My grandkids always ask me to tell them stories from when I was a kid and most of the time I can think up something to tell them. My favorite stories are ones that I have pictures to go with them.
The other day Carver asked, “Joey, can you tell me a story about you being in 1st grade?”
I thought for a minute and then I started telling him the story of my Pancho.
A little background…I came from a farming family in southern Minnesota. As farm kids, we had to do work around the farm. My parents were great and they paid us a minimal amount for the extra work beyond the daily chores that we did. Even when I was in 1st grade I had a job in the Fall that allowed me to earn some extra money.
My dad didn’t have big fancy equipment. This was the early 70s and some farmers, including my dad, still picked corn without a combine and picked corn on the ear instead. Nowadays, everyone uses a combine. Then they didn’t. The corn came on the ear and later in the year dad pulled out the corn sheller and we shelled corn.
My dad had some corn cribs and a granary where the ear corn was kept but he never had enough storage. He would put up temporary cribs by using snow fences attached together making a circle. Once that was filled, he would stack another on top of it and make the temporary crib taller and able to hold more corn.
He would dump the corn out of the wagon, into an elevator and the elevator would be set so the corn would drop into the crib.
No matter what my dad did, some of the corn would bounce off the elevator, miss the crib, and land on the ground. My parents decided that I, as the youngest, unable to operate any equipment, should have the job of picking up the corn that popped onto the ground.
I had a little little red wagon, I would load the corn into the wagon and then throw the corn over the edge of the crib and in. There was a lot of corn and it was a pretty big job.
My mom and I had been shopping at the thrift store. There was one back then near Owatonna, Minnesota that my mom often stopped at. At the thrift store was this wonderful Pancho that I wanted so badly. I begged my mom for it. She said no. she would pay half of the money for it but I would need to earn the rest of the money.
Oh, I wanted that Pancho. It was a wool plaid fabric that was white with a red plaid pattern. When the hood was up, the hood was pointed. At the neck was the coolest button that was football-shaped. But, I had no money.
About then harvest started and my mom told me if I worked hard, I would be able to earn enough money for my part of the payment for the Pancho. I would need to pick up the corn around the cribs.
I was a busy little bee trying to work and earn the money for the Pancho. Even at the age of 6, almost 7, I knew the nature of thrift stores. Something might be there one day but it might not the next. There is only one item of its kind. Once it was gone, it would be gone. That made me work even harder. I picked up corn like a mad woman. I remember even at that young age, I remember self-talking myself into working harder or longer or pushing myself even though I was tired because the reward would be worth it.
I don’t want anyone to think anything bad of my parents. Nowadays, parents don’t really do that with kids…back then they did and I’m so thankful I lived in that generation with my parents. My parents taught all of us, a wonderful work ethic. Each and every one of are hard workers and I’m super proud of that.
I did the job…I earned the money and my mom did just as she promised. When the work was done, she took me to the thrift store…and happily, my Pancho was still there.
Below is a picture of me with my 1st-grade class. We all had Mrs. Westing as our teacher. We were on a field trip to the post office. You can see me. I was the tallest in the class at the time. I am in the back row standing in front of the postman to the left. You can see me wearing my Pancho. You can see the plaid print of it.
First grade was the same year my teacher gave me a “U” on my report card. I got mostly S+’s on my report card meaning the best a student could get. I was so embarrassed that in one area, I got a “U”. That meant unsatisfactory. The area in which I got a “U” was “uses time wisely”.
I think that might have been true then…but the lesson of working and wanting my Pancho…and the embarrassment of having a “U” on my report card, really turned me around. Very few people would ever believe that nowadays anyone would ever accuse me of not using my time wisely.
And…that’s the story of how at the ripe old age of six, I learned to work for what I wanted in life…and how I got my Pancho.