A Kid Makin’ A Buck

A kid came to our door today armed with a sure money-making tool: a shovel. For 3 bucks he’d scoop our walk and steps. We gave him 5. With 4 inches on the ground and another 12 on its way, that kid is sitting on a gold mine.

Ah, it’s refreshing to know entrepreneurship isn’t lost on the Wii generation.

It certainly wasn’t lost on me when I was a kid. Growing up in southwest Minnesota, winter equaled profits and with every snowfall I saw dollar signs. In my little town, there were many little old ladies who relied on me to dig them out after a snowstorm.

I wasn’t very big and often the snowdrifts were taller than me, but that didn’t stop me. I was plucky and sprite, even in a parka and snow pants, and could find front stairs with just my shovel faster than my dad could with a snow blower. OK, maybe not as fast, but I could clear two side-by-sides and a corner lot before lunch, earning 20 bucks, 3 cookies and all the hot chocolate I could drink.

I earned money working at my dad’s store, too. He owned the only grocery store in town and I stocked shelves, ran the cash register, bagged groceries, wrapped produce and packages of meat, separated returnable bottles and took out the trash. On Saturdays, Dad offered free grocery delivery and I helped with that, too, with the understanding that I was in charge of the radio stations in the car. It was my only employee benefit. That and the education culled from seeing the inside of other peoples’ houses.

Some were neat and tidy, others were cluttered, a few were total pig sties. The way people dressed and behaved was largely reflected in how neat their kitchens were. Those customers who rarely bathed had wax build-up on their linoleum that started sometime during the depression. On the other hand, you could eat dinner off Helen Beatty’s floor, and sure enough, she was neat as a pin. A little anal, but tidy.

I always dreaded delivering groceries to Emeline and Mathilda Kelly. They were sisters, both well into their 80s, who lived in a big old Victorian across the alley from our house. They kept the heat right around 90 degrees, the perfect temperature to ferment urine. Mathilda, poor dear, had a problem with incontinence and back in the days before Depends, she relied on cotton diapers and the surface upon which she happened to be sitting or sleeping to catch her problem. The smell was nauseating and yet, when I delivered groceries there, I was expected to spend a few moments conversing with Emeline, who always thought I was a boy. In the winter, dressed in ski masks, snowmobile gloves and boots, scarves and snow pants that make your thighs look like tree trunks, everyone in southwest Minnesota looks like a boy. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Calling a girl on the cusp of puberty a boy is huge blow to her precarious ego.

It was always worth it in the end, though. Two dollars an hour plus shoveling fees kept me in some very groovy vinyl. I was the most popular girl at all the grade school dances since we had to bring our own records to play and dance to, and I had more records played than anyone else. Elton John, 3 Dog Night, KC and the Sunshine Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago, The Who. My vinyl was definitely sought after. And Ricky Peterson thought I was pretty cool, too. Best of all, he didn’t think I looked like a boy.

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