Harpole Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ricky Harpole

Artful job dodging failed just when lines averaged 2 pounds per hook ‘

How I once tried to avoid a job and got hired anyway has been a source of extreme embarrassment to me for many years. Mainly because too many of my friends know about it, or at least parts of it. I write today to dispel rumors and dismiss legends concerning this matter once and for all.

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First of all….

For all of my lifetime, life at the Harpole household was on an “even keel.” (I refer to my adoptive parents, Obie and Mirl.) They were childless and it was something right out of the Andersen’s Fairy Tales to both of them and us when first I, and later my “sister” became part of the Harpole family. Hansel and Gretel didn’t have nothin’on us.

Life had its ups and downs like it still does, but we went from the crib, to the farm, to the school and back again. When Sis passed away, Obie and Mirl continued for the grandchildren and they had their ups and downs too. It was a good life for all by any standards.

Time and age affect all of us eventually. Diabetes spread through the family with its awful attendant complications, and Obie and Mirl weakened. The “boys” had school and jobs and were not there all the time. Daddy had leased the farm out in portions year by year. The cows were first to go. They required a lot of chasing and cussin’ which he was about past doin.’ He remarked that day that, “this is the first time I’ve been without a cow since 1926.” He was about six then.

I had finished a contract job which was finished ahead of schedule and provided me a significant bonus. It looked, on the whole, like a good time to return home, look at the situation, and take a break.

And I did. The camp on the Coldwater was snug, the fish were biting, the boys were growing into men, Daddy’s health was stable and his mind was sharp as ever. I was vacationing and catching fish one mile downriver from my childhood home. I was in my element.

Daddy was feeling good enough to put in a part of his days in the truck patch, which is farmin’ at its finest. Momma was getting around well enough to experiment on diabetic diets that were gradually becoming more palatable. The boys were maintaining jobs and scholastic achievements well above the acceptable minimum, and I was catching fish.

Wouldn’t you know it wouldn’t last? Well, it didn’t, and under the most ornery circumstances. I didn’t have a job and didn’t want one right then. I had made up my mind to spend some of my time in places where time was getting short.

My employers knew this, as did my friends and certain concerned family members. Well, a certain unscrupulous acquaintance of mine — knowing that I was temporarily forsaking the job market, and by choice, no less — recommended my services to a fabrication shop in Tunica, That scoundrel, knowing that in a heartbeat I would have told them to take that job and shove it, he committed the cardinal sin.

Yes, people, he went over my head. He ambushed my Daddy in the truck patch one afternoon and after a pleasant conversation about weather and politics and general family health, he asked him if I could use a job. Yessir, cut me plumb out of the decision making process.

I came in from the catfish honey hole down below Moccassin Bend and was told by my Daddy that I had a job interview at 6:45 a.m. the next morning in Tunica. Never mind that the honey hole was producing an average of two pounds per hook, per day. I had to go to work.

Well, I was kind of glad in a way because it verified that he was feeling well enough to continue to instill the work ethic in his sometime wayward son. And besides, I had already decided that I would overrate the value of my services right off the bat to the extent that the company owners would throw me right out the front door.

That didn’t work. They hired me anyway. It took me almost a year to get back to that trotline, and I am glad to be able to say we were better for it for several seasons in the “truck patch.”


Ricky Harpole