By Lee Pitts
I can’t stand being told what to do, and I’ve been this way all my life. I can’t work for other people, and this worked out just fine because no one has ever wanted too desperately to hire me.
I’ve never handled people with authority well and this is why for the past 40 years, I’ve been self-employed and believe me, there’s been several times I felt like firing myself. I haven’t filled out a resume in 45 years, never taken a day of unemployment and I’ve never run out of work.
I started my career early in life mowing lawns, delivering papers and dusting furniture for my grandpa in his furniture shop, all before I was 12. By far, my grandpa was the best boss I ever had. He gave me a shiny silver dollar every Friday and I sure wish I’d have kept them.
I worked in the oil fields for three summers to help self-finance my college education, and I did have a good boss one summer who everyone called Timmy. He was a quiet, elderly gent who was about five-and-a-half feet tall and built like a piece of rebar. And just as strong.
Timmy was the only boss in the oil fields who seemed interested in teaching me things. I’d been on similar A-frame trucks with other bosses in other summers, but mostly what those bosses did was try to stay out of radio range of the big boss so he wouldn’t know my boss was taking a nap or “reading” a magazine full of scantily clad women.
I also had a fabulous boss on the cattle ranch I worked for during high school, but I never really considered him a boss because he was more like a father. This is the sum total of good bosses I’ve had.
One of the worst was my first. I was the only gringo on a Hispanic crew picking lemons and oranges, and I learned an early lesson that racism can work both ways.
With citrus we had to cut the stem right next to the fruit or the sharp stems would damage the other fruit in the big wooden boxes. We’d stack the boxes at the head of a row, write our number – mine was 13 – on the box and fill it from the sack hanging around our neck. If we didn’t clip our stems, the boss would yell at us to come to our boxes and go through every box looking for any fruit whose stem wasn’t clipped. He did this to me about five times a day just for sport.
I pumped gas for a while in high school, and back then we had to also wash the windows, check the oil and put air in the tires if needed. The first day on the job my boss showed me how to wipe oil from the dipstick with my thumb so when I showed the dipstick to the driver it always looked like the engine was about a quart low. I was forever getting in trouble for not selling my quota.
After my junior year in high school I worked on a citrus ranch getting $1.25 per hour for what amounted to child abuse. The owner worked me like a draft horse, gave me no breaks from the hot sun and I couldn’t wait until summer was over so I could quit. I heard when he died there were two people at his funeral – the mortician and his wife – and she couldn’t wait to leave either.