This story starts many years ago. Most good stories do.
My sister’s second child was born. Daddy thought we already had one perfectly good — and perfect — child in her first baby, Nicole. The two of them — Daddy and Nicole — were quite taken with each other. A bit grudgingly, Daddy accepted the new baby — a boy named Rod — but declared that “he’ll be the laziest child you’ve ever seen. He’s born on the wrong signs of the moon.”
As I seem to recall, Rod did start out a bit lazy but by the time he was eight, his daddy and his two granddaddies, all farmers, had worked the laziness out of him. He turned out to be one of the hardest workers in a family of hard workers. Between a demanding job and a farm, he puts in 80 to 100 hours of labor weekly.
I was reminded of this the other day when I called his office to wish him a happy birthday. It was around 9 a.m.
“Are you at work? Am I callin’ at a bad time?” I asked.
“Naw. It’s as good as any. I’ve been here since 5. I don’t mind, though. I’m just happy to have a good job.”
Daddy came to know and appreciate this work ethic in Rod. Whenever the cows were out or the hay needed to be gotten up on a miserably hot summer day, Rod and his daddy were the first calls that my daddy made. And, they were the first ones to arrive.
Now, Rod has a son and he has set out to stubbornly teach him the value of hard work. Like most kids, Tripp would prefer a baseball game or a day of fishing to farm work or other chores. Rod has been teaching a serious work ethic to Tripp since he was very young. I remember once when Tripp was almost four that we were having a family gathering of some kind.
“Where’s Rod?” I asked someone.
Tripp spoke up quickly. “He’s got a cow that’s down and he’s gone to see about it.”
I laughed. A child, still riding a bicycle with training wheels, already knew about sick cows and the trials of farm life.
Someone was bragging on Tripp the other day — he’s 12 — about some work that he had done. He rolled his eyes. I put my arm around him and said, “One day when you’re grown, you will be very proud that your daddy taught you how to work hard.” He rolled his eyes again.
That’s when the real story of this story came up. Tripp, a remarkable quarterback and baseball player, was finally getting the baseball bat of which he had long dreamed. Before the bat arrived, however, Tripp found himself in a smidge of trouble.
“The bat’s goin’ back,” Rod declared.
“No, daddy, please!” Tripp begged.
Rod relented. But only on the condition that Tripp earn the money to pay for it.
“You can work it off at five dollars an hour,” his daddy said.
Tripp has a remarkable brain. The thought process that makes him a quick-thinking, quick-footed quarterback also makes him a mini calculator.
“That’s 60 hours!”
Rod nodded. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“That’s not even minimum wage,” Tripp protested. Which makes me wonder how a sixth grader even knows what the minimum wage is.
“You don’t have enough experience to be worth minimum wage.”
I applaud all this. In the early years of my life, I often worked two jobs and I seldom earned more than minimum wage. Especially during my college years when I could drive and type.
The story ends well. Tripp worked every hour required and earned his bat.
“This is a terrific accomplishment,” I told him. He shrugged.
If we’re blessed, he’ll turn out to be hard worker like his dad. One who is proud to have a good job.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Saturdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.