The Last Windrow: Here's hoping students find a summer job they like

Columnist John Wetrosky says that wasn't always the case during his summer college years

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"You guys want to make a little extra money?"

What could be better than that for a broke college student with loans to pay back?

College students will soon be set free from the confines of education and many of them will be or already have sought out summer employment.

The lucky ones will land a job in a field that they enjoy. Others will take what they can get.

I was in the latter category during my college years. Since my dad couldn't afford me on the farm, I was out the door and looking for work. (I still had to do chores when I returned for the weekend.)


My first college summer job was at a livestock/grain trailer manufacturer. My cousin was a foreman at the plant and "got me in." I did appreciate his help and I did reap a check.

I worked behind a steel shear cutting sheets of steel into smaller pieces. It was about as low on the pay scale that one could get in that factory.

Day after day, hour after hour the steel would come clamoring down the apron of the shear to be stacked by me. The two men running the shear seemed to delight in cutting the metal as fast as I could stack it. I'm sure they wanted to see what would make me squeak, but I stayed with it until they were done playing their games.

I did get a check at the end of the week. Every time one of those trailers passes me on the interstate, I think of that place and that summer job.

My second year I ditched the trailer factory in favor of a feed mill. At least I thought with my farm background I might relate better to a feed bag than a steel shear and so I applied and — surprise! I was accepted.

Immediately I was put to work at the end of a conveyor belt that spewed out 50-pound bags of feed as fast as the guys in the back could fill them. I believe I was being watched to see if I could keep up. I heard my fellow employees chuckling at lunch time and I thought they were chuckling about me.

But, I showed them that a farm boy could keep up, and as I stood in a pool of sweat at the end of the belt I showed them what I was made of. I think the manager was impressed.

He ambled over to me one late afternoon and acted overly friendly. That's when he uttered the phrase at the beginning of this column. I and another broke summer college student immediately saw dollar signs and agreed to whatever he wanted us to do.


It seems that a train car full of fish meal from Nova Scotia destined for this Iowa feed plant had somehow ended up in Washington state. The train car had finally made its way back to this plant and needed to be unloaded. That was the task at hand and into the car we went with our carts.

Each bag weighed in at around 100 pounds and we were expected to load seven bags to each of our carts. It didn't help that many of the bags were broken from the trip. We earned 50 cents above our pay scale.

I drove into our farmyard that evening and when I got out of my car, every cat on the farm came running and followed me into the house. It took me three weeks of hanging pine tree deodorant from my rearview mirror to get rid of the fish smell.

But, I got a check.

College students will be seeking summer employment as this column is written. I hope they find something they like to do. Not my luck.

See you next time. Okay?

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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