I've been a part of the American workforce since I was 15.
Like most Baby Boomers, I've had jobs I've loved and plenty I've hated. My freshman year in college I worked as a "litter critter" picking up trash and doing odd jobs at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.
Every park has a "hook" - something that brings tourists in the gate. It may be a beautiful lake or steaming geyser, but there's something that makes that park stand out.
At Dinosaur Valley State Park, that hook is dinosaurs.
Not actual real, live dinosaurs. Dinosaur Valley isn't a wealthy Texas oilman's version of Jurassic Park. Its main attraction is dinosaur tracks deposited in the soft limestone 113 million years ago by Tyrannosaurus Rex and his closest friends.
That summer I joined some of my closest friends as we picked up 50-gallon steel trash cans filled with watermelon rinds and dirty diapers in the 100-degree Texas heat. The smell was so powerful I learned to apply Vicks VapoRub beneath my nose before heading out on trash duty twice a day. It was the only way I could stomach the stench.
When we weren't hauling trash, mowing grass or scouring bathrooms until they sparkled like the Hope Diamond, we cleaned dinosaur tracks.
Take this job and shove it.
At Dinosaur Valley, many of the dinosaur tracks are in the shallow Paluxy River. They're covered by one to two feet of the clearest water in the state until the hottest part of the summer. That's when the river stops running and the tracks fill with dark green algae.
One of my jobs was using a toilet brush to scrub each and every track my ranger bosses could find. If you ever find yourself in need of track cleaning tips, know this: Brontosaurus tracks are the easiest to clean because their round shape is a perfect fit for a toilet brush. T-Rex tracks are tough because it's hard getting into their clawed feet. It's a learned skill like anything else.
By the end of summer, I'd gotten pretty good at dino duty. My litter critter friends were even better. As the tourists wandered back to their campsites late one afternoon, they crafted perfect sets of T-Rex and Brontosaurus tracks into the limestone river bed.
They thought it was funny. The head park ranger thought it was treason.
He fired them after making sure the forgers jackhammered the bogus tracks into dust. They didn't really care. This was their Jurassic version of "take this job and shove it." Labor Day was approaching and they were heading back to school and other pranks.
Summer was over, dude.
It's been decades since I scrubbed a dinosaur track and I probably never will again. You just don't see those jobs in the Help Wanted ads any more.