Labor Day

Big Red Car here honoring Labor Day and all those who work, know the dignity of work, and celebrate its nobility.

Happy Labor Day!

As a young Big Red Car, I used to work in construction and would come home from a long, hot day of jack hammering manholes out of the street, and raising them the thickness of the new asphalt pavement.

Jack hammer for a few hours, jerk the cast iron insert out, install a few bricks to make up the elevation difference, re-install the cast iron insert, mix concrete, fill and patch the hole. Two per day in those days. Maybe a couple of hours of overtime.

The work was in the middle of the street — parked the truck to block one direction, the air compressor the other side. It was hot, made hotter by the blazing sun and the asphalt. I used to work with my shirt off in my jean shorts and work boots. At the end of the summer, I looked like a betel nut.

When I got home, I had that good kind of tired. The kind of tired which said, “You have worked to your limit. You have earned your wages. You have given a days work for a days pay.”

I wish to all my friends a Happy Labor Day and hope you have known the dignity and nobility of work. I pray that you have experienced that special kind of tired. Because that is the tired which built our great country.

In Houston today, they will know that kind of tired and in the days ahead they will become intimately familiar with it.

God bless all those who have ever sweated and worked. You built this joint. God bless y’all! Thank you.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.

6 thoughts on “Labor Day

  1. BRC!

    Hello from a long time reader and fan (and first time commenter) living on the ‘other side of the pond’ in England!

    I think it’s a great thing that America has a day to specifically honor workers and work.

    My main work is quite seasonal, usually relatively quiet in the first half of the year but crazy in the autumn (or fall as you might call it!)

    Although I don’t work construction, in recent weeks I have also known what ‘that good kind of tired’ is! I still am that tired. I will be that tired for the next few months.

    My parents and grandparents have known years of that good kind of tired.

    That good kind of tired is a blessing in disguise, because it’s necessary to truly appreciate the inherent dignity and nobility of work.

    That good kind of tired built your great country, and many others as well!

    That good kind of tired is not known by many people, and that is sad and dangerous.

    That good kind of tired will Make America (and other countries) Great Again!

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist saying that!)

  2. When I was 16, I mowed grass and trimmed hedges in the neighborhood. That was summers in Memphis where could go to sleep at 100 F and 100% humidity!

    One day after I’d mowed grass for a neighbor and got home, I heard that the temperature had been 103 F.

    Once I was cutting back a big hedge across the back of a neighbor’s back yard. I needed a step ladder and used a chalk line to get a nice box. Right, no shirt.

    Then two girls, cute, about 13, eagerly set up a card table near the house, under the shade of a tree, watched me work, pretended I wasn’t there, didn’t want me to catch them looking at me, and were careful to say nothing to me. At least I got the exercise and the money!

    My father in law had been a staff Captain in the Army, had coached some baseball, and had worked for the local rural electric company reading meters. He inherited 88 acres of farm land in Indiana. He got married, and the children came. The family lived in a patched up chicken house behind his mother’s house. Yes, there was a little house with a copy of the Sears catalog.

    So, on his 88 acres, he got some plans from the USDA and put up a chicken house. He cheated on the plans and had a wider house than the plans said; yes, the roof sagged, 20+ years later!. Some of his local competitors were building tiny chicken houses with concrete floors, cinder block walls, and tin roofs; monuments to ignorance; no wonder they went out of business! With his cheap, quick and simple approach, he got a house for 40,000 chickens. The walls were boards covered with tar paper. The roof was boards covered in tar paper. The floor was dirt, and for each flock of chickens he had fresh wood shavings. Later he built 2-3 more such.

    He got USDA advice on chicken nutrition and disease prevention — crucial subjects. He bought this and that for feed and mixed his own feed. He concluded that barrels of anchovies from Chile gave big ROI.

    He put up a building for mixing feed, and got some used feed mixing equipment. He designed and patented a cute thing out of galvanized sheet steel about 18″ in diameter and 3 feet high for feeding the chickens — he put the feed in the top, and the chickens ate out of the bottom and, thus, had to eat the full mixture and not just pick out the corn.

    He put up a building for farm equipment, tools, wood and metal working, bought a used tractor, plows, etc. (at auctions from farmers less capable than he was), and put in row crops, corn and soy beans for the chickens. He was good with people and marketing and found some good buyers, e.g., a guy who did big chicken dinners for Jaycees, Lions, etc. He had some hens laying eggs, had his children gather those, and sold them. At times he raised some turkeys and hogs.

    Then he got some house plans from Good Housekeeping and put up the family house. He did most of the work himself but hired for the roof, maybe for some of the brick veneer, electrical, etc. As a teenager he’d worked in house construction so knew what he was doing. To save on interior painting, he poured paint into the plaster and then applied it over the lath. For the water, he took an iron rod, punched a hole in the basement floor, pushed a pipe down, put a pump at the top, and that was his domestic water. Right, it was essentially surface water, not recommended, and in his case full of iron. That’s what worked for him for decades. Sure, for the sewage, he was innovative — to have easy construction and maintenance, used tire inner tubes and extended hose clamps for pipe joints.

    He used his wood working shop to build much of the furniture. He fabricated his own baseboard heating radiators by threading galvanized sheet metal over the hot water pipes.

    Since his children were three daughters, on the second floor he put in a fancy bathroom with pastel porcelain, 2+ sinks, a big, square tub, lots of open space, etc.

    Then he moved in his family from the chicken house.

    He helped start a bank which later was bought by a
    larger bank in the county seat, and then he was on that bank’s BoD. He was on the school board and the BoD of the hospital and active in his church and Lions. Generally he was a leader in the community.

    So, sure, during the hard working years, he was working 20 hours a day plus 10 on Sundays. No joke.

    He got all three daughters through college. At least two of the three had good husbands!

    Helping shovel a neighbor out of being stuck in the snow, he died of a heart attack.

    My brother married the only child of a guy with a big truck, little truck business. He sold candy. At one time, he had 8 trucks serving his city and out some miles. Some years he paid more in taxes than I grossed!

    So, those are two examples of how the US was built!

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