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Monday, August 08, 2005 

Parents Day

Bring a parent to school
When I was a kid this was a task for me. My Dad had a important job and was not able to take off on the moments notice that I gave him. I remember asking him on a Saturday, “oh Dad by the way you need to come to school with me Monday and give a speech about what you do for a living”. After the fit pitching was over with I decided to ask someone else. I went across the fields to ask my Uncle Fred.

Fred was known in those days as an idler. These days we would call him a bum, or maybe a politician. He lived in a shack back in the woods that his father had built. He hunted, fished, bathed whenever he wanted to, and general spent his days having a good time. Uncle Fred was not my uncle we all just called him that, but we treated him like family. I told him of my dilemma and asked him if he could help. His first reaction was a resounding, how did you get in here. But after a while I wore him down and he agreed to come. I told him that he would have to take a bath, that about ruined it but he finally gave in.

When we got to school my teacher was briefing the dads on what to do. Give a short explanation of what you do and then field some questions. I did not see Uncle Fred anywhere. The first dad got up. His speech was as follows.

I am a farmer, I raise cows and corn. I get up at 4:00am and milk cows then I work in the fields until dark. Then I go to the barn and milk the cows again. During calving season I generally have to work late though. If you kids are thinking of becoming a farmer you better study real hard and go to college, because you would be a dang fool to be a farmer.

He stood there for a second. The teacher jaw had dropped open. There were no questions so he sat down.
Then the next dad got up. This is what he said.

I work in the mines. As you can see even though I took a shower last night I am still covered with this blasted coal dust. I go down into the mine after the blasts are set and hammer the track clean and scoop coal into the cart for the next load. I see sunlight on the way to work; when I get out of the mines it is already dark. Study hard kids and maybe you can escape a life of working in the mines.

The next dad told about how he drug logs out of the woods with a tractor and then hauled them to a saw mill that bought them by the board foot. He showed us his left hand which only had two fingers. You could see kids all through the classroom making plans to go home and do their homework and study. I think these dads were raising the grade point average 20 points just by telling their stories.

It was almost time to go home. The teacher was about to dismiss us, I had almost given up and, then in walked Uncle Fred. He was wearing an ironed shirt and a new pair of overalls. He had a sport coat over the overalls. His face was red from scrubbing and his hair was combed. He stood over 6feet tall in his cowboy boots. I never realized it but Uncle Fred looked like a young man. He walked right into the class right up front and said

Well Bo asked me to come in here today and tell you boys about what I do for a living. Well I don’t do nothing. I get up when I want to I go to bed when I want to I fish and hunts whenever I wants to and I even bath when I want to,. And I generally don’t want to. It aint honest work that I am against or even dishonest work, it is work in general I am opposed to. It uses up a mans life where he could be out enjoying his self. Then he turned to the teacher who had a look of shock on her face. And said Now why don’t you and I get out of this place and find us a cup of coffee.

The GPA in our class immediately went back down where it was maybe lower. I think every kid in the class was seriously considering Uncle Fred as a mentor. I sure did. But 30 years latter here I am managing a software company…
where did I go wrong.