[November 16, 2020] As children, we learn at an early age that we are part of a family and with that comes both duties and responsibilities. Often we are given odd jobs around the home. I was fortunate to have many of these jobs outside the house, where I learned about hard work, saving my money, and leadership. One such job was mowing the grass.
If we are lucky, we can earn a few extra pennies by helping out the neighbors. Growing up in a small town with no traffic lights meant that everyone knew each other, and if you were willing, you could get just about any small job for either money or some item you wanted. I did this when I was about ten years old by mowing grass. I had my own lawnmower, the push type.
This was the first real job I had where I worked for myself. Part of my earnings went to the family. At first, I thought this was unfair but gained an appreciation for the respect my family and neighbors granted me for doing a good job. My earnings were whatever the homeowner gave me. Typically, this was a quarter of a dollar unless the yard was large, and then I got an extra dime.
It was hard work in the heat and humidity of the Deep South. I was never hurt because the push lawnmower was typically dull, and I worked slowly until everything was cut. Many years later, well after it would do me any good, I learned how to sharpen the mower blades. For a ten-year-old, however, this was a bridge too far.
One of my neighbors, the father of my best friend Wilson, would teach me some of the “tricks” of mowing and pleasing the customer. This was new to me. The mowing part, I had down pretty good. Satisfying the customer was a different story, however. He told me that the first thing I should do is to politely ask the customer how they were getting along and thank them for their generosity in hiring me. Smile, he also said as if my life depended upon it.
He told me that it was just as essential to get my customers to like me as it was to do a good job. If they were not satisfied with my work, I could forget about any future work, and the adults would no longer help me out. “That Doug sure has a beautiful smile,” Mrs. Cox would say to my mom. I was learning and learning fast.
As the years went on, my family moved to the big city, 10 miles north. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this big city had a population of about 8,000, which was “big” for me. I no longer mowed anyone’s yard, but I came into contact with a farmer that gave me much better jobs, picking up cow manure, cleaning pig pens, and finally graduating to milking cows. That’s where I met my first real girlfriend. And that is another story.