Summer vacation is winding down and school is almost ready to start again. Summer always seems to go fast, but never more than when you are a kid and that first day of school starts coming up over the horizon.
Funny how that’s the case even when you got older and worked a summer job. As bad as that job might be, it always seemed better than the alternative of tests and teachers and homework.
Do you remember your summer jobs? Are they good memories?
We all romanticize the past. What seemed arduous at one point is now thought of as character-building. The back-breaking aspect of the work somehow becomes a great memory instead of an ache. But I’m sure we all look back and ask the same question: How did I do that?
That’s the thought going through my head after reading an article about my former summer vocation. The story backed up what I’ve known for a long time, that I had to be about half crazy to work so hard for so little. And in harsh weather, no less.
In central Illinois there isn’t a lot to do, but there is plenty of work if you don’t mind being outside. You start as early as sixth grade detassling corn — which is basically pulling the tassles from the female corn plants (yes, there is male and female corn). As work goes, it is hardly brain surgery. Then again, a brain surgeon doesn’t have to walk for miles in a corn field, getting soaked by the morning dew and then scorched by the afternoon sun. And a brain surgeon makes a bit more than the $3.33 an hour I remember.
It was hot and the work was hard, but it was a good way for a young kid to make some money. Plus, it was pretty entertaining, albeit in a “Lord of the Flies” kind of way. We didn’t know it then, but it was reality TV before there was such a thing. Lots and lots of characters and plenty of drama. Nothing like putting hundreds of kids in a field with other kids as their main (and sometimes only) supervisors.
There wasn’t much coddling, and suprisingly not much sickness. Which is amazing considering the getup you’d have to wear. The leaves of a corn plant are sharp and can cut you up pretty good, so you’d wear a long sleeved shirt over your T-shirt (although I read in the article the kids now have some new-fangled arm wraps for protection) along with jeans and boots to navigate the mud. Throw in temperatures mostly over 90 and it made for some tough times.
Just the thought of those long days makes me tired. But back then we’d finish up, hose off and go out and play baseball that evening. Those are good memories, ones we would do well to remember next time we decide to complain about our all-year jobs.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.