“College, huh? So, what did you have in mind?” Scooting his chair away from the desk and leaning back, my father looked at me with an arched eyebrow.
“Well, I thought I‘d get a summer job. I know the tuition’ll go up; but, at the present rate, if I work each summer for the next five summers, I can pay for the first year. The yard work here…,” I was on a roll and talking so fast my father had to interrupt me to make his point. This was quite unusual for my easy-going father but I guess he thought he’d save us both the trouble of a long speech.
“Sojourner, there are labor laws in this country and fourteen is too young to have a real job. You need to be sixteen.” I had anticipated his objection, jumping in with my prepared response.
“Yes, I know that – under normal circumstances -- but there are exceptions. Donna’s friend worked at a Dude Ranch last summer and she was only fifteen. She will work there again this summer; I heard her tell Donna last week.”
“So, you are wanting to work there, too? Is that it?” Dad was sitting up in his chair now; I had his full attention.
“Well, yes, I did want to work at the ranch because it sounded like a nice place and Donna’s friend liked it a lot. But, they already have enough kids for now. Maybe next summer I could go there. I have another place in mind but I didn’t want to write to them unless it was okay with you that I work away from home this summer.” I didn’t realize I’d been moving forward and had, in fact, slipped to the very edge of my chair in the excitement. When my father smiled, I nearly fell off.
“Hmm, sounds like you’ve given this a bit of thought.”
“Yes, Dad; I’ve been thinkin’ about it for a long time now. Whadduyah think? Can I?” No doubt I held my breath as I waited.
“Well, I’ll need to talk it over with Mom but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea so far. Have you already asked her?” Uh, he knew my usual way of handling the things I really wanted. Get Mom’s permission first so I could preface any request with a declaration that Mom was already in agreement. But, this was more grown-up business so I took a little different line.
“No, Dad. I came to you first. I really want to pay for my own college and, when I saw how much it costs, I knew I needed to begin saving money right now.” He only nodded his head and reached for his pipe.
“I’ll talk with your mother and let you know.” I thanked him with a gentle smile, outwardly, but inside I was shouting for joy, sure he would let me do it.
I don’t really remember anything my mother may have said on the subject of my summer employment away from home, but my parents gave me the green light to look for a place. I wrote to a small Dude Ranch about an hour’s drive from our home. They had advertised for a cabingirl, which was the position my sister’s friend held her first summer on the other ranch. My letter indicated my seriousness about wanting the job, listed my ”employment history” such as yard work, snow removal and babysitting with an offer to send references upon request.
Their response came in the form of a phone call. No references would be needed; I sounded like a kid who knew how to work hard. I assured the lady I was, indeed; but, then, had to give that teeny-tiny bit of info I’d not mentioned in my letter to them. I was only fourteen. She hesitated only a moment and said it didn’t matter. The pay wasn’t much so that might have been the reason she would overlook my age?
Just a few days later, I was packed up and headed for the ranch with my folks. None of us had anticipated what awaited me on this lovely ranch in Montana. Had we known then, what we knew now… and that goes as much for the employers as the employee…!
****Adolescent Milestones: First Real Job, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow