This Trucker Learned:
“There Are Far Worse Things Than Going to School”
He was only 17. They’d thrown him out of school for his accidental burning of the woods right next to the school. Oh, he didn’t mean it. He’d just ducked out a side door of the school to sneak a smoke break with his buddy, Joe Grover. When he finished the butt, he flicked it off. It landed on dry kindling. That’s how the fire in the woods started.
The worst part? The school (Joe T. Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas) was named in honor of a relative. Now, he’d dishonored the family.
At first, he thought “Being thrown out isn’t so bad. I’ll get a job and earn some money.”
And so, the next day he started working for a roofing company. The boss had him high up, on a hot roof, in 120 degree heat of a summer day. His job? Spreading the hot tar that made the roof shingles stick. He was breathing in the fumes and sweating so much he thought he’d pass out.
“Argh…Ugh…Phewie…” he said, all day long, pushing the long broom handle up on the roof, moving the black resin, to even it out.
The tar stuck to his fingers and clothes. Try as he might, he couldn’t remove it.
When some days were too hot to work, the crew went up on the roof at night, to work under spotlights.
It was dangerous, sticky work.
He realized only later that his roofing job was much harder than any school day.
***This trucker, Paul Wesley Gates, would go back to school, years later, and earn his GED and an Associates Degree in college. But he had to learn the hard way.
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