If At First by Lester L Weil

Photo by Alois Komenda on Unsplash

from Family Histories – Floyd

People back east think Tucson is always warm. But at 6:30 on a January morning with frost on the ground, I’m glad I brought my heavy mackinaw with me from Ohio. The word is out that the Pacific Fruit Express is hiring and there are a whole bunch of us standing around waiting. 

As we wait I hunch my shoulders against the wind. I really need a job. I don’t know much about painting railroad cars, but how complicated can it be. And it has to be a whole lot better than working in the coal mine. Almost anything would beat the coal mine and black lung. 

I can still hear the doctor’s words. “Well Floyd, you’ve got black lung and two choices. You can go to Arizona or you can die.” So here I am in Tucson waiting for the man who does the hiring. 

There is a general stirring among the men and here he comes. I am fifth in line. He hires the first guy, says no to the second, hires the next two and says no to me. It seems pretty arbitrary. I walk away but I’m thinking that I need this job, so I take off my mack and get in line again. When I get to the front of the line I get hired. 

As soon as I can I put my mackinaw back on. It’s cold! 

Lester L Weil is an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder, ex-magazine editor. He is retired in Arizona near the Mexico border.

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