I graduated from high school, now what? Well, I realized I needed a job, but where? The size of the town, my age, and my education were limited. I had made a trip to Washington State University in Pullman, to see the campus, but I realized I wasn’t ready for college and did not have the money to go either. My future education planning is complete in this exchange; MOM: “Do you want to go to college?” STEVE: “No.” MOM: “OK.” At this point, no one in my family had gone to college, so there weren’t any traditions or history in higher education to go by.
My parents traded my 1960 Volvo for a 1965 Ford Mustang coupe. It had Twilight Turquoise exterior and white vinyl interior. It had a 289 cubic inch V8 and a three speed transmission. Oh, did I love that car. I slept in the back seat of it the first night, because I was so excited to have something this nice. It was now my responsibility to take care of. It represented a change in my life and direction.
I was able to get a job at the local Ford dealership. They had a gas station in conjunction with the dealership. I was hired to pump gas, change oil, and wash some of the new cars. They had a red 1969 Mach 1 fastback with black strips that drove me wild with car lust. I thought I was doing ok there, until one night; I washed a ’69 LTD coupe with a 390 cubic inch V8. I was going to put it back in the garage when I punched the accelerator. After I parked it and was walking back to the gas station office. I could see I was going to be unemployed fairly soon. The black tire marks of the burn out were very obvious. The next day my employment there was ended.
My next job was picking apples at an orchard near Omak, WA. It was about fifty miles from home and my first venture on my own. I had a sleeping room that was part of a barracks. Its size was about 9’x 12′ which was bigger than my bedroom at home. It had a window, a front door, a cot with an army wool blanket, a 3’x3′ table, one chair, and a wood burning stove. Bathroom and showers were in a separate building. In May, it was still chilly in the evenings and early morning. We had a wood burning stove at home, so I knew how to work it, but there was something wrong with the damper of the wood stove in my room. I could not keep a fire going and was constantly cold. It seemed like I was the only worker with a car. My co-workers were all older than I and apparently chose to spend their money on wine rather than on transportation. They did not shave or get haircuts either. Lest you should think I was describing a hippie commune, neigh I am not. I am describing cheap labor of the down and out. In the mornings, we would collectively move into the orchard, equipped with tall wooden ladders. I learned you do not just pull on the apple in a brutish way, but twist the fruit at the stem with finesse to release it into a canvas bag, much like a paper boy’s bag of old.
I wasn’t loving the job, but knew I had to stick it out to provide much needed income. At the end of one day, after working the orchard, I returned to my sleeping room to find that the mice had opened my Oreo cookie bag and divided them out like cards in a game of poker. If I was going to eat my Oreo’s, I would have to ante up. I could tell the deck was against me, so I folded and let them have the cookies. I spent the next day at a park trying to decide if this job is really what I wanted to do. I decided I did not want to continue, so reluctantly I went home.
My brother was living in Oklahoma and said I could get a job where he worked. So at the age of 17, I left home to move to Oklahoma City. I loaded my Mustang with the few possessions I had and started south. My parents decided to follow in their car, so my sister and I were in the Mustang having a taste of independence. I still remember going through Montana. The sun was shining, all the windows were down, and the radio was turned up. Brenda and I were having a blast. Continue reading