I grew up in a Midwestern farming community where I was introduced to work at a young age, and I’m not talking about doing a few chores around the house to earn a weekly allowance.
In the summertime we picked weeds in the garden, helped load the hay wagon, snapped green beans, picked strawberries, mowed the lawn with a push mower, and “hilled “potatoes. In the winter time we hauled buckets of hot water to the pig troughs in zero degree temperatures before going to school and hauled wood for the stove that heated our home.
We rode the bus to school and friends rarely stayed overnight. We didn’t play video games, watch cable television, or own a computer; and family vacations included a day at the Missouri State Fair and a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch.
We had two pairs of shoes -- school shoes and work shoes, which also doubled as last year’s school shoes. A shoeshine on Saturday before bedtime turned our school shoes into the shoes we wore to church. If we wanted new gym shoes, we saved our money and bought them ourselves.
We took baths instead of showers and wore hand-me-down clothes passed from an older sibling, an uncle, a cousin, or maybe even our own parents. We wore Roebucks and Rustlers instead of Levi’s and Wranglers and walked barefoot in the summer time.
We listened to a.m. radio and saved aluminum cans and returnable bottles for spending money. We drank Coke and ate Snickers for 25 cents a piece.
I learned Catholic catechism on Saturday mornings, watched the Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons, ate popcorn on Saturday nights, and attended church on Sunday mornings. We ate Sunday dinner at one grandma’s house and ate Sunday supper at the other grandma’s each and every week.
In our house, the kids lived by a set of principles that have served me well through the years.
1. Respect your elders.
2. Do what you’re told, when you’re told to do it.
3. If you say you’re going to do something, get it done.
4. Eat the food that’s put in front of you.
5. Take care of animals, and they’ll take care of you.
6. Don’t expect handouts.
7. Make your money the old fashioned way, work for it.
8. There’s a time for work and a time for play.
9. If you want to go to college, figure out how to pay for it.
10. All you’ve got is your reputation, don’t tarnish it.