"Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground, trouble. Oh, we got trouble. Right here in River City." — Professor Harold Hill, "The Music Man," by Meridith Wilson

In the era when my husband, Grit, and I grew up, there weren't a lot of moneyed people around. I can't remember anyone in Farmington, other than perhaps Doc Robinson.

Grit said there wasn't anyone he knew in Provo who was wealthy until Hardy Redd moved to town. His family owned most of southern Utah, it seemed, but Hardy didn't know he had any money and was a hard worker anyway.

Unless one lived on a farm or had parents who ran the local drugstore, there was a lot of time for wool gathering and playing kick the can until we were old enough to pick cherries or baby-sit or do some other task that would help us get some pin money. Most families lacked the disposable cash that families have today that allows them to send their children to camps or let them spend summers pursuing individual talents.

Grit and his friend, Bob Oaks, had an experience between their junior and senior years of high school that no kids would be allowed nowadays. Because their first two weeks of summer were spent in the Utah National Guard, the jobs were taken by the time they were finished.

My husband doesn't remember how they came upon the idea or why their parents let them go so far away, except it was a financial necessity. He just remembers filling out an application, being grateful that he was accepted, and then traveling in a van with some other guys to northern Idaho.

White pine is premier lumber, so they spent the rest of the summer on crews to control blister rust in the Kineksu Forest. Sometimes they were called upon to fight fires, plus they lived with some pretty rough characters.

The real adventure came when it was time to return home. There was no van on the return, so rather than spend their hard-earned money they decided to thumb for rides. They got one to Dillon, Mont., but after that, no one would stop. Bob had grown a beard, making him look rather sinister, which likely eliminated some opportunities.

They were stranded; two young men desperate to keep every penny they had left. (Bob eventually used his money to pay dental bills and Grit clothes for school.)

Well, after many hours, and growing tired and frankly quite worried, they heard a train whistle. They both saw a train going by with a door open on one of the cars. They looked at each other and then ran like crazy to hop on the passing train, although they didn't know where it was going.

Their mothers' prayers must have been answered as they ended up in Pocatello, Idaho, and then caught rides home. When we told this story to our children, we also told them we would cut their thumbs off if they ever tried to catch a ride that way. Life had so changed in the ensuing 20 years that we were adamant we did not want them to take similar chances. But we did encourage them to get jobs. Doing those lousy summer jobs made them want to do better in school so they didn't have to spend the rest of their lives working a menial job.

There are many "help wanted" signs around town this summer, with seemingly no takers. For this reason we were surprised when three young men were laboring with machinery curbing our neighbor's gardens. I was curious, so I talked with them.

The three were two brothers and a friend. The two boys' father had the idea for them to start a curbing business to get them through college, which they named "Curb Crazy." Now they work summers and make enough to do just that. Plus, the older brother, Nick, is majoring in business at Utah Valley University and thereby getting some real hands-on experience in business management.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle."

Keeping kids busy is one thing. Teaching them to work and the value of a job well done pays rewards in the end.


E-mail: [email protected]