T'irty-vun Years In Factory

    Thirty-one years in a factory, this month. I never thought I'd do such a thing, but then I come from a Scots-Irish family (paternal side) that had long tenures in the places they worked. At one point, in the late 1970s, my dad, his brothers, and I had worked 108 years, collectively, at the same dairy cooperative in Des Moines, Iowa. I worked there nine years, after high school, before I moved to Minnesota.
    I think of my first weeks in the toy factory; I was ecstatic. I was glad to have a full-time job after being laid-off during the winter and just breaking even (if that). In those very early days, I worked for a local agri-business cooperative operating a remote anhydrous ammonia satellite station, filling farm applicator tanks, selling farm chemicals, erecting grain bins and doing a little service work, spring and fall. Beginning in 1983, I began working for the toy factory, summer into the fall, then was laid-off all winter. I'd never experienced lay-off until I moved to Minnesota because, in Iowa, besides my full-time job at the dairy, I worked two part-time jobs, driving bulk-milk truck, seven days a week. I was never without work. Winter lay-off up here, at least the first couple winters, was enjoyable to an extent, sort of a vacation, but after a while I looked at it with a certain dread because my income was cut so dramatically. Some locals left the area to go down South and hire on with fishing crews down there. They were assured ready employment, they said, because of their Minnesota work ethic. Although possessing the same, I never went with them: I had moved North to be north and I had no desire to go down South regardless of employment possibilities. I figured I'd just tough it out.
    When the toy factory hired me full-time, I was excited about just having a reason to get out of bed in the morning and go somewhere. I had lost direction somehow, although I never possessed a determined goal of what, or who, I wanted to be when I grew up. I had never put two-and-two together to make a life, than just live a life. It's all my folks did with the limited opportunities they had. They raised four kids, were active in the community: church, school, service organizations, etc. Whereas I saw my three older sisters husbands as 'successful,' I never saw my folks as any less, they were just older, it was as if things naturally got better as time went on, as opportunities came along. Without articulating it then, I had the idea that someday my ship would come-in. Someday, all would present itself and I'd know what to do. But I never did. Not really.
      An older female cousin recognized that my lifestyle choices weren't the best and encouraged me to try college. I could live with them for a few months and attend the two-year technical and community college in their town, sixty-five miles away from where I was living. Enrolling in general studies and all the art courses I could get into, I began going to school during the day and working at night, when a lead-man job opportunity came along at the toy factory that would appreciably raise my earnings. I knew it would cut into my study time, but figured I'd could still manage a couple classes a week until I got my two-year degree. With some foreman experience from a job I had, in Iowa, as well as being good friends with my boss at the toy factory, I landed the position with less than a year's tenure. The others who had signed for the job, did have seniority, and weren't very happy with me or his decision. I later regretted it as well, but won't dwell on that here.
    I had enjoyed college and did well by getting on the Dean's List a couple semesters. I could see art career possibilities in some vague future but never followed through with them as factory work began consuming what time I had for study. I chose something secure over possibility. I had responsibility toward a family and the farm by then. I just did what I thought best for all concerned and stayed the course, working, just working, day-in, day-out, six and seven days a week with over-time, as I had done all my life, until THE RAVEN: Northwest Minnesota's Original Art, History & Humor Journal came along to add some mental spice to it....


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