A Good Day on the Job

The main character in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities is a bond trader. There is an amusing scene in the book when the character is attempting to answer his young son, who has asked him what his occupation is.  It goes something like: “Hmm. Well, you know the bridges that we cross when we come in and out of the city,” he says.  “You build bridges!,” the child responds excitedly.  “Well, no, but…”

As difficult as it would be to explain bond trading to a child, I imagine that for a hedge fund manager who rakes in billions of dollars per year with a computer program that executes trades with lightning speed–never intending to hold onto a security, but only to grab quick profits as the price moves on the trades of others–it would be even harder.

But in fairness, I suppose someone has to shuffle the money around.  It wasn’t so many years ago that I was pretty good at cleaning up the messes those folks often made, and The Man would toss me a few of his crumbs for my effort.  I could have generally described my job to my young son, but the daily specifics would have been challenging to explain.

I had a pretty good day on the job yesterday. Some of the things I did not do: I did not obtain a temporary injunction, or effectively cross-examine an expert witness, or win a summary judgment motion, or discover a fatal technical deficiency in a pleading, or jet off to the other side of the world to interview a witness, or schmooze a client at a fancy restaurant, or eat Tylenol and drink coffee all day, or come home stressed long after the family had gone to bed, or sleep in an airplane seat, or cancel a family vacation due to an emergency hearing. Some of the things I did do: I tended to farm animals, I weeded beets and lettuce, I picked vegetables for the farmers market, I spent all day with my wife, I watched the sunrise and the sunset, I stayed home all day, I went to bed tired.

If a child should ask me to describe my job, I could do it.



19 comments on “A Good Day on the Job

  1. Sue says:

    Sounds like your second job is far more “real” and honorable. You can always tell by how you sleep at night.


    • Bill says:

      I rarely felt that my former job was dishonorable. But I definitely prefer being able to choose my battles and the knowledge that I’m always on the right side now. 🙂


  2. daphnegould says:

    I’m always amazed by the difference in what keeps people happy. Or at least satisfied with their work. My husband has a job where even his bosses aren’t sure what he does. Though they know they can’t live without him. It is high stress. I keep telling him to quit as we don’t need the money, But he won’t, something in the job gives him a lot of satisfaction and it is a real ego boost I think. He would so hate working a farm. He is a little OCD and hates to get his hands dirty. I rarely ask him for help in the garden as I enjoy it so much and he hates it so much.


    • Bill says:

      I know what you mean. I have friends who love practicing law. I recall coming into a friend’s office once when he was having a loud angry conversation on the phone with another lawyer. He slammed the phone down, looked up at me beaming and said, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” I have another friend who will never retire, just because loves the daily battles so much. At the same time many lawyers are miserable, trapped in a job they hate (I imagine that is true of most professions). I know farmers who don’t like their jobs either. I have a friend who has been a conventional farmer his whole life and who plainly dislikes it. He’d much rather be a mechanic, but he probably feels trapped too. It’s a great thing when a person’s passion, interests and abilities all align in a job.


  3. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, it never ceases to amaze me, how did you go from that to this? You probably explained some place in the past how you guys came to the life you have now, but I don’t know your story, and just admire that you are always so positive about the choice you have made.


  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, as I’ve stated a couple comments ago. It is indeed a good day if I can go to bed stress free and physically tired. Even with a few aches and pains the next morning, it feels good to wake up and do it all over again. More plants are in the ground as of yesterday. Today if the weather holds maybe some cucumbers and sweet corn will get planted. My plan from now on is to be in the garden by the crack of dawn (5:30am) and spending at least two hours a day grooming, planting, and building structure. Depending on what’s going on during the day, I might get to spend a little more time doing what I love best. Mornings are finally starting to warm up with a temperature of almost 60 degrees this morning. During the summer months, early morning is the coolest time to accomplish garden work. This has been the best year for gardens since I purchased Terra Nova Gardens. It’s the fourth garden season. So, yeah, life is good here on the Nebraska west bank of the Missouri river.

    Have a another great day on the White Flint Farm.


    • Bill says:

      I agree Dave. I love the early morning hours. My goal is to be outside by 6. Somedays I’m able to get out earlier than that and other days not.

      Not only is the air cool that early in the morning, but here the birdsongs are the best just as the sun is rising.

      I’ve enjoyed learning about your life and farm and appreciate your regular visits and comments. Hoping this year is the best ever at Terra Nova!


  5. shoreacres says:

    I’m not sure being able to explain one’s work to a child is the sine qua non of its value. Theoretical physicists, bankers, neurosurgeons, chemical engineers, et.al. perform valuable work, however poorly or well they can describe it. Still, I take your point.

    This isn’t directly related, but I thought it was interesting and thought you might enjoy it. Farming Ancestors


    • Bill says:

      Yeah that would be a silly claim to make. Thieves and executioners could explain their work to a child very easily. Sorry I gave that impression. I’m often not as lucid as I’d like to be.

      I read an article about hedge fund manager’s compensation and some of the things they do to get it, which brought to mind the episode in Bonfire, which caused me to think of my own life on the edges of that world, which in turn brought to mind my current life. Seemed as good a thing as any to blog about this morning.


  6. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Do you ever wonder about the effects of genetic memory… “Bred in the bone” as the saying goes? After all, if Monarch Butterflies (seven generations of them, to get to this point) can go from Mexico, all the way to here and back, every year – well, at least they used to… Why couldn’t we be predisposed to a certain vocation?


    • Bill says:

      I’m convinced that we’re hardwired in some way to desire connection with the land and more natural ways of living. We probably all feel some degree of ancient pull to farming/hunting/gathering.


    • shoreacres says:

      Here’s a real-life example. After I got two degrees and left a prestigous occupation to varnish boats for a living, my mother threw a fit It was years until I found out why. Her father, my grandfather, spent some years varnishing woodwork in the homes of well-to-do people during the depression. She sanded, he varnished. When I said I was going back to it — well, you get the picture. I never, ever had heard the tale, because she was embarassed to tell it. And, of course, she was embarassed by me. She used to ask, “What shall I tell people when they ask what you do for a living?” I suggested she tell them the truth. 🙂

      The kicker is that I love varnishing, and I’m really good at it. Maybe it does run in the family.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well said, Bill. On my today’s list was rescuing Rambo. Rambo is our neighbor Jim’s billy goat. Peggy yelled at me from the kitchen that we had a goat in our backyard. I went out and baa’d at Rambo and he baa’d back while Peggy phoned Jim. Even though I hadn’t met Rambo, he came running over to me. Fortunately he liked to be scratched behind the ears. That’s what I was doing when Jim came over to collect his errant goat. Peggy took photos. –Curt


  8. rhondajean says:

    I think you’re lucid and beautiful and wise. What a lovely way to spend a day and a lifetime.


    • Bill says:

      Thank you Rhonda. That makes me smile (and blush). 🙂

      You are a great inspiration to many. If we’re lucky we’ll reflect back just a little of the light shining on us from others.


  9. avwalters says:

    Some days, I dig and plant and build and varnish. Some days I make wood, or split wood. Some days, I review contracts or solve problems–before they get to the point of litigation. Though my “day job” is part-time, it’s still what brings in the funds to make the rest possible. Maybe there will be a time where we make our living with brambles and garden goods, but if not, I do enjoy all of the facets of the things I do. The parts I didn’t like (and the clients) are all history now.


    • Bill says:

      The last couple of years before I quit I worked part time. It was a good way for me to transition out. I don’t miss my job, but I it was because of that job that we now have the ability to live this life. It was an essential part of the lifepath we followed.


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