Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 2, 2013

Through seasons of change, warm memories and blessings this holiday

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— I was going through a phase in the summer of 1966 when I was working at Green Cove Farms. It was my second summer at the farm owned by someone from Pittsburgh who was in the steel business. He told the farm manager to give college-bound kids summer jobs so they could save money for college. I remember two things from that summer that still remind me of the time. The first thing was that I enjoyed eating balogna sandwiches with butter on them for my lunch and the second was that I listened to the Byrds’ recording of the Pete Seeger song, “Turn Turn Turn,” every morning before I drove to work.

I liked “Turn Turn Turn” because I understood the lyrics. Of course, the song is based on the third chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes, a beautiful passage in the Bible that speaks to life’s transitions. Back in those years, not many of the older people in my life cared very much for rock ’n’ roll music, but the Byrds were a rock group, and they performed a hit song with a religious meaning. At the time, my mom was working at the post office and had to open it up for the carriers every morning at 5:30 a.m. Dad was selling cars at C. Powell Chevrolet and didn’t start until 9 a.m. My sister and brother usually slept in, so I was the only one up getting ready to leave for work at 7 a.m.

There was no one in the house to tell me that balogna and butter on white bread wasn’t a good choice for a dinner bucket. It was OK though. I put an apple and some cookies in my lunch bucket too, heated up water and drank hot chocolate before I went to work. I considered the time I spent listening to the Byrds as being my morning meditations. When it was time to go to work, I felt refreshed and ready to work.

None of the doors were ever locked. We knew all of our neighbors, and liked a majority of them. I think Mom even liked as much as 75 to 80 percent of them. No one I knew would enter someone else’s house without an invitation, and there was no need to post the Golden Rule anywhere. Everyone knew it by heart.

I carried that Norman Rockwell America attitude with me when I moved to Morgantown, but it didn’t last long. I had a little Datsun 610 that I rarely locked, and I parked it out in front of the apartment where I lived after returning home from working an evening shift. I was dirt poor at the time, but someone got inside the car during the early morning hours, ransacked the glove compartment and even dumped the ashtray on the floor — I guess in a search for drugs and money. I lock my car doors every time I get out of my car anymore. I don’t have much of value, but I just don’t like the idea of someone looking through my car.

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3;1.

As I look back on that time, I remember how hard the work was. Among other things, I was one of the two kids who rode the back of the wheat combine, held the 100-pound feed sack on the chute, tied off the bags when they got full and slid them down a metal ramp where they were loaded on a truck. Just the thought of that work still causes me to cough. It was a dusty job, but it was something that needed to be done. We probably only had to ride the combine about one week during the entire summer.

“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Ecclesiastes 3;2.

The reason that I bring all of this up is because it’s Labor Day; a day when working men and women are supposed to relax before having to go back to work. Some people get to work on Labor Day, and that’s not such a bad thing. It’s a blessing to be able to work and support a family. Some jobs can be frustrating and all jobs can be stressful at times, but from my experience, any job beats no job. The guys I worked with at the Westside Sewage Treatment Plant called me Br’er Rabbit, because I didn’t mind getting thrown into the brier patch to do the most difficult, stinking, thankless job there was.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3;4.

I read those words at my mother-in-law’s committal service, and I smiled thinking about how much I enjoyed her friendship and her love. I miss her so much, but I can’t stop thinking about how blessed I have been to have had her in my life. In all things, God has blessed me richly, and I’m thankful for all of the blessings that I enjoy this Labor Day 2013.

Bill Archer is senior editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at