Thursday, April 30, 2009


Do you remember your first job? Boy I do and it has effected me thru out my life. That and my first day of school formed me pretty much the way I am today in many aspects. Naw, I haven't really been "shrunk," these are just my own observations.

I was almost eight years old and we were living on a private lake near Ellsworth, Ohio. I did love my time there learning to swim, being able to spend an entire summer in a bathing suit or ice skating in the winter. Earning a living was not high on my list, playing was. I had no wants. All the toys a child could want, nature provided. There were woods to explore, boats to row, fish to catch, and "kick the can" in the evenings with the other kids on the lake and of course, swimming.

This is a recent picture of the lake which has changed little.

One day my parents were approached by a neighbor to see if I wanted to earn some money. She had a garden that needed weeding and asked my parents if they thought I could do it. I had minimal weeding experience when I helped pull grass from around our walk way. They suggested that she talk to me about it. I was over the moon when they told me.

She wanted me, little me, and I was going to earn money. I felt so grown up. I learned later that I was not the first kid she had asked to do the work. The rest of the kids had turned her down as she had a reputation of being a bit grumpy. Every neighborhood has a "crazy old Mrs. Grump" kids are leery of. She was offering $3.00 for the job and I would have worked for the Phantom of Rue Morgue for that.

"This is my rock garden," she said. " I want you to weed it for me. Do you know the difference between an flower and a weed?"

I could not understand why anyone would want a garden full of "rocks" but that was her problem. I nodded that I knew a weed from a flower. What I didn't say for it was so obvious that it might have hurt her feelings (kids were not smart mouthed in those days) was that any idiot knows a flower has a flower on it and a weed doesn't. I mean after all, I was almost eight.

I put on my new gloves and hunkered down to earn my three bucks. Her phone rang so she left me to my chore. I pulled like a mad women. I wanted to impress her with my speed and dedication. Soon there was a huge pile of the offensive weeds. Though the sweat was running and I was very thirsty, I was really proud of myself.

About an hour later when I was about a third done, she came back out and let out a squeal that I didn't know people could make.

"You idiot, you fool, what on earth have you done?" she hollered with her face blooming a deep red but she was chalk white around her lips.

A lot stunned, I looked at my handiwork. How could she be upset? Her rocks now stood out in pure clean,nakedness. with no obstructions. I had removed all those awful weeds,cleaned the dirt off the rocks and now you could really see them( thought I wasn't sure why anyone would want to) I try not to judge.

"Get out,"she fumed, "Get out right now".

Still not knowing what I had done wrong, I asked if I could at least get one dollar for all the work I had put in.

Her eyes squinted and her voice lowered to a growl. "Your parents will pay for this."

Well the sins of the child were only partially visited upon the parents. I did not get my money nor did she get any real satisfaction from my parents who were torn between protecting their daughter and laughing till they cried.

They did not whip me into submission as Mrs. Grump wished but they did give her some money(out of my savings) to replace the flowers I had ripped from the ground. I am pretty sure she never hired an eight year old again and I put my work career on hold till I was ten and could baby sit.

As a gardener today, I can totally understand her horror at what I had done. As a gardener though, I would never have left a child unattended in my garden. But then I guess the old adage is true, "you get what you pay for."

I did learn, with some help from my parents, that you really need to be sure you understand a task before you start. You can never be TOO clear. All my life though I have felt compelled to give my employers at least 110% to make up for that fateful day. Those early disappointments never leave you and I never wanted to see lips that white again.

Since I really didn't get paid and in fact it cost me to work for her, perhaps I shouldn't count it as a job but I am anyway since I had been contracted and had accepted. I do not list it on my resume though.

Did you have a cool first job or one to scar you for life?


  1. Babysitting was the only thing I did, and I can't remember anything that scarred me (except maybe baby poop).

    My dad denuded a rock garden for my mother and she had the same reaction as your neighbor. LOL

  2. I babysat for my neighbor when I was ten, and she had a newborn. It was pretty dull stuff, but I didn't mind.

    My first adult boyfriend (we were in our early 20s), bought land in southern Oregon and built a cabin on it. He looked for some work in the area and got a job on some ag production land. His first task was to weed row by row. After his first day on the job, the farmer came out and said: "Well, I'll be go to hell, you plowed up the mustard." That was his last day on the job too.

  3. This was an absolutely hilarious read! What a delightful sense of humor in your writing!! I'm going to have to take a trip down my memory lane!

  4. Thank you so much for this story! I always love your stories!

    Thanks also for your comment on the tragedy that happened in my country! Unbelievable and unexpected.

  5. kenju
    Don't know about you, but baby diaper turned me off mustard for a looog time.
    "Denuded", that was the word I was searching for most of yesterday. Your poor Dad. Pretty sure it got him out of future weedings though.
    Do you think that was the plan?

