Painting The Crossroad


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This story was sent in Sept. lst 2002
to CBC Radio, Fresh Air Show hosted by Jeff Goodes.
It was read on air Sept. 8th 2002.



          There were two reasons why the Mining Companies in the small Northern Manitoba towns provided summer jobs for the older teenage boys: to give a bit of spending money, and in a rather subtle way, to keep them off the streets.

        Britannica Mining and Smelting in Snow Lake, was no exception.

        I had been assigned to the paint crew and had spent the summer painting the various pipes their identifying colours. After working at this relatively easy job, I certainly was enjoying the new found freedom, which comes with having a few dollars in my pocket. Even after contributing one-third to the family budget, I still had quite a bit left over.

        “This working for a living was certainly better than high school,” I concluded, so it was with great fanfare, one evening after supper, I announced I was going to quit school and keep working.

        Mother, as anticipated, went off on one of her spiels expounding how I was too young to quit school; my whole life was ahead of me; I had to have an education; etc. It was anticipated lecture.

         I wasn’t listening because I was waiting for Dad’s reaction.

        When nothing seemed to be forthcoming, my internal encouragement meter rose to new heights.

        “So, you want to quit school?” he asked in a tone that was somewhat unnerving.

        “That’s for sure,” I said. “I like painting much better. It’s easy and its a lot easier than school.”

        “Um-hum,” Dad agreed, at least it sounded like an agreement. “You realize, of course, that those jobs end when school starts.”

        “Er, no. I didn’t know that.”

        “But, that’s okay, Dad carried right on. “Maybe we can find you another job.”

        “Sure,” I said, taking the bait, hook, line and sinker.

        Dad spread the Winnipeg Tribune on the table, and turned to the want ads.

        “Let’s see what you are qualified for. What skills do you have? You can paint pipes. Here. Look through the listings for a pipe painter.”

        My scrambled search yielded nothing.

       “Well, what else can you do?”

        I could not think of anything.

        My aspirations sagged.

        “They had you shovelling in the crushing plant for a while, didn’t they? Maybe there is a need for diggers.”

        Of course, there wasn’t.

        My shoulders began to sag.

        “I think there is a section for unskilled people. Have a look there.”

        I had a determined look. Nothing. Even here, the minimum requirements were Grade Twelve.

        Now, it felt like my ears were sagging.

        “There is nothing here, either.” I admitted.

        Dad didn’t offer anything. When I looked up him. I noticed the small smile on his face. I knew I had been led down the proverbial path of self-realization.

       “Well, it looks like I'll be going back to school.”

        That was the year I took my entire Grade Eleven by correspondence and passed. It also lead to University and a career in teaching.


  © J. Graham Ducker