Child labor laws aren’t real — Writing Prompt #21

My family’s favorite set of cousins lived in upstate New York. If you’ve ever been there you know it’s the total opposite of what most people think when they imagine the big NY. You can drive hour-long stretches where the stench of cow manure fills your nostrils, and when I was little, I believed that only the hardiest of people can say they appreciate such a raw, earthy scent. Now I know it just reeks. This family we loved visiting so much lived about an eight-hour drive away but we made it a few times a year as a makeshift vacation to hang out, do puzzles, go for rides on their hay wagon, and have all-day game days. As the kids in our families started growing up though, the less we made the drive. We were getting jobs, going off to college, moving out of our parents, etc. My memory for today though happened when I was 16, in my junior year of high school.

Today’s prompt: Did you ever get paid as a kid to do a job that, looking back, was definitely worth a lot more than you got for it?

My memory:

My aunt and uncle invited my older brother Josiah and I out to stay at their house for a couple of weeks. They were re-shingling their barn and wanted my brother’s help. He’d spent every summer out at their farm since probably 8 years old to help them with milking the cows and baling hay for the season. That seems young, but their four kids all helped with the chores and their youngest son, who has always been a best friend to my brother, was only a year older than him. The reason I was invited along with Si is that he and I were both in the same grade (we were home schooled) and needed to be together in order to watch the classes we took via DVD. Plus, my uncle now had an extra set of hands to help with the roofing!

At least, that’s the excitement I’m sure he felt about it. When I saw the task he wanted me to tackle though, I was about ready to walk back home. Obviously he wasn’t about to ask his 16-year-old niece to climb on his ~50 foot tall barn, but he indeed had other plans for me. Most of the barn had already been de-shingled in previous months and all of the remains lay on the ground below. And I was the woman for the job.

Whoever had been patching up the shingles in the years before did a terrible job and only covered up old layers instead of stripping everything and starting from scratch. This happened seven times before this particular event. Does that gravity of that weigh on you at all? I had seven layers of shingles from an enormous barn (approximately 100 feet long) rotting on the ground from sitting there who knows how long and I was the only person tasked to pick them up.

I’m sure it’s safe to say I can thank Miley Cyrus and songs from The Muppet Show on my ipod for helping me get through those two weeks. Every day between classes and homework I put my earbuds in and donned my work gloves for a few hours. Some patches of shingles were thicker than others, at a height between 1 and 2 feet thick. There was a large (maybe 15 foot) flat bed about 10 feet from the barn that I had to walk back and forth to throw the shingles on for later disposal. I wasn’t even nearly done with the full job when my uncle had to drive the flat bed off to get rid of the shingles and wouldn’t you know it but I had stacked it so tall and heavy that one of the wheels popped.

I know I looked pretty funny during these couple of weeks because I spent most of the job with tissues wadded up my nose to help with my allergies. There was a fan on the side of the barn I was working on blowing out air and it caused my allergies to leak out if they weren’t stopped up with tissues. It also didn’t help that Josiah and my cousin were lobbing tiny bits of shingle over the roof to see who could land pieces closest to me.

But guess what, people…when I got my $100 after the two weeks were over? Oh man, it was all totally worth it.

You heard me. $100 for the hardest, most back-breaking job I’ve ever done. Funny though, I wasn’t mad at all. I secretly kind of enjoyed being able to let my perfectionism shine through in this tiny corner of the world. That side of the barn was quite beautiful by the time I finished.


This is the barn I worked on…isn’t it glorious? They must have been replacing the shingles with tin roof. I hadn’t even remembered that…I was too busy with my head to the ground apparently.

If you have a story of your own, share it with me in the comments or on your own blog with a link in my comments! Enjoy listening to AlexRainBird Winter 2018 while writing, it made me some great background music while writing this post 🙂 Don’t forget to like this story if you enjoyed it!

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