I lease a barn and acreage a few miles outside of town where i keep six horses.  I hire high school and college kids to do all the dirty and heavy work that i can't or don't want to do.  Since the mid 90's i have had absolute hell (with two notable exceptions) finding kids who would, show up or even call if they couldn't get there, do more than the absolute minimum and that not well, couldn't walk from point A. to point B. without supervision or a map to get to point C or showed any interest in doing much.  I even had one who was paid in advance who decided that he didn't want to work for a couple of weeks so just gave me my money back.  I guess that was better than not giving it back but i was counting on him.  i had one who didn't show one day/no call and left me a note the next day that she was doing something with a friend and forgot to come to work.  Two days in a row she didn't show up/no call then left me a note that her i phone had been stolen so she lost all her contacts would i please text her my phone number.  She had worked for me for almost a year and i'm in the phone book and my home number ends in four zeros. (maybe it was the trauma of losing the phone.)


A week ago i hired a new kid.  Varsity football, student council, FFA. wants to go the Airforce Academy.  When i spoke with him i was concerned about all the activities plus school.  He assured me no problem he would get it done the only problem would be Friday nights when he had a game during football season but his brother would cover for him on Friday night and he would work Saturday to be sure everything was done.  Amazing, let's see what happens.


This little job means letting six horses out of their stalls every morning before school.  Bad weather means feeding them and watering them in the barn before school.  Coming back after school to clean stalls, clean out the wash rack, keep the tool room and saddle house organized and tack oiled, haul off the trash, feed the dogs and cats, bring the horses in feed and water them, be alert for anything wrong with the animals that requires calling me.  Plus keeping the arena and barn alley raked. 7 days a week

And it pays a whopping 300.00 a month plus a tank of gas.  The upside is i pay in advance, they don't keep hours, school is a priority, they get paid even if they are out of town on school trips  or hit the high spots six week test week and i do it myself while they are at the Houston Livestock show for a week showing a pig or a goat.  Yes friends, kids in Texas raise pigs and goats and steers then show and sell them to earn money for college or a car.

So my new kid shows up on his first day.  I give him a quick walk through and a list and i am out of there.  I come back late evening to ride and work with my horses.  Not only does everything look better than it has in 10 years there is a note on the dry board in the barn that says, "Ms. McCartt, thank you for the opportunity to work for you." If there is anything else i can do call me or leave a note.".  And this is only the beginning  by Wednesday it looked like a show barn.  Hmmm maybe i have found the one kid in the world whose daddy taught him how to work.  I called him and said, " Ian, would you like to gather up four or five of your friends and move some hay tomorrow ."  "Yes ma'am, i will have them there by 1:00 and we will get it done."

I met four boys at a storage barn holding 300 bales of hay that weigh about 65 to 70 lbs each and the temps are hitting 100.

These kids are 14, 15, 16 years old.  Moving hay from the storage barn and stacking it in stalls in the big barn will convnce any kid that they must have a college education or know a trade other than hay moving in the heat.  When i came back at 4:00 they were going strong.  I handed each of them a 50 dollar bill and said , "dont kill yourselves it is murderous hot, do the rest tomorrow."  What came next gives me hope for the future, an insight into the upside of a recession, if there is one and a clear vision that we have a generation of kids coming up who didn't get a trophy for showing up.


When i handed each of them what i thought was too little for the hard, hot and dirty work they were doing each one of them said, "Thank you so much for the Opportunity to work for you.".  They didn't say it once, they said it over and over.   All of them. That was followed by , "We are going to be here for a while, we are not going to leave it half done."  Holy God,  thinking i was hallucinating, i jumped in the car, ran back to town, cashed a check and was back at 7:00 with lots more 50 dollar bills.  300 bales of hay had been moved on top of all the barn work done.  4 young men were smiling like Chessie cats when i passed out the greenbacks and thanked them for more than a good days work for a good days pay.