    That was just too funny. I am sure, like me, he really thought he had done a bang up job. Hope he at least got paid, You and Judy make me feel that it can also be an adult failing. I feel better. Thanks.


    Welcome to TNS. So glad I could tickle your funny bone. Memory Lane is my favorite highway.Thanks for stopping by.

    Reader Wil,
    I am still stunned that a civilized country like the Netherlands could spawn such a sick mind. I know your country will heal, it is just a shame it has to.

  6. What a funny story, Patti... That woman could have been nicer. You were doing the best you could. She should have stayed out there with you --and trained you as to what to do... Gads--what was she thinking?????

    I don't remember my first job as a kid, but I do remember my first fulltime job. I had just graduated from college and was hired to teach at a high school in Knoxville, TN. I mad a whopping $4110 that first year of teaching. Wah-Hoo!!!!! ha ha

    I'm extremely busy now--getting ready to leave on vacation on Sat. morning. If I don't comment as much, please forgive me.

    P.S. We used to play "kick the can" all of the time when I was a child.

  7. What a lovely place to explore and learn to swim. : ) When I was very young, we lived on a military base and all of us kids would play “Kick the can” in the evening – lots of fun!

  8. Betsy,
    I can remember when that was a decent salery. Of course teachers teach for the "love of it" don't they???
    Didn't you just get back from vacation? Way to go girl. Hope you have a wonderful time and take lots of pictures.

    "Kick the can" was fun wasn't it? All you needed was an old can and some friends. No need for joy sticks, game boys, or Wii's. Low tech fun was the best.

  9. My dad managed a small chain lumber and hardware store. I was allowed to total his hand written inventories.

    I once commented why there so many line items for nails, screws, bolts, nuts and doors--after all they were the same.

    An hour lecture ensued on the difference between nails, tacks, screws, bolts, etc. and door sizes.

    I mentally decided lumber/hardware work was too boring to count, so I decided on a career counting pills which came in pretty colors and more interesting to count!

  10. NitWit

    Definately a wise career choice. Pills can be pretty and are so clean.

  11. My first unofficial job was helping my neighbor train his golden retrievers for field trials and bird hunting. I would hike way out in a field until he told me to stop, fire a starter's pistol and fling a "bird" as high and as far as I could. He would then send the dog and give it directions using hand signals and whistles. I have no idea how old I was, 12 or 13 maybe.

    My first official job in 1984 was at a local garden center that was just starting up. My job was to fill 100 pound grain bags with pine bark mulch, then pile them up for sale. We used to sell this by the bag. I hated it. It took me many years to get over the smell of the mulch, but almost 25 years later the smell takes me back to the pile.

    It wasn't my only job there (I also did landscaping, lawn mowing, sales, plant care, manned the fruit & veggie stand and such), but I did bag a lot of mulch. I was their first employee and stayed for four years. I did learn a lot there and still use many of the skills today.

  12. The only paid weeding job I ever did had me earnestly pulling out what I thought were oxalis bulbs. I think, after a gap of many years that I probably efficiently removed something far more valuable. Fortunately for me, I don't think my mistake was discovered. Fortunately for that garden, I wasn't asked back!

    My first job was as a part time clarinet teacher. I was 18 at the time and completely unqualified. I kept going for about a year before my pupils showed signs of overtaking me. I liked most of my students a lot, especially the ones that struggled, and we had a lot of fun.

    In addition to the clarinet pupils that I had at the local high school, I also gave a few private lessons for both the clarinet and the recorder. Several years later I was greeted warmly in the street by a beautiful teenage girl who I didn't recognize. It turned out that she had been one of my recorder pupils when she was 8 or 9 years old. She had been one that I had to encourage nearly every note out of and progress had been slow. I was most gratified to discover that she remembered me with affection and was still playing the recorder, and was enjoying it.

    What a beautiful blue lake that is in your photo. A joy to behold, and your blog is a joy to read, bless you! P.

  13. Barry
    Aw, you guys get all the cool jobs. Bet you have fun explaining "bird thrower" on your resume.
    I can understand the mulch job turning you against what I feel is a lovely smell. Glad you made it back to appreciation though.I had the same problem with working around ice cream(for a later post).
    100 pound bags?? No need for a gym membership then, huh.

    Greetings to a fellow weed? puller. At least your errors went undetected.
    How cool that you taught musical instruments. My only musical talent is listening but I do so envy the accomplished.
    You did make me visit Google again to find out what a "recorder" was. Always learn something new from your comments. By the way, check out\
    She is on my blog list and had a similar Jell-0 rememberence. Guess it is universal. Sorry I missed out.