June 06, 2013

Strong Backs And Thick Calluses

Strong Backs And Thick Calluses
By John R. Greenwood

Forty years ago two young brothers Bill and Charlie Dake offered to assist me in attending college. I was young, in love, and had just dropped out of the local community college. I grew up around the Dake family and Stewart's Ice Cream so I went to Bill and Charlie and asked for a full time job. I was 18. They said they would help me but they both encouraged me to continue my education first. They knew how important it was. I declined the offer. I wanted to work with my hands. 

I will never know the answer to the question, "What if I had listened to them and gotten a degree instead of thick calluses?" I do know that my life working with my hands has been a rewarding challenge. I have spent my life in the middle of men, who just like me forty years ago, made the decision to use their bodies as well as their minds to put food on the table. These are intelligent and resourceful men who love being outside with backs soaked in perspiration and sunshine. They, like me, could have continued down the path of higher education but for reasons of their own chose to push handcarts instead of pens. Many of them do have degrees, yet they feel more at ease behind the wheel of an eighteen wheeler than they do behind a computer screen. I am grateful for that and for them. 


My livelihood and success depends on the hard work of others. Several years ago my long days on the road resulted in an opportunity to trade in my dairy hook for a desk. A desk piled high with its own challenges and frustrations. It too is hard work. It's reward is softer hands and an extra twenty pounds. The young ones look at me and my furrowed forehead as I deal with a driver with a broken truck and a full load. They say to me," I wouldn't want your job." I look at them now and think the same of them. When the mercury dips into the teens, the wind is howling at two in the morning, and the snow is coming sideways, I think to myself, "I wouldn't want your job." 

 It all boils down to the choices we make. You must deal with the result. I have never been regretful for my decision to carve a living with my hands and back. It made me strong in more ways than one. It taught me to appreciate things more. I have more respect for those things because because I know how they got there and what it took. 

"Joe O"
Everything we own has calluses and a sore back attached to  them somewhere along the line. There is no magic involved. Whether its a package of new t-shirts or a bag of potato chips it has calluses somewhere in its history. Don't take anything for granted, especially when you know what came at the beginning. Everything good in our lives cost someone more than what was on the price tag. 

My back is worn and my calluses have been reduced to weekend rake-blisters but my memory and my gratitude belong to the working man whose alarm rings before the rooster's. 

"In Memory of Tim"


  1. Thank you! Great pictures!

  2. Lynn (in Louisiana)June 7, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    I once read something like "if you have it, it was once on a truck". I've never forgotten that.

  3. Great article John, really makes you look back at all we've done. And for what is to cone. Keep up the great work.