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Funny how some things stay the same — even after 53 years

Life is Simple: Teenagers are still working the job I had when I was in high school.

Jerry Crownover

May 18, 2023

2 Min Read
Farmer leaning on fence during sunset

My first job away from the farm happened during the last couple of months of my senior year in high school. Along with four other boys in my class, I agreed to work at a local resort where every cent of our salary would go directly to the school to pay for our senior trip to Washington, D.C. Because most of us couldn’t afford the trip without this option, it was a good deal.

This particular resort was well-known as a premier destination for fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts, and many Midwestern businesses would, as a perk, send some of their employees there for a few days of food, fun and fishing. The resort charged a fee for all the fish that were caught, but because the companies were paying the bill, the fishermen would catch huge numbers of fish each day and bring them back to the main lodge, where the resort employees would clean, process and freeze the fish.

Numbing experience

Every Saturday and Sunday in March and April of that year, my friends and I cleaned hundreds of fish during our 8- to 10-hour days. I can remember how raw my thumbs and fingers would be from scraping, gutting and deboning those fish. The feeling would barely return to my hands before the next weekend would come along. But the desire to attend that week-long bus trip kept us going back.

That was 50-some years ago. The resort is still there, and more beautiful than ever. As a little getaway, after a long winter of feeding cattle and spring calving, I took my wife there this past weekend for some rest and relaxation. As we drove along the entrance to the resort, I could see that the river was full of fishermen in hip-waders, flexing their wrists with fly rods.

After we checked into our room, I made my way to the main lodge in search of snacks. The lady at the front desk informed me that there was a vending machine “way in the back of the building, right across from the fish cleaners.”

“I think I can find it,” I said.

Arriving at the vending machine, I realized that I didn’t have any change. In the adjoining area, three young men were working feverishly, sorting and cleaning dozens of stringers. I interrupted them to ask if anyone had change for a $20 bill. One young man, probably the youngest of the three, eagerly volunteered to help me and quickly produced my needed change.

I thanked him and added, “You know, 53 years ago, I worked at that same table, cleaning fish for the people who were staying here then.”

“Wow,” he replied, “I didn’t even know this place was around back then. Did you have fun working here?”

“I cleaned fish.”

Crownover raises beef cattle in Missouri.

About the Author(s)

Jerry Crownover

Jerry Crownover wrote a bimonthly column dealing with agriculture and life that appeared in many magazines and newspapers throughout the Midwest, including Wisconsin Agriculturist. He retired from writing in 2024 and now tells his stories via video on the Crown Cattle Company YouTube channel.

Crownover was raised on a diversified livestock farm deep in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. For the first few years of his life, he did without the luxuries of electricity or running water, and received his early education in one of the many one-room schoolhouses of that time. After graduation from Gainesville High School, he enrolled at the University of Missouri in the College of Agriculture, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1974 and a master's of education degree in 1977.

After teaching high school vocational agriculture for five years, Crownoever enrolled at Mississippi State University, where he received a doctorate in agricultural and Extension education. He then served as a professor of ag education at Missouri State University for 17 years. In 1997, Crownover resigned his position at MSU to do what he originally intended to after he got out of high school: raise cattle.

He now works and lives on a beef cattle ranch in Lawrence County, Mo., with his wife, Judy. He has appeared many times on public television as an original Ozarks Storyteller, and travels throughout the U.S. presenting both humorous and motivational talks to farm and youth groups.

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