful professional. We will never go hungry or be without. Now just need to transmit this to our own kids. Easier said than done......

-Schnoorky