Danny McCoy’s First Job – Meadowbrook Golf Course
In the summer of 1961, several of us secured our first-pay-check-type-of-job at Meadowbrook Golf course. Our friend, Tom Koebernick, had put in a good word for us with a guy at his church who had some role in procuring and supervising labor for the project. Little did I know that a few years later, I would be working on the west side of town at Colonial Country Club, but it was not on the golf course. I did not have that skill set. But I had developed an appreciation for the effort that it takes to maintain a competitive quality course.
The fairways at Meadowbrook were undergoing a major renovation which would require reseeding and installing a new irrigation system. On the first work day, the Foreman had us meet behind a beat up dump truck. The truck was being driven by a weather worn black guy, with the name Amos embroidered on the pocket of his soiled blue shirt. Later, we discovered that his name was actually Aaron.
At this Monday morning 7:00 a.m. start, the Foreman gathered us by the tailgate. I did a quick head count. There were 19 of us who were to become summer laborers. We were only 16 years old or barely older. The Foreman then said in a booming voice: You boys look around. At the end of the day there will only be 10 of you left. For the rest of you, this will be your last day.
We all needed this job. All day long, we were going to have to walk behind the truck, up and down the fairways picking up large rocks that had recently been plowed up. So as the diesel truck blew black exhaust into our somewhat fresh and blemish faces, we started out picking or throwing rocks into the back of the truck. It was easier and a shorter to be near the back of the truck. If you were one of the wing men, you had a further distance to travel to deposit the scattered stones. We were all working frantically. We wanted to make the cut and be part of the summer crew.
The pace was hectic. The early morning sun was beginning to be more of a dominant factor. So after about 40 minutes, the old truck finally rolled over a small crest in the fairway. We were finally out of view of the Foreman. Aaron brought the old truck to a stop and pulled up the emergency brake. As he slowly got out, you could hear Ray Charles on his radio. He told us to get a drink and pointed to the dented, yellow water cooler and stated that we need to stay hydrated. As he admonished us for not bringing our own gloves, he retrieved some from the back of the cab. They did not match, but we didn’t care. Our hands were getting roughed up. Then he said: You boys better slow down or you will not finish the day. The MAN is just messing with you. This was the first time I fully understood the phrase, The MAN. Later in my early career, it would morph into, the SUITS. At the end of the day there were only 12 of us left. The rest did not come back after our lunch break. We were on the rock crew for about two weeks.
Throughout the rest of the summer, we would all graduate to various jobs. Some would hand pull weeds on the greens; others would work in new Bermuda springs in the sandy loam fairways and I secured a coveted job in irrigation. I was now my own boss. I would follow the sequence rhythm of the sprinkler heads down the fairway to make sure there were no leaks and to adjust the rotary spray heads.The cool mist from the overspray or directional wind was indeed a luxury to my now golden tan, skinny body.
Near the Maintenance Building was a small lake which served as the irrigation reservoir. One day when our chain gang was headed back, the Foreman met us at the lake and asked: Who knows how to swim? I raised my hand along with a boy from Poly. He then said to us: You two boys swim over the overflow pipe and remove all the debris. I’ll give you an extra 15 minutes for lunch. We did not require this extra bonus. Just the thought of taking a cool swim was the only enticement that we needed to quickly volunteer.
As Clark and I swam out to the center of lake, there was no synchronized swimming. When we reached our destination after a lot of unnecessary splashing, we started removing all the debris away from the opening that was covered with chicken wire. We bagged it and leisurely floated back to the shore where Aaron was waiting with his dump truck. Aaron then said in his commanding voice: Are you whiteboys just plain stupid? Why are you messing with that Water Moccasin Nest? Damn! Damn! Damn! From then on, I have always had respect for those who work with their hands and their opinions about The Man.