During the summer vacation after the fifth grade, I got my first job as a “contractor”. I took on the job of mowing Oak Ridge, the local cemetery for $3 a mow. At the time our family lived just one house away, so whenever the cemetery needed mowing, I would push our lawn mower along the side of the road, carrying a can of gasoline over to the cemetery. When I was lucky the mower would start after the first couple of pulls on the rope, and I would begin mowing. I think it took me about an hour and a half to complete the job.
To keep my mind active as I mowed, I would often look down at the tombstones and wonder about the lives of the people whose names were carved in the stones. Over beside the wooded area in the front southern side of the cemetery I would find the oldest graves. I was amazed to see that some of those people where born in the 1700’s. Many of those tombstones where so weathered, lichen-covered, cracked, and partially buried, that I could no longer read the information carved on them.
In those days the cemetery was bordered on two sides by a dark oak and maple forest. Which gave it a peaceful feel. Unfortunately the forest was logged and it is not as attractive as it once was.
Whenever I think back of those days of my youth, I remember pushing that lawnmower around the tombstones, getting as close as I could so I wouldn’t have to trim the weeds, in hopes of finishing the job quickly, during those hot humid summer days with the sweat dripping down my face. I also think how rich I felt each time I was handed that $3 after completing the job. I think the mower gets $75 a mow these days.
Throughout my life I have always had the knack of remembering jokes and humorous events. When I returned to school after that first summer of mowing, Mr. Mohr, our new sixth grade teacher, went around the classroom asking each of his students what they did over the summer. When he asked me, I replied that I got a job and mowed a cemetery.
I was left speechless when Mr. Mohr quipped, “Wow, you worked with a lot of people under you.”