My grandpa owned a small grocery store on main street in my hometown. Woolley’s Shopping Basket was the one-stop shop for bread, bologna, and the latest gossip. It was also the check-in and processing station every deer and turkey season. You shot it, he made it ready to eat.
My grandparents had six daughters, no boys. Each girl grew up learning all about the man’s trades. That’s how their grandchildren were raised too. I remember as a little girl, standing outside watching all the people coming and going, bragging about the deer they just shot. My aunts and the cousins old enough to work were all in assembly line. Check the deer in, hang it up, skin it, take it to the freezer, and off to the next one.
I wanted to be a part of that so bad! I used to carry a plastic knife and pretend I was somebody important. I couldn’t wait for the day my grandpa would tell me I could trade in the plastic for a real knife and get to work. Finally he did. I was eight years old and got to skin my first deer! At this point you’re probably thinking I really need a life, but it’s one of the greatest memories of my life. It was the first time I remember feeling like I was part of something important.
You may call it child labor, I call it the experience of a lifetime. I’ll try and save you most of the gory details. It’s a memory that I will keep forever. For three weeks our family was together non-stop. We worked, we played, we talked, we were happy. It seemed that the rest of the world didn’t exist during that time. It was just the Woolley’s, no one else.
I did it every year from that point on. One of the biggest highlights of that job? I got to skin the deer of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Tom Henke – not everyone can put that on their list of accomplishments I’ll spare you the words my grandpa said to me under his breath if I messed that one up. That job taught me the principles of working hard, saving my money, and how important relationships are. I only wish that store was around today to teach my children the values that I learned.