HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 2, 2007, Herald Journal

Those crazy college jobs


Sometimes, the jobs that sound somewhat boring are the ones that produce the funniest memories.

My first job, when I was 16, was a kitchen aid at a nursing home. It was usually very hot in that kitchen and the workload called for more staff than the management cared to employ.

Even though conditions at times were comparable to slave labor, we kitchen staff, which were mostly teenagers, managed to have some fun here and there.

We had water fights using feeding syringes, we choreographed new dance moves on the very wet washroom floor, and we joked with the residents when we had a spare minute.

As a side note, old men have always been very complimentary to me. Even on bad hair days, they would not be too shy to give a wink. Us women need those old guy comments sometimes, it makes us smile.

Anyway, one of my favorite memories was the time a very aggressive Alzheimer’s resident managed to escape the locked ward. He made his way down the elevator and I happened to see him break for it.

He was well known for swearing, pushing, and general grumpiness.

A hilarious maneuver soon ensued as the maintenance man, dressed in solid dark brown, ran out the door after him. The maintenance man pulled out his wallet, flipped it open in front of the resident’s face, and yelled, “Stop, police!”

The resident immediately stopped, threw his hands into the air, and became completely compliant as they led him back to his room.

That was big excitement for the normally sedentary atmosphere of the place.

Even after I went to college and had jobs on campus, I continued to work there every other weekend until I got married.

One college job I particularly enjoyed was a research position in the soil science department.

I researched the affects of different types of tillage on soil structure. For example, there were fields of test plots that would receive the same cropping practices except would be plowed in the fall by either ridge till, no till, or mold board plow.

Believe it or not, it was an interesting project, but an additional side project was somewhat strange.

From those same research plots, we would shovel soil into five-gallon buckets. Note, it is called soil, not dirt. Our professors always said, “Dirt is a four letter word. Dirt is something you track into your house on your shoes. Soil is the medium in which we produce crops that support and feed the population.”

Anyway, we collected at least 20 of these five-gallon buckets full of soil from the different tillage plots.

We would dump the buckets, one at a time, onto a tarp and count the number of earthworm eggs, baby earthworms, and adult worms.

Earthworm eggs kind of look like a cross between fertilizer pellets and fish eggs.

Then, the soil and its resident worms were placed back into buckets and set in a temperature-controlled refrigerator. Each week, the buckets would need to be watered.

Once per month, the number of earthworm “castings” (or worm poop) would need to be counted on the surface of the soil.

Worm counts and casting numbers were eventually used in identifying which tillage practice supported better worm numbers.

Why would the ag world care about earthworms? Because worms play an integral part in soil structure, which plays into nutrient management, which goes right on down the cropping system line.

As you may suspect, many a good time was had with these strange experiments. We would always joke, “Are we really getting paid to do this?”


I don’t let my boys say the word “stupid.” When I was first enforcing this, and my oldest was about four years old, I told him that it was a bad word. He replied, “No, it’s a Spanish word.”