Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lee Pitts - Zero to 60 in 20 years

I've been a hustler all my life. In high school I was the richest kid in my class and if I wasn't sleeping, going to school or running, I was working. After a photo appeared on the front page of our newspaper with me holding a BIG check for a grand champion steer I became the bank for any kid wanting to borrow lunch money at extortionate rates. But I was a fair loan shark, everyone paid the same 20 percent per month, including my mother.

I lived in the self-proclaimed "citrus capital of the world" and one of my many jobs was running my own smudge crew. I went "on call" when it looked like it might get down to 28 degrees, which meant I even got paid for sleeping. If I got the call we'd light smudge pots all night and fill them the next day. I also had my own team of valet parkers for weddings, anniversaries and such. I got the jobs because my mom was the seamstress for all the rich folks in town and my team was composed of fellow cross country runners. This was important because the size of your tip was based on how fast you retrieved a car. Dawdle and you might get a dime, but if you were fast, and huffed and puffed a little for effect, the sky was the limit.

The party-goers whose cars we parked belonged to one of three sub-species of agriculturalists. The citrus growers drove big black Cadillacs that had the turning radius of an aircraft carrier. Surprisingly, these weren't the best tippers. The avocado growers were. They drove brightly-colored Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles and could always be counted on for fifty cents. 

Then there were the folks you tried to avoid because they gave you excuses instead of cash. "I'm sorry I don't have any change." I'm ashamed to say the cattlemen fell into this category. They drove pickups and the forerunner to the SUV, the International TravelAll. Besides not getting a tip, no young man wanted to be caught dead behind the wheel of those seriously uncool "sports futility vehicles." They were made by a tractor company, for gosh sakes!

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