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Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at

I can’t stand being told what to do. Been that way all my life. I can’t work for other people, and that worked out just fine because no one has ever wanted too desperately to hire me. I’ve never handled people with authority well, and that’s why for the past 40 years, I’ve been self-employed, and believe me, there have been several times I felt like firing myself. I haven’t filled out a resume in 45 years, never taken a day of unemployment, and I’ve never run out of work.

I started my career early in life mowing lawns, delivering papers, and dusting furniture for my Grandpa in his furniture shop, all before I was 12. By far, my Grandpa was the best boss I ever had. He gave me a shiny silver dollar every Friday, and I sure wish I’d have kept them.

I worked in the oil fields for three summers to help self-finance my college education, and I did have a good boss one summer who everyone called Timmy. He was a quiet, elderly gent who was about five and a half feet tall and built like a piece of rebar. And just as strong. Timmy was the only boss in the oilfields who seemed interested in teaching me things. I’d been on similar A-frame trucks with other bosses in other summers but mostly what those bosses did was try to stay out of radio range of the BIG BOSS so he wouldn’t know my boss was taking a nap or “reading” a magazine full of scantily clad women.

I also had a fabulous boss on the cattle ranch I worked for during high school, but I never really considered him a boss because he was more like a father. And that’s the sum total of good bosses I’ve had.


One of the worst was my first. I was the only gringo on a Hispanic crew picking lemons and oranges, and I learned an early lesson that racism can work both ways. With citrus, you had to cut the stem right next to the fruit, or the sharp stems would damage the other fruit in the big wooden boxes. You’d stack your boxes at the head of a row, write your number (mine was 13) on the box, and fill it from the sack that hung around your neck. If you didn’t clip your stems, the boss would yell at you to come to your boxes and go through every box looking for any fruit whose stem wasn’t clipped. He did this to me about five times a day just for sport.

I pumped gas for a while in high school, and back then, you had to also wash the windows, check the oil and put air in the tires if needed. The first day on the job, my boss showed me how to wipe oil from the dipstick with my thumb so that when I showed the dipstick to the driver, it always looked like the engine was about a quart low. I was forever getting in trouble for not selling my “quota.”

After my junior year in high school, I worked on a citrus ranch getting $1.25 per hour for what amounted to child abuse. The owner worked me like a draft horse, gave me no breaks from the hot sun, and I couldn’t wait until summer was over so I could quit. I heard when he died there were two people at his funeral, the mortician and his wife, and she couldn’t wait to leave either.

The worst boss I ever had was an editor who didn’t think I could write a lick. The only aspiring writers who advanced under his tutelage were those who licked his boots or buttered him up. These are skills I’ve never been able to master. Every story I sent in he sent back to me with multiple changes. I’d had about enough of this guy, who’d never had a creative thought in his life, so one time I sent a story back to him and asked, “Is this better?”

He wrote back and asked, “Now then, isn’t the story much better after all my suggestions?”

The thing is… I hadn’t changed a single word!

For you young folks just starting on your career path, just remember that BOSS backward stands for “Sorry SOB.”