And they said it again, "THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK".  One explained that he had been calling everybody he could think of just to do something, anything for the summer and after school.  Another said he had worked for his uncle, but business was slow so his uncle had to keep his full time employees busy so his job had ended.

Does this sound familiar?  It did to me.  But ,what was different, very different from what i hear most days from the young stars that have come of school in the past 8 to 10 years as well as a lot of Gen x.  They were grateful for an opportunity to work, they weren't whining about no jobs or being laid off or talking about how cool they were.  They didn't quit when they could have and finish the next day.  They didn't know there was another round of 50 dollar bills on the way, they were glad to get the first round.


What happened as a result of what i saw yesterday.  I hired the younger brother of my first new hire on a perm part time.  The older brother offered to split his money with the younger one so i didn't have to pay both.  No way kids, there is plenty to do out here, both of you are on the payroll.  As for the other two.  We will be building a new fence starting next week, all the saddles need cleaning and oiling.  After that i will figure out what else needs to be done.  And that my friends is how jobs are created.  By a generation or a sample of , I hope, a generation who just want an opportunity to work.

It's been a long time since i heard "Thank you for the opportunity".  It's been a long time since i have seen young kids work like these boys did, with pride in how it was done, pride that they got it done and hoping for another opportunity.


So watch out Millenials, while you are worrying about your "personal brand" and fussing about it if you have to work overtime and your company doesn't give you lunch and facebook at work.  I think i have just seen a generation coming out of this recession who already know what it feels like not to be able to find a job or get laid off.  They are looking for an opportunity to work.  And you know what? Not one of them asked me what it paid before they jumped at the chance.


And maybe just maybe this experience blows a hole in that mantra that illegals are doing jobs that Americans won't do.

I think it may be time to shut those borders down and give our kids "AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK"

Views: 1019

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 1, 2012 at 8:18pm

True Denise.  I thank the recruiting Gods every day that i have been fortunate enough through this mess to be able to pay somebody else to do something who wants to work.  Help some people find something when they were thinking that they might never work again and spend countless hours talking some people back from the brink until they did find something.  I hate recessions, been through several of them, but i have sure seen people have a different outlook on jobs, working and how they handle themselves after they have been through one. 

Comment by Sarah Calverley on August 2, 2012 at 2:04am

I love this story - it has warmed me up on a wintery Sydney day.  Thanks Sandra.  This is how I was raised, work and work hard.  Say thanks for the opportunity to work - because it most certainly is an opportunity! You are doing a wonderful thing.


And you are such an excellent writer! :)

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 2, 2012 at 2:11am

Thanks Sarah, that is kind of you.  And thanks more than you know for reminding me that there will be winter again.  at 105 today i would gladly trade you more warmth than this story.  :)

Comment by Joshua Lee on August 4, 2012 at 1:34am

Great inspiring story.  I think many of us have seen and heard about disappointing story after another, especially about the so called "younger generations".  It kind of paints a grim picture of the future.  Good thing those are just generalizations and not the entire truth. 

Not to be a wet blanket, but isn't it sad?  50 years ago, what these kids did in your story would have been considered the "generalization"....the "norm" of the times.  Now we jump out of our seats and hand them more money than we had originally promised.  Why?  Because they did what was asked of them, smiled, showed gratitude and said "thank you".  

Well gosh darnit.  Call me old fashioned but really, that's what should be expected.

In addition, I'd like to make a point that your first hire was an athlete.  The thing that athletes have in common with success (hate to stereotype) is that they know how to endure suffering to achieve a goal.  All that working out and training aint easy.  Same is true for college students who get good grades.  In some sense its true that good grades have no real correlation to how someone will do in the real world on the job.  However, I'd take my chances with an A or B student or a proven athlete than a gamer, slacker, or social buttery fly anyway.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 4, 2012 at 3:07am

Very true Josh.  generational generalizations happen based on the actions and attitudes of the majority in that generation albeit there are always exceptions.  You have a point that it is kind of a downer that we are willing to pay more for what should be expected and reasonable behavior but when general behavior has been so bloody shoddy for a decade it truly is such a delight to see willing, enthusiastic, hard working kids who don't ask for something before they earn it that i am more than happy to throw money at them to reinforce that behavior.


