As school started again, my colleagues and I all gathered around to visit about our summer. We talked of summer vacations, family reunions, and gardening endeavors. Eventually our conversation turned to the different jobs we had found.
I talked about working as a mechanic on farm equipment. I enjoy the challenge and the variety of people I associate with in the farming community. One of our group talked about doing surveying for some new subdivisions, and another in our group told about driving a bus for firefighters.
There was a small bit of one-upmanship in our group, with each person trying to make his job sound just a little better than that of the last person.
Alden smiled, waiting until the end. Finally, when everyone else had finished, he grinned at us. “Now, let me see if anyone can top my summer.”
The government had decided to do a study on the ecosystem of Yellowstone Park and the Island Park drainage system. They had awarded the biology department at the college where we worked the job of collecting the data.
“They asked me,” Alden said, “to collect the fish they needed for the study.”
The government provided him a camper, a boat, gas for his pickup, and a budget for all the food he could eat and any supplies he might need. In return, he had to catch fish from different locations on most of the rivers and streams.
He started his assignment by going to Big Springs at the point where people throw bread and other food to the fish, helping them grow to mammoth sizes. The fish reside safely there under a sign that declares “No Fishing”.
Alden had no sooner cast his line in than he was swarmed by a horde of Fish and Game officers. When he pulled out his U.S. government permit, they had no choice but to back off as dozens of jealous fisherman gathered around to watch Alden pull out a trout the size of a small camper.
From there he put his boat into the river and floated approximately a half mile down river, at which point he threw out his anchor and fished until he pulled in another good size fish. Once he landed that one, he pulled anchor and moved another half mile downstream to his next assignment.
He traveled roads that were closed to all other traffic. He fished rivers that weren’t open to any other fishermen. And he caught fish that no one else was allowed to catch.
Day after day he fished without limits, without rules on what bait he could use, and without interference by any law enforcement. There were hundreds of rivers and streams to traverse in order to obtain the thousands of fish needed for the study. It took him 12 hours per day, six days per week, and all three months of the summer to reel in all of the fish he was asked to catch.
The whole time, he traveled at government expense, ate food provided by federal funds, and was paid exorbitant government wages, including time and a half for overtime.
“In addition,” Alden continued, “the biology department only needed the head of the fish, so they took that and gave me the rest to keep for myself.”
As he finished, he grinned at all of us as we sat there in shock. “So, do any of you have anything further to say?”
I slowly raised my hand. “I do.”
He turned to me. “What is it?”
“If you ever get a job like that again, I volunteer to be your assistant.”
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http://ww.darishoward.com)