Untotaled: Stepping 13 (June 23rd, 1965) Old Lady Dickerson … May 10, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

A nickel is five times more than what you need if you don’t have a penny to your name.

That’s where I found myself in the summer of ’65. I was an unemployed, untrainable, unteachable, unworkable, unadult young teenager.

What I did have in great abundance was need.

I had reached an age where money was suddenly important but totally unavailable. A simple principle was explained to me in vivid but boring detail: “If you want money, you gotta work.”

This was new. Since birth, food had been provided–trinkets, toys and even occasional trips–without me having to expend any energy except the occasional complaining whine, “Are we there yet?”

But now, when I requested money, my parents were suddenly a dry well, asking me to pursue odd jobs in order to procure some personal finance.

Now, there’s a reason they call them “odd jobs.” The jobs are odd–low paying, ridiculously stupid and generally speaking, hot and sweaty. I will not go into vivid detail about how I hated each and every one of these elements, but since I needed to raise five dollars for a gift I wanted to impart to myself, it became obvious that I was going to have to walk down to the end of our street and ask Old Lady Dickerson if she had any chores she needed done.

She always did. None of the other kids wanted to work for her. She was cheap and waited too long–thus making the task she requested even more difficult.

For instance, she didn’t mow her grass until it looked like an African Serengeti. And because she had a house full of cats, on those rare occasions when you needed to go in for a drink of water, you had to hold your breath–otherwise you would faint from the deadly feline perfume.

There were also rumors that because the grass was so high, mowing the lawn put you in danger of encountering snakes. Granted, they were just garter snakes, but that’s like saying, “These are only criminals that commit non-violent crimes.”

Yet I found myself making the trek down to her house to ask for work so that I could garner my five dollars.

Please understand–to get five dollars out of Old Lady Dickerson required that you work all week. She paid in quarters, which she squeezed out of her wrinkled, bony fingers, holding tightly to them, forcing you to nearly yank to acquire your payment.

This particular week of torture included mowing the lawn, where I did discover a garter snake, and like a frightened little girl, jumped back and pushed the mower really hard, over the top of it, spitting the slimy thing out the back end. I don’t know if I killed it, because I refused to mow anymore that day.

She also wanted to have her thistles removed. She wasn’t satisfied with having them mowed over. You had to get out there and pull them out with your hands. (There is a reason, you know, they are called thistles.)

And for some reason she had decided to clean up some old newspapers in her house which the cats had used as urinal pads. I literally put a clothes pin on my nose to perform the duty.

At the end of my five days of hard labor, she decided to pay me all at once instead of in quarters. Would you believe that old lady stiffed me a buck and only gave me four?

It was fine.

Many years later, she died, and one of the richer members of our community bought her house. I was told they had to tear out the walls and pull up the floors to get all of the cat stink out.

Did I learn anything from working for Old Lady Dickerson?

Yes.

I learned that I did not want to work with reptiles at the zoo, that thistles can pretty much have their way in my yard and that it is always a good investment to find a young man or young lady … to mow your lawn.

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