Friday, March 16, 2007


Z asked “How did you go from being a butcher to what you do now?”

It’s a 40% cultural, 60% family history answer. In Canada its common for high school students to take a weekend job to earn a little extra money. Its even more common for university students as we’ve been paying tuition fees and taking out student loans all along (can’t quite figure out what the fuss is here, you should have to pay for your future). It seems not at all common over here, but I suspect that’s a class thing. So I was just doing as most of my friends did, and took a very part time job to earn some money.

Why I choose the job I did is a more complex answer. My mother’s parents both died before I was born. Though I have a lot of very strong influences in my life from that side of the family, it all comes through my mother. There was no direct contact. It was my father’s parents that I got to know. Indeed my grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 94 and didn’t die until I was in my mid twenties.

My grandfather died when I was younger, and I think his influence on me was all the stronger for it. I worshiped him, not least because he and my father had a fractuous relationship. No arguing, just odd. There are off comments he made that still form a core part of my personality.

In one rambling discussion, when we were puttering in his workshop, he talked about what a real man was. He had grown up on the family ranch. Not one of these little British operations where 200 head is deemed a large herd, but a proper Canadian ranch. Indeed it was one of the biggest in the country at the time. 6,000 acres and between 5,000 and 10,000 head of cattle. The height was during WWI when we fed the empire (as grampa put it). He grew up to take the family fortunes in a different direction and built a canning operation (tinned food for you brits). He quickly proudly put it that we fed the empire again in WWII, just differently. Mind you, the business never quite recovered from the soldiers coming home and not really wanting to see their wives stocking up on cans of food with the prominent brand name that had fed them on the fields of France…

As we talked he went on that no matter how important a man you were you should always have known real work. For him it was working the ranch with the hands. For my dad it was working in the factory. He said it was important both so you always knew what hard work delivered the good life you lived, but also to have something to fall back on if it all went wrong. I don’t know why this latter was important to him, as the family hadn’t had hard times in many generations, yet he emphasised it.

It stuck.

So in my sixteen year old mind when I had a choice between doing a counter monkey’s job at Mickie D’s or learning a trade, it wasn’t a hard choice. In fact it wasn’t even a choice, I went out looking for something different. I did it for a bit less than a couple years, and have absolutely no regrets. It was often hard work, but it was good. Even today I have something I could fall back on. Might take a bit of practice to get back into it,

In university I picked up a different trade, became a life guard on the beeches in Vancouver. That rested on the same justifications, just had rather different benefits… but that’s another story.


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