One Time My Dad
–Richard E. McMullen
From Not Only Love
One time my dad said to me, I don’t
see why people complain about how hard they work
or how tired they are. Nobody works hard but
farmers, miners, lumberjacks and foundry workers.
This was before power tools, tractors, and such things, and all
the work was done by hand. When farmers in Upstate New York
left to get away from the stones, what
they found in Southern Michigan were: more stones.
As they cleared the land, the horses hauled the black walnut trees
and stumps to the side of the field and the farmers burned them.
Black walnut was no good to them, too hard to work.
Grandpa Conde, when he finally left the farm and moved
to Milan, got a job in the foundry and walked to work
and back, six days a week, 12 hours
a day, for 50 cents a day. He thought
he was sitting pretty. Whenever the noon whistle blew, people
would say, Well, Hell’s out for lunch. But he would sit
down in a cool place and eat his lunch.
Once, when she was a little girl, Aunt Ida
asked her father, who was working in his garden, why
he worked so hard and wasn’t he tired? Grandpa
straightened up from his hoeing and answered: I never get tired.