Thursday, April 21, 2005

 

The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

(For those of you keeping score at home)

Job #1: Boy Detective
Job #2: Baby-shitter

Job #3: Trash collector

No matter where we lived, my family always managed to spend at least some of our summer in New Hampshire, in the town where my father was born, in the area his family had helped settle, going back and back to the 1630s. At that time multi-great Grandpa Nicholas had been granted an enormous chunk of hillside, timberland, pasture, marshland and, finally, the western shore of the lake in the heart of the settlement where he made his home.

By the time I came along, all that remained in the family of this tract was the original farmstead, owned by my uncle Dennis; the 120 acres of timberland my father owned; and a two-acre square of forest, marsh and shoreline where my aunt Barbara and her husband David had built their cottage.

Aunt Barbara, my favorite aunt, was my father's big sister, and the postmaster of our little town. The post office itself resided in the living room of the house she and uncle David owned up in the town center. That's also where David kept the tools of his business, the Dubba Land Corp. In the lot below the house, he kept a massive barn and a yard where he parked his old chain-drive dump truck, his backhoe and his bulldozer.

When I was a child, David was an enigma to me. He seemed to have no interest in--or even the slightest tolerance for--kids, not even his own. He and Barbara had married at 17, so by the time I came along, David was in his late 40s and his kids were already grown and long gone. No doubt they had been driven away by David's acid wit and relentless honesty.

If he had an opinion about you, he was unabashed in sharing it. Put it this way: Had we been a Native American tribe, and had my uncle's descriptors of us formed the basis for our tribal names, my brother's would have been Great Big Fat-Ass. Mine would have been Sneaker Full of Shit.

As in "that boy is softer'n a sneaker full of shit," a statement I heard my uncle utter about me on numerous occasions. He was more gracious with my mother and father, but not much.

My father held David in great esteem, and was full of tales of the man's wild youth. David was an imposing presence physically, close to 7 feet tall, and regarded in his prime as the strongest man around, a reputation he cemented at the Saturday night dances. There he used to get into the worst fights, including a legendary skirmish with Joe Philbrick--the town bully--and four of his friends. David beat them all to the ground. After that, people started calling him "ol' Dubba" because, they said, that was the sound his fists made, like a boxer working a speed bag: dubba-da-dubba-da-dubba-da.

Little was known of David's past before he came to town. Some said he had been in the Army, others said he had come out of Maine, where he'd worked as a lumberjack from the age of 14. He was a bit of an eccentric. For example, he had a tendency to talk to himself. And not the way you or I might. Sometimes in his barn, or while he was working on his dump truck, David could be heard carrying on one-sided conversations, like a man on an invisible telephone. Very occasionally, he'd interrupt a conversation with someone else--a real person I mean--and turn, give a hard glare to the empty air next to him and say something like, "Would you shut the Christ up already?" or "Jesus, your yammering makes my ass twitch!" Then turn back to the real person and resume talking as though nothing had happened.

Another eccentricity was how he treated clothes. Like a lot of thrifty Yankees, David hated to spend money on anything, but especially clothes. He once said he considered it bad luck to throw a t-shirt away and so he wore the dingiest, most threadbare, stained, torn t-shirts you ever saw. His overalls were little more than a collection of patches held together by two buckles and a zipper. Anywhere else, he'd have been mistaken for a hobo.

But in our part of the state, David was well known as a savvy businessman, a real wheeler-dealer. David arrived in town at 16 with only the clothes on his back. He worked odd jobs long enough to save the money to buy a tarpaper shack on the edge of town. He turned this into a full-fledged house which he sold at a profit. He repeated this process with various shacks and dilapidated cottages and camps throughout the area. Eventually, he parlayed this money into a construction and land development business that was worth more than a million dollars a year. Very few knew this, however. And if the fact had been made public, very few would have believed it. After all, if you were a millionaire, why would you bother being the town's trash collector?

Every Friday at dawn, David would fire up the chain-drive dump truck and rattle around the old highways and camp roads and dirt tracks of the county, collecting the refuse of nearly 100 customers before hauling it to the county landfill, a half-hour away. Aunt Barbara always called the job "David's little hobby," which I thought was a great joke.

Until the summer I turned 13 and learned I was going to go to work for him...



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Comments:
I love the resume series... I used to think that portraying the rear end of a horse (my first and last acting experience), being a copyboy (while being a girl), and counting traffic were interesting and unusual jobs. Clearly not!
 
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