I also agree that kids who work at athletics are taught self discipline and accountability if they want to be part of the team.  I see the same thing with kids who take care of animals.  Not talking about the family dog or cat that mom or dad feeds and takes care of if junior forgets.  The 4H kids who are responsible for the care and feeding of livestock have more of a sense of responsibility earlier because if they don't do it something dies or gets sick.  And it is just hard work.  Maybe if mom or dad insisted that kids really do have to feed the family pet that might be a good place to restart.  Interestingly one of the eggs (evil great grand sons :) who is five is all turned on about a computer game where he buys, sells and trades fish and has to take care of them virtually.  If he forgets to feed them or do what the game says he has to do they die and are gone from the game.  He lost two fish a couple of weeks ago because he lost his ipod during a family move.  He cried for two days because his fish died.  His mom was ready to buy him two new fish but we decided to let him work through it.  Thinking i was going to impart some great knowledge on his little head i asked him what he felt like he needed to do and what made him cry so much.

He looked me right in the eye and said, "I spent all my allowance on those fish and i didn't get to have a funeral when they died."


Still trying to make it a teaching moment i asked him if he had thought about it that if he had been responsible for keeping up with his ipod and feeding his fish they would not have died and he would not have lost his investment of his allowance.


Big tears welled up and he said, "I know that Mims but what really makes me sad is that i missed the damn funeral."


I'm sure he must have heard that somewhere, he is five.  I gave it up.  Looked at him and said, "get in the car, you are going to the barn with me.  You get to help Ian clean up your pony's stall.  If you had not lost your ipod your fish would not have died and you would not have missed the damn funeral, do you get it?"


His reponse, "Yes ma'am", pony poop stinks."


Me, "Right, so remember that the next time you miss a damn funeral."


I dunno, maybe i should turn him over to somebody who would just take the ipod away if the fish died.  But he didn't get paid for helping at the barn, maybe it is enough that he is sad because he missed the damn funeral.

Comment by Joshua Lee on August 4, 2012 at 3:23pm

LOL....crazy funny stuff. :)  

Real life is way better than fiction!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 4, 2012 at 4:08pm
And people ask me why I don't retire. The youngest "egg" is much too challenging. Who knows he may be the one who will take over this recruiting business. Maybe I can bring him in young.
Comment by Mark on August 6, 2012 at 3:27pm

Great story!  I'm former Air Force so I gotta say that I especially liked the part about the kid wanting to attend the Air Force Academy. 

The work ethic is not dead, it's simply more rare than it used to be.  Normal has been redefined.  When I was that boy's age, normal was a part-time job because you didn't have any money without one.  My buddies and I all worked because only a little kid would ask his folks for money.  Any of my running buddies would have been embarrassed.

Now, all we recruiters have to do is convince hiring managers that a young kid with no experience and a great work ethic is someone worth taking a chance on.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 6, 2012 at 3:53pm

So true Mark.  The growing up process used to be pride in making our own running money instead of holding out our little cup shaped claws.

I am seeing more employers paying attention to whether a kid worked during school or not.  That went away for a while , used to be a strong consideration and something i made new grads put on a resume even if it were part time at the fast food joint.  I am going back to that and selling it to employers when i present a new grad.

Know anyone at the academy?  I am already starting to write letters for this kid.  :)

Comment by Mark on August 6, 2012 at 5:05pm

I don't know anyone there but I do know that he'll need a congressional recommendation. 

Pretty good link:  http://collegeapps.about.com/od/collegeprofiles/p/air-force.htm


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