Saturday, January 30, 2016

Memories of Jack

This past week I lost a long time teacher and mentor. I just wanted to take a moment for a post on this new blog to talk a little about memories of Jack. I started working for him around 14 or 15 years old and he had a lot to teach me. After college I moved away and set out on my own career path, but after a bachelor's degree and 54 hours of graduate study, I can say with certainty that there were valuable principles, lessons, and experiences I gleaned form working with Jack that I could have never learned in school. While I'm still paying on my educational debt, I'll never be able to price or repay the debt of gratitude I have having had the opportunity to work for him and learn the valuable things I learned.

I started working for him as he was winding down his CASE IH farm equipment dealership, helping him on his farm  (dairy, beef, and alfalfa hay) and propane business, as well as maintenance and construction projects associated with his son's rental properties and several houses he was involved in building. At this time he was in his 70's and that was 20 years ago; it never struck me how old he was to speak of his agelessness. Through his acquaintance, I was also able to obtain occasional work with the county surveyor. Lots of fun filled after school and summer adventures.

Here are a few quotes (they may not be originally his own but I associate them with him)  and experiences:

  • The first time helping him in the hay field, he would not let me start until I could demonstrate tying a square knott
  • "a fool and his money soon part" 
  • "behind the 'at'" he would say if I ever asked "where is it at" - not even my English teacher taught me that.... 
  • Lessons on  work ethic, the labor markets, regulation, and entrepreneurship that made economics course work come naturally appealing later in college, I probably could not have learned more from Hayek himself
  • "a cat can't catch mice in mittens"
  • "don't butcher me up"- anytime I got a little reckless driving any number of things I probably should have had a license to operate
  • Two people can put up a lot of alfalfa hay. 
  • "if half the decisions in life you make are correct, you'll do OK"
  • How to drive anything from a forklift, tractor, bobtail propane truck, to an eighteen wheeler.
  • How to use sand to move an 18 wheeler up a 6% grade covered in snow and ice
  • Cutting power lines with a bolt cutter from a forklift and living to tell about it
  • Jack was a WWII veteran
  • Even on the most frustrating days, and after I may have made the worst of mistakes, I never saw the man get angry....he never let a teachable moment go to waste
There are things that I have left out I'm sure. This is a working list...I'm sure it will grow.

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