Hard work is the heart of the heartland
September 12, 2007
Taking a brief vacation over the Labor Day weekend makes for good column fodder.
Driving through America's heartland is a good reminder of how many people still make their living off the land. Cattle grazed on the hills, new combines were being trucked out of plants and the corn was eight feet high. In places like Iowa, their push to get ethanol in the gas stations meant we paid less at the pump. Hint, hint, Michigan.
Weaving through fields on I-80, we shared the road with countless semis hauling freight near and far. Thanks to their work we can enjoy affordable goods produced in our own backyard or from across the globe.
It's often a thankless job but the shifts cooks, waitresses and cashiers put in at places like McDonald's and Grandma Max's means we can eat whenever our stomachs growl.
Then we had the chance to do some 'work' ourselves. Manning parking lots, Tim and I gave my brother, Randy a hand. Soaking up some sun, we simply made sure the right Iowa State football fans and tailgaters parked in their respective lots. Regional manager for a security company, Randy's in charge of coordinating ticket takers, ushers and security for all of the university's games in Ames. With the cool, assured manner he always possesses, Randy handled every little issue that came up with ease from pushy photographers on the field to new employees at the gates.
The operations run smoothly thanks to the personnel issues Donna, my sister-in-law, handles professionally. She's pretty amazing too. Donna recruits charities, churches, sororities and fraternities to work the games and as a result, the community groups earn money to help others.
Even for the brief time we were 'on the job,' the fans showed us their appreciation. Within five minutes, we were both offered a beer, a hamburger and lawn chair from the tailgaters. I gratefully took the chair, Tim the water.
On Saturday, we weaved our way through the monstrous crowds at the Des Moines farmers market where families sold fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheese and baked goods. Parents and children worked together, counting change and bagging produce.
A few days later we relaxed with a family barbeque in honor of the holiday...stuffing ourselves with all the good food the farmers raised, the truckers hauled and employees stocked at the grocery store.
On the way home, again amidst the corn fields and truckers, my thoughts turned to all the haircuts my dad's done, meals my mom's cooked, students my mother-in-law taught, truckloads my father-in-law hauled and cows that Andrew has milked.
Then there's my brother Jeff, director of the Tulsa International Airport, where he oversees operations. U.S. News and World Report ranked Tulsa as one of the best regional airports for travelers.
My brother Tim has put his many talents to good use. Same goes for my husband Tim who doesn't let much get in the way of his goals. Long hours, number crunching and lots of time on the phone ensure it gets done.
And so the relatively efficient, productive system that is America's workforce gives us a comfortable existence.
Email Maria at