There's eleven years difference in our ages.
I'm trying to write truth but given
the influence my mentor older brother
I believe my first memory is Jim riding me to school on the crossbars of his bike. I couldn't have been more than three years old since we were on our way to the one-room Dubois School: Jim left that fall for Reddick High School. My attention span was apparently too short to hold onto my sack lunch. It slipped from my hands, Jim stopped for me to pick it up before reseating me. Determined to hold on tight to my sack lunch I remember dropping it at least once more. Jim never lost his patience.
Later Jim used a discarded half-horse power Briggs & Stratton washing machine motor to make me a motor bike that would run all of 20 miles per hour. No other ten-year I've ever know had an older brother made motor bike. Jim's engineering was superbly full of lessons that made sense. It takes less power to maintain speed than to accelerate; the exhaust pipe is hot and never touch a spark plug when the motor is running.
Jim's smarter than me meaning I had to complete ten years of college to compete. Having won a Kankakee County Scholarship to the University of Illinois helped pave the way. Failure first semester third year returned me home in disgrace. Jim let me work a year on the farm where he taught me a lot about life.
I failed to properly secure the hoist while pulling the engine from a 47 Plymouth. The hoist crashed down, dented the right fender and by pure luck didn't dent me. Jim, in his calm low voice said, "A man seldom gets hurt by being too careful." When I do something dumb it's usually because I've ignored Jim's observation that "People usually get hurt because they're too tired or hurried." Hurrying to complete prepping the Case tractor in time for lunch cost me a little flesh and trying to start a brush cutter when I was tired and in a hurry cost me a finger. I'm a slow learner.
Excuses and reasons why are a waste of time. "Weather just is -- let it keep you from doing your job and you'll never amount to anything." This came the 30 below day I thought it too cold to feed cattle before sunrise. Getting jobs done right and on-time is what counts. My failure to produce is a result of poor planning and lack of effort and has nothing to do with "God's Will."
"Never drive close to road workers; they're thinking about doing their job not you." Signs saying "Hitting a Road Worker will cost you a $10,000 fine and 14 years in Prison" really reinforce the need to be extra careful anytime anyone's near moving machinery. By the way, I've been in all 50 states and Illinois is the only state to state this so explicitly.
Anyone not in college was drafted in the early 60s. Not being welcome at The University of Illinois I enlisted in the Navy to avoid having to sleep on the ground. Knowing Jim had gone through boot camp a decade earlier made me eager to hear his parting words of wisdom.
"Don't ask questions or argue no matter how stupid the rule. Some really dumb people get drafted -- rules keep idiots from getting killed. Officers won't destroy government property by killing you since that would get them into trouble." Interesting advice since Jim never gave any orders himself. Once he explained: "People respond better to being politely asked." Perhaps, contrary to evidence, Jim didn't consider me stupid.
Contrary to evidence because I didn't know when to shut up. My senior high school yearbook says "John's vocabulary far suppresses his elders." Thanks to Jim's advice I kept my mouth shut for most of four years. Keeping my mouth shut got me promoted first-time every-time.
"Don't borrow or lend money to anyone. Con men always have a convincing story." I'm still vulnerable to a good story but only give gifts I can afford with no expectation of ever being repaid. On my own I learned insisting on repayment keeps deadbeats at bay.
Jim was president of the International Grain Millers Union making it possible for him to arrange for me to spend the summer of 67 as an Intern at the General Foods factory. He introduced me to his labor lawyer who said "bosses aren't the enemy" and that's usually been the case these past 40 years. Jim loaned me a car to get to work when the transmission went out on my Ford and on and on. There are too many gifts and words of wisdom to mention and most are too personal to share.
So yes, eleven years of age difference was enough for Jim to know about and explain things still a mystery to me but thanks in large part to his encouragement and support I was able to spend ten years in college to compensate. Thanks to Jim he only wound up one full year ahead.