Dad had a work ethic second to none. He learned this from his parents who were both hard workers whose priority was the family.
He grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota. It is not easy to make a living on a farm in northern Minnesota. He was the youngest of nine children. Everyone worked. Some worked on the farm and some got outside jobs to help the family. Dad told me about plowing the fields behind a team of horses and about pitchforking hay into the loft of the barn to feed the few cows they kept for milk and cream and butter.
In the winter his Dad and brothers would take a wagon hitched to the horse team out on a nearby lake. There they would cut large blocks of ice, load them on the wagon and take them home where they were put into the root cellar, packed in straw. If done right, the ice would last until the next winter. They didn't have a refrigerator, but used an ice box to keep food cool in their kitchen. The blocks of ice were put in the lower compartment of the ice box for this purpose.
During the Depression, Dad went to work for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), a government work program for young men. Most of their wages were sent to their families. Dad liked to show us a park on a local lake that had been one of the jobs he worked on then.
After Dad married and when I was about 4 years old, Dad lost his job at a local gas station. He and Mother decided to go to St. Paul and stay with her mother for a time, thinking that job opportunities might be better. He found a job working at a manufacturing plant that made refrigerators. Shortly after, he saw an ad in the newspaper for an opening for a 'grain sampler' in Willmar, Minnesota. He had no clue what a grain sampler did, but he applied for and got the job. He spent the rest of his working life climbing in and out of boxcars at the railroad yard at Willmar, carrying a six foot brass probe, taking samples of the corn, wheat and oats in the boxcars.
As Mother's disease progressed, the Dr. and hospital bills increased. His solution was to find more jobs. Welfare was never an option with Dad. I remember times when he cleaned the church where we went for services. He cleaned office buildings at night after working all day. He found a weekend job feeding turkeys in huge turkey barns. He likely had other jobs I didn't know about. He never talked about the extra work, nor did he ever complain.
When Dad retired at age 65, he moved with Mother and my brother back to his hometown of Blackduck, Minnesota, finding a small house nearby. Not content to just sit and do nothing, and I am sure needing money for medical bills, he landed a job with the local bank. This was before computers, and the bank needed someone to take paperwork and/or cash to Bemidji, 25 miles away, and bring back whatever the Bemidji bank had for the Blackduck bank. He made two runs every weekday - one in the morning and another in the afternoon. He also took a disabled boy to school in Bemidji each morning and brought him home in the afternoon. He spent most of his free time with Mother at the nursing home.
Dad instilled in me the importance of working hard. There was a time when I lived on a farm. Dad came to see me and found me whining about being dirty and sweaty from mucking out a small shed. He told me there was no shame in being dirty from working. The shame came when a person was dirty from laziness. He just couldn't abide lazy.
He also told me once that if you were going to do a job, do the best job you could do. If that job was digging a ditch, then make it the best ditch you could dig. And do it not for your employer, but for the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.
Seems to me we could use more with that kind of work ethic and fewer with their hand out expecting it to be filled with free stuff.
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