In joining Gary Shannon on 92.9 The Lake this morning for the newscasts, he had an on-air topic about celebrities and their first jobs… for instance Matthew McConaughey worked on some kind of a chicken farm cleaning out the coops, while Brad Pitt got his start at a fast food chicken joint wearing a chicken suit and waving to drivers! I’m no celebrity but my first job was in animal fodder too.

My eldest (by 13 years) sister married a butcher when I was about 5 years old – by the time I was 7 – he’d started letting me ‘help’ in the meat market by sweeping the sawdust at the end of the day and spreading fresh sawdust (in those days markets used sawdust and chips from nearby sawmills to absorb some of what hit the floor). It wasn’t a bad job for a seven year old, and before child-labor laws are brought up, and yes it’s been agin’ th’ law for some time for children to work – he paid me out of his pocket. A whole quarter! Yes twenty-five cents, which would probably be about $2 dollars now.

Of course to a seven year old, a quarter was a lot of money – in 1964 that twenty-five cents would buy a coke for 10¢, a Baby-Ruth bar for 5¢ and have enough left over to buy a comic book at another 10¢ so that I could keep up with Archie and The Gang!

More importantly than the quarter I earned, and again this wasn’t an ‘everyday’ thing, just when it was convenient to my parents to drop me off at the store for a while in the afternoon, maybe two or three times a week – the most important thing I learned was that I could do things, accomplish things, and earn my own money for a coke and candy bar. It was an amazing sense of accomplishment and independence for a kid. And as a grown man, I long ago understood why my new brother in law, and my mom and pop agreed to this little arrangement.

Later on by the time I was 16 and could legally work after school – of course I went to the neighborhood grocery store and instead of starting with the other boys my age bagging groceries and stocking shelves, I was a 16 year old with almost 9 years’ experience in the meat department!

I don’t know about these celebrities, or what their first jobs taught them about life – but mine taught me lessons that have endured and been useful every day in the subsequent decades. For one, I can nearly always pick the best cuts of meat for grilling out of the meat case.

So, there we were together – Matthew McConaughey was raising chickens, I was cutting them up and Brad Pitt was selling them. Sort of.