I was born and raised on a pork and dairy farm just outside of a town so small that it took the IRS three tries to find it. The directions to the farm started with "Once you leave the blacktop...". A lot happened in 1970 just across the state line into Virginia. Mom and Pop didn't care much about what happened outside the county except for the commodity prices. It was the year I was born. I'm Harry, by the way. Harry Turner. I learned a lot by watching my dad and Uncle Walt fix everything on the farm that needed fixin'. By the time I went to high school in Beverley Springs I could milk a cow, plow a row, frame in and mount a door or window, run in a grounded circuit and hook it up to the breaker box, rebuild our lawn mower, Blow a stump with a quarter stick, kill a deer, butcher it or a hog and prepare the carcass for the smoke house. I didn't much like doin' the laundry but I helped out all I could with the vegetable garden and with the canning. My brothers and I were hell on wheels with our .22 rifles. We kept the rats out of the corn cribs and the foragers out of the garden. We hunted for the pot, too.
I made it out of high school a couple years early and tested pretty high on the SAT. I got a free ride to the University of West Virginia in Morgantown because I did so well on the math section, I guess. I always did test well. It was the fall of 1985 when I drove into Morgantown in my pickup. It looked like hell, but I'd torn it down to the frame and rebuilt it. It was a 1938 Chevy stake bed truck. It had a foot locker full of clothes and my tool boxes in the back. I was towing a rebuilt single-axle diesel-powered Lincoln welder. I sure wasn't some flower child with rose-colored glasses. I was a farm kid ready to grab two fists full of what was mine and hang on for the fight.
My first two weeks were spent taking CLEP tests. That took care of my math up to and including stats and calculus, three semesters of Spanish and two courses in English. I started a journal for one of my English courses that I couldn't finagle my way out of.
I learned a lot about electronics and the theory behind electro-magnetic propagation, both in wires and through the air. I ended up making my spare money welding for the campus maintenance department and the agronomy folks that taught city kids how to use tractors and farm implements without killing themselves.
I also took enough courses for a minor through their education department, following the principle that you never fire the teachers or the garbage men. No matter how tough times got I'd find a job somewhere.
I tried to hook up with a few pretty girls, but when they found out I wasn't a party boy I got dropped like a hot rock. It depressed me for a while, then I figured out that they were after good times and a free ride. They'd never had made good wife material. They were stuck mentally as teen-agers. Some folk never grow up. I tucked in my chin and left it all behind like a fart in a wind storm.
Late one night I got to wondering why a specific FET transistor cascade acted the way it did--it had a second, higher-power plateau. It wouldn't leave me alone, and by the time I figured out what was happening I had a Ph.D and a patent. A few more ideas later followed by a few more patents and they kicked me off the campus with a MS degree in electrical engineering and minors in math and education. That was all right with me--collegiate bureaucracy didn't agree with my disposition. It made me want to punch people or test an axe handle to destruction.
It was the spring of 1992 that I drove back to the farm to help out. Mom and dad had a lot more gray hair and moved a lot slower. Uncle Walt had a run-in with a plow and lost. He was living in town in a nursing home. He'd never walk again. Once I came back I made sure that he made it to the table for Sunday dinners. He bitched a lot about it, but I could tell that he appreciated getting out of that place regularly, just by watching his face.
Despite my patent annuities, I wanted to increase my income and working on the farm just wasn't doing it. Brother Tom wanted no part of farming--he didn't want to work that hard for a living. I talked it over with mom and pop. They knew that the day was coming, but agonized over it nonetheless. The farm had provided them with honest-to-God 'living' wages and provided for bringing up three boys for nearly half a century. However, the economy of farming had shifted to benefit the big factory farms, just as the majority of the family-owned corner groceries, drug stores, butcher shops and hardware stores had folded because the chain stores had buying power that they had no chance of matching. They were fractionally nickeled and dimed to death. People writing the news said that it was just the passing of an age, but they were murdered by way of cold, calculated economic warfare nonetheless.
The farm was sold to a grain combine, which meant that at least the land would be kept in production and not paved over for housing developments. With the price of productive land being so high, the farm sold for over four million dollars. Mom and dad took a half million to retire on. Uncle Walt took four hundred thousand dollars out of the kitty and moved in with them, along with a full-time nurse in a nice house way down south in Hillsboro, where the winter wasn't quite so unpredictable. The family insisted that since my brother and I were the only ones that needed a grubsteak to grow with, we split the rest. Jim had died in the 'sandbox', despite his being the best shot of all three of us. A roadside bomb blew his ass to flinders. Brother Tom was happy just pulling down a paycheck and banked his half for bad times. To tell you the truth, I think he was the smartest of all of us despite working as a grease monkey in an antique restoration shop.
Once the tax man savaged us like a rabid dog, Tom and I were each left with $925.000.00 and a bad case of shell-shock. I talked my brother into investing in a small fluid fund with a good ROI and sticking the rest into long-term futures--investments in rare-earth elements that were necessary for sophisticated electronics.
I followed them south in case one of them took a spill and needed some help. Tom moved to Charleston to follow the demand. Would you think that I could find a decent job around Hillsboro that didn't involve cleaning hotel rooms or the fast food industry? Hell, no. I fell back on my education minor and applied at the local district. They needed a math teacher--and a basketball coach. Like I knew shit about basketball. Right away I worked my way into teaching industrial arts, drafting and building trades. An anonymous donor "ahem." funded a CAD-CAM lab, a CNC lathe and a reconditioned 3-D CNC milling machine. It didn't take long before we started turning out kids, male and female, that could walk right into jobs fresh out of school.
Over the summers I brushed up on my welding and got a few industry certs, refreshed my CAD-CAM certs and did repair work for a local sawmill.
The next year I added a high-pressure water-cutting table to the school's shop. It was simple to integrate into the CAD lab with the vendor's code libraries.
It was about 1998 that the equipment needed refurbishing. Being the short-sighted sons-of-bitches that they were, the entire program was scrapped and the equipment was sold off for ten percent of its market value rather than invest any money in updating the equipment that would benefit the students without any payoff for the teachers. What a great union. What great benefits, eh? All that left a bad taste in my mouth that wouldn't quit.
I was deeply pissed. Rather than get my hands dirty I cashed in some of my investments and had the union officials investigated down to a level rarely pursued short of a military security check or a vetting by the Secret Service. A college student with a hair up his ass agreed to break into the paste-up server for a daily D.C. newspaper to disseminate the official's records, then carefully prune the server's access logs of any incriminating entries.
Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky mining folk don't take well to people wearing suits fucking with their kid's educations.
Admittedly, a lot of relatively innocent teacher's union officials got tarred with the same brush. Soon there was a deep void where the union representation used to be. A few state representatives and senators disappeared as well. Quite a few people at the NEA quit over personal health issues. The D.C. police were confounded over the number of bodies found floating in roadside ditches across the county. A damning picture was drawn after the employment histories of the deceased were compiled. One pointing at payola in educational markets and their special interest groups.
I figured that it was about time to get out of the business before some righteous warrior with a 6th. grade diploma decided to burn me at the stake for my hand in matters. I'd spent the last four summers working at a local sawmill. I talked the manager into taking me on full-time. The income was a lot better than teaching ever paid, I didn't have to grade any papers at night and I didn't have to deal with nearly as many fucking idiots.
It was a good gig while it lasted. After three years Manny had to pull the plug. He'd been running at a deficit for a few years and didn't see the industry picking up for the plywood and custom wood market that close to DC. I tried to turn him onto the specialty woods marine market, but it just didn't work out.
I had enough cash in the bank to prepare for a project I'd been thinking about.
.... There is more of this story ...