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Posted by Between the Lines

My mama told me, way more than a few times: Go to College. The first time she told me that was after a buddy and myself made a deal with our neighbor to pull two of his stumps, I think for $10 a stump. Not being professional stump pullers – actually these were our first stump jobs – we had no idea how long it might take to dig around an old maple tree, whack off its roots with axes and hatchets, put a come-a-long on the thing and haul it out. Like pulling a giant tooth, how hard could it be?

Two days later, blisters on both our hands, we finally disgorged the monster stump. Nothing to it! Course, we had the other one to do and now we knew – and dreaded – the work ahead of us. But a contract was a contract, a handshake a handshake, even for us 15 year olds. So much for our summer vacation. Our neighbor gave us each 10 bucks and no tip, no bonus, no thank you. Four days of hard labor. My mother, on the other hand, had a tip waiting for me at home.

“What do you think you made an hour?” she wanted to know. “Not much,” I said, pretty bummed and very tired. I figured a quarter an hour. And yeah, don’t say it, I know a quarter was worth more in 1965.

My mom asked if I had any idea how much my father made an hour. Actually, I didn’t, not a clue, but I hazarded ‘fifty cents?” Mom, well, let’s just say she didn’t have the greatest sense of humor, especially not wise-ass son humor, so she cut right to her Lesson of the Day, told me he made 50 times what I just made, all because – and here was the crux – He Went to College.

Now, I didn’t tell her I’d eventually have my own stump removal company, hire a hundred kids to pull them, franchise the whole she-bang and become a millionaire when the stock went public. I just put my head down and said. “I got it Mom.” I did go to college but ended up working stump pulling wages at various dead end jobs before becoming a starving artist.

Today I was at an oral surgeon seeing about yanking a tooth too far gone for a root canal and crown. My doc came in, said hello, snapped on some blue exam gloves, looked in my pie hole and said make an appointment at the desk for an extraction while you’re paying for this exam. At most, 5 minutes. The bill came to $100. If you’re as expert at math as me, a college graduate, that comes to $1200 an hour.

So okay, Mom, happy now??

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