Commentary

A Generational Gap in Work Philosophy

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Commentator Baxter Black has his way of trying to teach young people something, but thinking back he finds they may know what they're talking about after all.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Commentator Baxter Black has his own way of trying to teach young people, though it is not as easy as it used to be.

BAXTER BLACK:

Yes, Virginia, things have changed. A 20-something couple I know has occasionally sought my counsel. They're married, both animal science graduates and still seeking direction. He's a typical ag boy, strong, honest, has a good work ethic with a background in purebred cattle, and he can weld. She grew up running a few gummer cows with her dad, working at the feedlot, processing cattle, weighing grain trucks, president of the FFA. Now she's working at a feed mill and going to night school to get a master's degree to get a teaching certificate.

Well, I have suggested since the time they were married that they would be the perfect couple to run some ranch or livestock farm. They're the ideal pair, the absentee owner's dream. But their standard reply to me is, `We don't want to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day.' And I say, `What is wrong with these kids?' I tell them, `I've never had an 8-to-5 job. What in the world would I do with two days off a week in a row?'

Well, I look at the 21st century veterinary profession. New grads don't want night calls, weekend duty, investment in partnership. They want to raise a family, spend quality time with their children. They don't want to live a hundred miles from the amenities of good schools, shopping and sophisticated entertainment. And I say, `What is the matter with these kids? Don't they know it's not supposed to be easy? You're supposed to be bone-tired at the end of the day and then go out and do a C-section in the middle of the night on a frozen hillside.' I remind them that the early bird gets the worm, and they say they're not working for worms. They remind me that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And I say to them, `Dull isn't all that bad.' And they say, `Money isn't everything.' And I say, `You don't work for money. You work for work's sake.' And then they say, `Work isn't everything.'

I remember my childhood years, visiting my relatives in Oklahoma. My uncles were farmers and carpenters and bricklayers. And we'd go by and watch them work, all except Uncle Leonard. He would take the week off and he'd drive us kids around to pick up bullets at the firing range or hunt rose rocks or arrowheads, take us fishing, to the sale, to the zoo or squirrel hunting. The other uncles chastised him for not having his priorities straight. `He should be plowing or putting up hay or helping them carry hod.' Well, it goes without saying that Uncle Leonard was everybody's favorite uncle. I don't know how I got off on talking about Uncle Leonard. Now where was I?

INSKEEP: Those are the comments of Baxter Black, hard-working cowboy, poet, philosopher and former large animal veterinarian.

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