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With age comes wisdom

Posted: January 16, 2014 10:42 a.m.
Updated: January 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

I can remember that as a child and teenager I thought I had the world by the tail and I knew it all. Yes, I can remember back that far. I thought my parents were the most ignorant, incompetent people in the world. The things they said and did just did not make good sense to me. I dare say a good many of us felt that way during that phase of our lives. Did you? Be honest with yourself now.

But when I became a father, I began to realize that maybe I wasn’t as smart as I had thought and maybe my folks weren’t really so stupid. But, even then I was only 22 and still had a lot to learn. Now, at 55, I realize I still do. I learned then that rent and bills come due with wicked regularity and they have to be dealt with or the landlord comes knocking or the lights go out or your truck gets taken away.

I learned that to keep up with life’s expenses, you have to work. There are those who somehow skirt around that basic rule of life, but I’ve never been one of them. I am a firm believer that everyone who is capable of earning their own living should do so, and that applies to me as well. I just have never had the mindset that the world somehow owes me something I haven’t earned. I guess that’s what is called a conscience.

I owe most of that attitude to my parents, who were both hard-working people. My father owned a dump truck and his main source of income was hauling gravel for people’s driveways, dirt for their gardens or yards, or sand to construction sites to be used to mix concrete. He was truly a self-made man. He was also pretty clever when it came to business. In addition to his dump truck, he sold farm machinery and parts. He had what I guess you could call a farm implement junk yard. He had parts you just couldn’t get anywhere else and farmers would often come from considerable distances to find the unique parts they could only find in his pile of what he called “rusty gold.”

He also bought and sold bushhogs. Now I always thought this was funny, even when I was a kid. He would go to a big implement dealer at a town about 20 miles away and buy the bushhogs, then bring them back to his shop. He would assemble the drive shaft, fill the gear box with oil and grease all the fittings. Then he would sell it for a profit. The same bushhog any farmer could have driven that same 20 miles and bought for the same price he paid, they paid him a profit. Why would they do that? The answer is customer service. He spared them the chore of setting up and lubricating the machines, even though it was easy and didn’t take but a few minutes. He used to say, “when someone buys one of these from me, all they have to do is hook up to it and go. It’s ready.” He sold a lot of them that way.

The most fun enterprise he had was a fireworks stand. It was only open a few weeks a year, from late June until a few days after July 4, but it was a money maker and of course I had a blast, literally, with the contents of a fireworks stand basically at my disposal. How cool was that?

He also was a small-town real estate tycoon. Not on the scale of Donald Trump, mind you, but he had the foresight to build several shop buildings that he rented for guys to use either for business purposes or just to have a “playhouse” to work on race cars or whatever they needed a building for.

My mother was an elementary school teacher and she also worked hard, even teaching summer school every year and she took night classes toward her master’s degree while teaching and maintaining a household with a husband and three children.

So, back to the point. My parents were both smart people, much smarter than I realized back in the 1960s and ’70s. My father passed away in 1996, but my mother is doing well and living the retired life in Florida. She has earned it.

So, the older I get, the smarter I get. At least that’s what I think.

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