I believe in hard work.
I can feel the fire like heat beating up on my burnt face. My once bright orange shirt is now faded with a white dust from salt that my body’s lost. Beads of sweat roll off my face and sizzle as they hit the near 300 degrees asphalt under my feet. The smell of hot tar, diesel fuel and exhaust wrench my insides with each breath. We have been working straight for 13 hrs under a blistering sun. I can feel my second wind building as I think of what I had just been told by my Forman. “You know for a little 17 yr old kid you sure work like a man, if you stick with this you’ll be a Forman in 2 yrs.” I couldn’t get the thought out of my head “you can work like a man.” My once numb brain now turns like a machine with the realization of what I had just been told.
This would be my second summer paving asphalt. I remember my first day at work. It was my birthday. I had just turned 17. That morning I received crude looks from almost every one. Nobody expected me to last more than a month. That day I gave it my all. I moved like there was no tomorrow. Nobody seemed to notice my effort, but I figured somebody would have to notice or I wasn’t going hard enough. Finally I heard “slow down kid, you’ve got to last all day.” It was one of the operator’s, his name was John Martin. He told me that he like my attitude and my hustle. After that he took me under his wing and showed me tricks to everything. Like how so shovel the most asphalt without straining your back or to always keep Diesel fuel on my shovel to keep it clean. I became very fond of John like he was an old uncle of mine. No matter where we were he would know somebody there. I admired how he didn’t hesitate from starting a conversation with a complement, no matter who they were. I wanted to have the pride he did for his job. It wasn’t just a summer job to him, it was who he was. I taught myself to watch and learn from his action. Within a month I was no longer received as the new kid, I was a labor.
By the end of the second summer I had worked as a laborer, equipment operator, grade checker, make shift mechanic, and I could read blue prints. When I was preparing to go leave for college I had been offered jobs at other constriction companies. My Forman and superintendent begged me not to go. They said “were going to make you a finish equipment operator.” It was a difficult feeling leaving my friend and a great job.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.