Just in case this writing thing hadn’t worked out for me, I did have two other skills to fall back on – operating a fork lift, and running a floor buffer.
The writing came naturally, but the other two I had to learn.
As for the fork lift, my father was the superintendent of a large wholesale grocery warehouse, Thomas & Howard Co., back in my hometown of Allendale. I worked for him during the summers and part-time during the school year, unloading box cars and loading trucks.
But I always envied those guys who whirled around the warehouse on their fork lift machines, the tines moving up and down as they roamed the stacks, lifting some things, bringing other things down.
Just the fact that they got to drive something, had free range privilege, and were always in demand made me want to be like them.
My favorite fork lift driver was Meter Gray. He could make that machine dance like Fred Astaire, using a hundred bales of Dixie Crystal Sugar as his Ginger Rogers.
When I became a teenager, Meter taught me the art of fork-lift driving. His secret was to always keep those tines moving up and down, even when you’re cruising from one place to another, because it made you look busier than you actually were.
That advice came in handy in later life, even when a fork lift wasn’t involved.
My other skill is running a floor buffer. I mastered this in Air Force basic training in Texas when we had to shine the wooden floors of our old World War II barracks, twice a day.
These ornery machines can make you look like grandma’s Sunday hat caught in a ceiling fan if you don’t know the secret – it’s all in the wrists. People who try to manhandle or overpower the buffing machine are soon exposed as rookies.
See, if you just give it a little pressure with your right hand, it will go left. If you give it a little left hand, it will go right. And if you get it going back and forth in the right rhythm, it’s truly a thing of beauty to behold.
So, I’m not really looking for a job these days. But if push comes to shove, at least I’ve got marketable skills.