My First Job: How I Learned To Love Manual Labor

fence company

At thirteen years old, on the first day of summer break, my father woke me up and said we were going to work. In a dreamy state, I thought he was kidding. That was until he handed me a pair of beat up gloves and said that we were leaving in twenty minutes.

The sun was barely up and I was already in the car. There was something peaceful about watching the sun rise… Even at thirteen years old.

My father explained to me that we were going to be installing fences all day for Mr. Halls (a family friend of ours). Mr. Halls was the owner of Halls Fence Company, a well known fence company in the small New Jersey town that I grew up in. He was a nice man, always had a smile on his face and even today at 59, he works twelve hours a day. To me, this was crazy. How could someone build and install fences from sunrise to sun down. Not only was this a menial and repetitive task, it felt lower than me.

We got to the work site and my father handed me a special fence measuring tape. “Measure twice, install the fence one…” he would always say. I spent the first half of the day outlining every single inch of where the fence would go, each fence post was accounted for. Around mid-afternoon I began to tire out. What was the point? We were spending so much time building something that not one person would even notice or exclaim, “Wow, what an amazing fence!” It seemed pointless. My father and I finished our lunch and got back to work.

Now it was time to set the posts. Setting the posts are a very important part of installing any fence. Without properly setting them, you can ruin the fence (it could fall, be off balance, etc). Not only is it tedious work, it is the most physically demanding. The sun started to hit the horizon when I set my 80th post. My muscles were sore, sweat poured down my back, and I was starving. “We’ll finish tomorrow,” said my father.

I was upset. As we left in the car, I looked back and cursed the posts. All that work to put in a few wood beams into the ground… “Pointless,” I thought.

The next morning it was the same routine. Today we install the fence.

Hammering for hours on end, the vibrations begin to make your hand numb. We worked in silence.

When I hit the final nail on the fence, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t overjoyed because it was finally over. I felt angry that I had spent the first two days of my summer break installing a fence.

I was walking to the car with my tools when my father pulled me aside and asked what was wrong. I told him, “I don’t understand why we had to do this.”

He looked at me and at the field where the fence was and said, “Here’s $200.”

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