We can all be ‘greatest? in our own minds

Our dad was ‘greatest? in everything he did. He told us so, over and over. He was the greatest Canasta double-deck player, greatest pinochle player, greatest shuffleboard player, etc.
He had no peers in pheasant hunting, plowing with a Huppmobile, butchering (he’d show stubs of two fingers to prove it), cutter of children’s hair and of course, he was the world’s greatest car checker on the Grand Trunk Railroad.
He was the greatest before Cassius Clay became Mohammed and Ali began calling himself the ‘greatest.?
He’s been gone long enough now that I believe I can assume ‘greatest? titles he hadn’t assumed. Few are left to challenge my early-age achievements.
Furinstance, before reaching my teenage years I was the champion asparagus cutter of all the patches in southern Shiawassee County. I wish I’d kept that knife. What started as a 2-inch wide blade wore to a slim switch in just one spring as I slashed through the dirt an inch below the ground to get that much of the white end, as required by the EPA, DNR, FDA and BOSS.
Still in my pre-teens I was heavily recruited to come to work at a pea canning plant in Shiatown. Don’t try to find it on any map. It’s like Peawah Diddy, ‘It ain’t no town, it ain’t no city? that Phil Harris sang about.
Shiatown, you guessed it, is in Shiawassee County, on a bend in the Shiawassee River, south of Corunna, west of Durand, north of Bancroft and about a mile from Vernon.
Oh, yes. I’m also the small town champion of Michigan.
The job I had at the pea packing plant required hands with fingers long enough to pick up two cans with each hand while leaning over a vat just removed from the cooking fires. Yes, the peas were can cooked, and I don’t believe I was canned. Of course, I wasn’t. I was the greatest can picker-upper they ever had.
One more, I’m getting closer to a time when I might get challenged. I was the greatest peddler of the Owosso Argus Press who ever delivered the daily while wearing a football uniform.
That afternoon newspaper was delivered to our home in Morrice about the time football practice was over, and being the most dedicated deliverer Argus had, and the fact Morrice High School had no showers, I’d just pack my bag and get to tossing papers on roofs and in bushes. No, I didn’t. I had the record for hitting the most porches.
A lot of people like to become the greatest while young, like Lance Armstrong. Me, I’d rather be the greatest when challengers, like our father, are gone.
On to other jobs before I volunteered to help the Navy win WWII. It was while working at Kaufman’s Men’s Store that I began to like being properly dressed. My brother Dair had worked there, and that gave me an in for the job at age 16.
You wouldn’t know it now as I type this in torn-off jeans and spotted plaid shirt, but I once played a baseball game in a tweed suit, white shirt and necktie. Tore the suit sliding into second. Still the ump called me out.
I loved being dressed up. I prided myself in being able to not wear the same anything to work 14 days in a row. Long time readers will remember me reporting having 250-plus neckties.
I won’t claim any greatnesses in sales, but I really liked selling shoes. I don’t remember any men coming to buy shoes who didn’t have clean socks and non-smelly feet. Wonder if it’s that way today, what with this world’s sockless and ‘to heck with you? attitude?
Oh, yeah. I lost that job when I told co-owner Mickey Kaufman that my dad said I should get a raise. He responded, ‘Your dad doesn’t work here and neither do you now.?
P.S. I got help in remembering Phil Harris? name by calling Jim Fitzgerald, retired Detroit Free Press columnist. His wife, Pat, knew the answer. He asked that I give him credit.

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