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Tougher Jobs Than Writing

Spring is here and despite the pandemic, some of us are thinking about where we’ll go for summer vacation. Travel is enlightening and great for broadening perspective and generating new ideas. It also reveals the poverty and tough lives of many people around the world.

If you think a writer’s life is rough, fraught with poverty, brutal criticism, and rejection, you ain’t seen nothin’. I keep a list of really bad jobs I’ve encountered in my traveling adventures. Among the worst jobs was in Morocco where men were hired to fill buckets with water and take them to the nonfunctioning toilets at a tourist stop. They’d go into the stall after use and pour the water into the toilet to flush it.

Another awful job, seen at a pottery factory in Egypt, was making bricks by hand, standing bent over clay hour after

our in the heat to shape a slab into bricks, one after the other.

Gag-worthy is the stench at the vats used to dye leather in Morocco. Mint at the nose doesn’t cut it.

In Ethiopia, men and women bent under heavy loads of eucalyptus sticks on their backs carry them down a mountain road for sale in town. Eucalyptus is used for everything in Ethiopia.

Here’s a true story of rough times during the Gold Rush from Alaska. Before mod cons, those who sought their fortune in the gold fields, men and women alike, endured incredible hardships. Few became wealthy; those who thrived established laundries and boarding houses and other enterprises to support the prospectors. Nobody had an easy life. Among the many stories of loss and survival is that of Anna DeGraf, who hiked the rugged Chilkoot Trail in 1897, lugging her sewing machine. Her clothes were tattered and her feet wrapped in rags. She was searching for her son, who had left for the Yukon in 1892. She lived in various villages in Alaska and made her living sewing tents and clothing for the miners and costumes for the dance hall girls. She finally left Alaska for San Francisco where she worked as a wardrobe manager for a


wman until her death at 91. She had to have muscle, grit, perseverance, and a core toughness, and even so, in the end, she never found her son.


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