Funny you should ask ... Tim Gamble

How did you get your first job?

I learned early on, that if you want any money, you’ll have to earn it. My dad was a World War II Navy man, retired after his enlistment but forever disciplined. Everything always had to be buttoned-down and ship-shape. Every Saturday morning, he posted a list, a sign-up sheet of all the chores that needed to be done and what each task would pay.

My older brother and sister would elbow me out to sign up for the easy jobs, leaving me with the jobs we all hated to do. I always got stuck mowing the lawn, sweeping the pool, and picking up the rotted, stinking fruit that had fallen off the many citrus trees in the yard.

One year, as a 9-year-old budding artist, I decided to make a few extra dollars by hand painting Christmas cards and selling them door-to-door. The design was a grapefruit tree, done in watercolor with a star on the top. As I went around the neighborhood, everyone was very accepting, and I was sold out in no time.

At one of the first few houses I went to, a lady asked me if I’d like to make another quarter. She said she would pay me if I cut up her Christmas tree for the trash collector. She told me she would leave it by the carport after the new year. I said great.

I only bring this up because that was the hardest quarter I ever earned. By the next Christmas there were no more painted cards, no more sawing trees, instead I collected about 25 trees at a dollar apiece and dragged them back to my house. As I went around the neighborhood collecting trees, I told everyone they were invited to a tree burning party, a big, beautiful bonfire and barbecue.

I stacked all those trees in a shallow pit I had dug in the vacant field across from our house. The pile was huge. My mom asked me what I was doing. I told her that we’re hosting a hot dog and soda bonfire tonight for about 50 people. She looked at me, as she often did, with a combination of shock and confusion. After she let that soak in for a minute, she said she didn’t think she had enough food for that many people. I told her they wouldn’t be here for another hour or so and could she go to the supermarket and get what she needed. Mom said that a party for 50 people is going to be expensive, so I gave her the $25 I earned.

Mom set up the grill and a table with paper plates and napkins as everyone was showing up. My dad came home about then and seemed a bit bewildered. I explained what we were doing, and could he help me start the bonfire when the sun went down. He said he could do better than that and grabbed his guitar and started a sing-along.

When it was time, my dad lit the fire and within seconds it was a huge scary conflagration. Within minutes the police and fire department showed up with lights and sirens. The fire guys were getting ready to put the fire out, but my mom told them what we were doing. She said it would all be over before you know it and invited them to join us for a hot dog and a soda.

My dad started playing his guitar again and the crowd joined in singing until the fire went down to coals. Everyone left, the firemen put out the embers, and my dad got a fine for open burning.

The field across from our house where we burned the trees
The field across from our house where we burned the trees


back to the stories | home

© Tim Gamble 2023 all rights reserved