A friend of mine recently commented on Facebook about their son chopping wood and learning a good work ethic. It made me think back on a few of the different jobs I've had...
Black Walnut Picking - this is not as glamorous as it sounds. In fact it's not glamorous at all. The tree in question was HUGE. You could build a village of tree houses in it's branches! It rained walnuts over the entire yard. Mom and Dad paid us a penny for every walnut we picked up from the yard. With a tree that size there was potential to make some serious money (serious for an 8 year old anyway!) However, the value of the income was seriously questioned by the actual physical labor! Black walnuts don't come out of the tree like acorns - a cute little nut with a hat on top. No, they come down in their own protective cover. Why? I don't know, black walnuts are hard enough that they could fall from the highest point on the tree onto hard concrete and not even crack... Then, if they sit on the ground for longer than say, 30 seconds, the protective covering starts to rot and what you're left with is a sticky, slimy, black oil slick over each walnut. That substance sticks to your fingers and then stains them for ages. Recap: 1 penny in exchange for bending over at the waist for hours while handling decomposing, finger staining, smelly walnuts that didn't need the protection in the first place.
Tree Trimming - Are you picking up on the tree theme?? Dad had connections to tree farms so one summer my brother and I were hired to trim the trees. No, not a Christmas tree farm where we'd lovingly shape the trees with pruning shears while imagining happy children opening their presents on Christmas morning. These were trees being grown for wood products (I'll leave it at that and not go into the finer details of tree pulp, chips, knots, lumber and harvesting... You're welcome.). We were each handed a small curved saw blade attached to a long handle and told to cut off the branches as close to the trunk as we could. I've always had weak arms...this was not the job for me. Thank goodness my younger but stronger brother was there too. Otherwise I might still be there hanging from a branch that my saw got stuck in and I couldn't wrench it free. I have no idea what they paid but I probably spent it on ice packs and ibuprofen!
Hauling Wood - I don't think I actually was ever paid for this, but it was definitely a job. Having to haul wood was the only time I've ever felt true RAGE at my Dad. This is stupid because he was out cutting and hauling with us AND it was the way we heated our house in the winter (in Maine!) so it was a family job and sort of essential for survival! But, teenagers aren't known for their reasoning skills... You should know that the few times I've hauled a little wood as an adult I've quite enjoyed it!
All of this wood/tree experience is probably one of the reasons I really enjoyed my first real job out of college working at Weyerhaeuser in their research building with all of the foresters and loggers. I spoke a little of their language, knew how to use a saw and wasn't afraid of a little sawdust!
Now...I'm just storing these stories up to tell my kids when they complain about "building character"!