Discover more from The Daly Grind
The Best Friends in Town Were Down on the Farm
Bussing tables as a teen at a Lakewood restaurant paid lifelong dividends.
When I was 16, I applied to be a busboy at a popular family restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado called the White Fence Farm. The large, farm-themed establishment was owned by a Christian conservative family, and they hired me pretty quickly (I think in part because of my clean-cut appearance).
But just a few days after I started, I was ready to quit. It wasn’t the surprisingly physical, fast-paced nature of the work (a lot of time-sensitive lifting and carrying) that bothered me; that was fine. The problem was my coworkers. The guy who trained me on my first night was a nice enough dude, but the ones I was paired with over the next few nights were — for lack of a better term — assholes.
They really were. This wasn’t a perception versus reality type deal. They were genuine, sneering, five-star assholes.
Two of them in particular (who I later discovered were cousins, so maybe it was a genetic condition) not only had little patience for a wide-eyed newbie like me, but went well out of their way (in some cases to get a rise out of others) to make my efforts to learn the job, and fit in, especially difficult.
But I hung in there, and I’m glad I did. Over time, I built good relationships with other people, and I became pretty good at what I did. Before long, the assholes were marginalized (I think one might have even gotten himself fired) and the restaurant became a much more welcoming place.
This was great, because while I wasn’t very popular in high school, that didn’t matter down on the farm. With nearly all of my coworkers going to other schools, the restaurant gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself… at least socially. And I took full advantage it.
Over the next fear years, while completing high school and a couple semesters of community college (before transferring to a university up north), I built strong, enduring friendships at the restaurant. And each new employee (some of whom I trained) felt like another potential friend — a member of my farm family. It was a big family too, since the restaurant itself was quite large. And unlike in school, I was one of the popular kids — someone whose company others enjoyed as much as I enjoyed theirs.
Large groups of us would head out after work for a bite to eat and a ton of laughs. We’d go to movies. We’d go to parties together, the wildest ones thrown by older coworkers. We’d drive up to the mountains in the summer for overnight camping trips (organized by yours truly). I even moonlighted at other jobs with a couple of my farm buddies. One was later the best man at my wedding.
It was a great experience, and I don’t think I realized until years later just how important it was to my growth as a person. Beyond concepts of work-ethic, accountability, and responsibility, I developed confidence, and learned a lot about relationships and what holds them together. I honestly can’t imagine how much differently my life may have turned out if not for being there, with those people, at that time in my life.
I also took with me stories. Oh so many stories — several of which I still tell today, not just to friends for an easy laugh, but also in my writing. A number of those teenage moments have turned up, in one form or another, in my books. In fact, I’ll occasionally receive a late-night text from an old fellow farmer asking if a passage or character in the Sean Coleman Thriller they’re reading was based on a person or event they remember… the answer of which is almost always yes (though I dance around actually saying that, since I’d rather not be sued).
I don't see the old crew very often these days. Now in our early fifties and late forties, and spread out across the state with families of our own, it’s kind of difficult. But we do get together on occasion, either one on one or in a group. We did the latter last weekend (which is why I chose to write about this topic today), and the conversations were nearly as warm, comfortable, and candid as they were back in the old days.
While nostalgia certainly plays a role in this lasting bond, I think part of it also comes from having seen and experienced each other at a pivotal stage in our lives, when we were quite impressionable, vulnerable, and in some cases pretty awkward. We made mistakes, including some big ones. We made fools of ourselves. We did dumb and reckless stuff that we can only shake our heads at today (even if some of us still haven’t quite grown up). We know things about each other that few others do. We came of age together.
There’s something very special about that.
Of course, we don’t know each other today the way we once did… as is the nature of time and separation. But I do know that I’m immensely happy for my old friends’ life-successes. I feel deep compassion and sympathy for those who’ve suffered through deep hardships they haven’t deserved. I’m also filled with gratitude for the blessings in my own life, which include them.
If I could go back in time and relive those days, it might surprise you that I wouldn’t. Right now, I feel that — despite my numerous flaws — I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been, and I continually hope (and try) to become a better person. But my friends from back on the farm, like many others throughout my life, helped mold who I am today. And I’ll never forget that.
The White Fence Farm shut down a few years ago. The family that owned it ended up selling it, and the new owners unfortunately drove it into the ground. I think an apartment complex now occupies the land.
Still, the roots that place left run deep. And I’m forever thankful for that.
Did you have the perfect job when you were a teen? Let me know about it in an email, or in the comment section below.
Obligatory Dog Shot
It’s tough to make a clean getaway in this house.
Give the Gift of Sean
Looking for a unique Christmas gift for a friend, family member, or someone you don't even particularly care for? A signed and personalized Sean Coleman thriller is my totally unbiased recommendation!
Click here to order one, two, three, four, or all five!
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
Want to drop me a line? You can email me at email@example.com, and also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and now Threads! If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, please click on the “Subscribe now” button below. Doing so will get these posts emailed directly to you.
Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!