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By Jesse Utz 

Backyard lessons from a man

Jess Shut Up


My Grandpa Utz delivered the Wenatchee World newspaper locally after he retired. He was the local distributor and on many, many occasions I traveled with him as he drove around the Nespelem area spreading the written news.

We had many conversations as we put miles on his little Chevy Luv and papers in your hands. The conversations were about music, (he was old school western fan) driving and many other subjects. He told me stories of his childhood and life in the military. He tried to instill in me the importance of work ethic and honor. As a kid most of those stories and lessons buzzed over my head like a humming bird in the summer, but as I matured and grew up I found those lessons to be invaluable.

Recently I found myself sitting in an older gentleman’s backyard. He was trying to teach me something and I sat there trying to absorb as much as I could. I was transported back to my childhood, sitting next to my grandpa, wide eyed and eager to hear the next nugget of knowledge that flowed like a river of wisdom from his mind. I found myself missing not only my grandfathers and dad but the opportunities to just sit and learn from someone that has something to offer.

I reflected afterward about some of the local men that have shared what they know with me over the years. Men like Chuck Mooney, Dave Schmidt and Steve Archer. Others whose names I have forgotten but the lessons remain. Ben Logue, Dave Fisher and Bill Mattson also come to mind. Men that for a moment in time did something great to make me a better person.

Yes, some were just trying to teach me a lesson for the moment but some of those lessons remain to this day. I could go on and on naming people but that is not the point of this lesson.

You see, for the past few weeks and for a month more I have the opportunity to pass on what I know to the next generation. Five youth will be working with me and others as we teach them about work. Trying to pass skills on that they will need as they mature into a workforce, or to put it another way, our future. Skills like painting, yardwork, fencing and hard work are just a small part of it. Communication, reliability and patience are sometimes (most of the time) a more important tool than the job skill itself. The “Break Time” is where the golden nuggets of life get passed on. Laughing, listening and learning is most important while shared over a cold glass of water and a special cookie.

I know what you’re saying — get to the point, man. OK: We need to pass on what we know. Sometimes the kids will appear to be ignoring us or too busy to listen, but I encourage you men out there to take the time to just sit and talk to those young minds in your life. Trust me, they are listening to us. They are absorbing all the bad things out there in the world and they need not only dads that will share but quality men that will show interest in their lives while passing on life experiences too. The girls need that, too. Women that will pass stuff on. Recipes, life tips and how to be a lady in this day and age. It is invaluable on both sides.

It seems like I am full of challenges for all of you lately, maybe I am just challenging myself, but I see this on a day-to-day basis being a big missing piece in these kids’ lives, and in mine.

So I strongly encourage all you grandpas and grandmas out there to get involved. Even if it is just a flash of time. Mothers and fathers, take advantage of the short time you have to influence your child and make it count. All you others out there who have the chance to be a positive influence in a young person’s life, treasure that chance and mold these future leaders into what we need down the road. I know, not all the words will stick but they will be heard and hopefully down the river of life those words will come back to the boy that is now a man and he will be grateful for the time spent. Time is valuable, so let’s not waste it by being selfish with the wisdom we have. Just sitting and talking over a sack lunch can be life changing.

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