When I turned sixteen I got a job working at a small, local lure company after school. It was owned and run by a retired sergeant from the Army. I was getting paid under the table, cash. It was enough to fill up my tank every week and buy a chocolate éclair and a coke. That is what I bought every Friday when I got paid and I was out of money that quick, but I had a full tank of gas. As a kid with a new license and a car, that was heaven.
My grandfather had gotten me the job and when I went in to work, there was one other employee working there and it turned out I knew him. He started making lots of small talk while training me how to pour hot lead into the molds to make the heads of spinner baits.
After about 15 minutes or so of being on the job our boss walks out, wads a five dollar bill into a ball in his fist and throws it in my face. “Get out of here, you talk too much” were his words and then he walked back into his office.
I was stunned. I walked out disgraced and confused. It bothered me all night and I did not tell my family I had gotten fired. The next day my confusion turned to anger. After school, I drove back to the lure company, walked in and said, “give me my job back. I didn’t do anything wrong”. He looked at me for a few seconds with a stunned look and said, “You got a lot of balls coming back in here and saying that to my face. Get back to work”. From then on we were totally cool. I worked for him for over a year. I was his only employee during most of that time as he wasn’t making much money at it. Towards the end he was just giving me busy work. He didn’t need me, but he liked me and wanted to give me a job. I was paving his driveway, running errands, doing his yard work. He paid me the same each week whether I did 5 hours of work or 25. He was good to me.
I had acquired a girlfriend during my time working there. I lived in a military town, she was older than me and was out of school and in her first year of the Army. It was a terrible relationship, but I was getting laid as much as I wanted and that was much better than a full tank of gas.
It was not long until I got her pregnant. I asked her to marry me and I went home to tell my family. My mom, rightfully so, freaked out and told me I couldn’t live at home anymore. She told me I would need a higher paying job. She got me an interview with a flooring factory. Her friend Lucinda was a supervisor there. I filled out an application and did a short interview and got the job. I would work from four in afternoon to one in the morning, six days a week. I think I made four or five dollars an hour.
My fiancé and I could not yet afford a place on our own so we moved in with a couple she knew from the Army. They were married and had just had a baby girl and had a three bedroom apartment. It was a bad scene there. That couple did not get along and my fiancé and I did not get along. There was constant drama and tension.
My fiancé decided we needed a place of our own, hoping that would help alleviate some of our troubles I agreed and we found a run down apartment that was furnished and all bills paid for either $250 or $350 a month. I cannot recall which.
The factory was a strange place to work. Our boss was an Australian fellow who was spending way above his means and was on his fourth or fifth wife. He was basically a con man that came to a small town to escape past shady business dealings. He drove cars he could not afford, bought houses he could not afford, wore expensive gold watches and jewelry.
One day he walked out to me on the factory floor and said, “You put on your application that you do graphic design”, I said, “Yes, I take a vocational class about it at school”. He asked me to come up with a logo for the company and one for the specific flooring we were doing, so I did several. This is one of the logos I came up with. He liked it. We got shirts, and tons of stuff with my logo on it. I also painted it by myself 30 feet by 40 feet on the side of the factory.
I worked for the company for two years. During that time, I got married, had a daughter, bought a four bedroom house, graduated high school and got divorced.
After my divorced I decided I was moving to Dallas. The factory was starting to feel the strain of our boss’s extravagant lifestyle. We had gone from about forty employees, down to six. The way they let people go was so shitty; they would call us all on the floor in the factory and say, “If we don’t call your name, leave” and would start running down names. I was in that group of 6 that were left. Towards the end of my employment there some of our checks were bouncing. We had a running joke that we would all race to our banks to get our checks in because we knew some would bounce.
I walked in to my boss’s office and gave a two weeks notice and said I was promised a two week vacation a year that I had never taken and that I would like it to start immediately. He liked me. He let me walk out with a check for two extra weeks of pay and it didn’t bounce. That was the end of my time in Lawton, Oklahoma.