The first job I had was easy, not hard work, just fun. I was working in a golf pro-shop in to my home town of Warwick, QC. It was fun to play golf, talk to people but this was definitely not hard work.
I went off to college and then had to pay the bills; I needed a job that could pay. Someone told me that planting trees can pay good money. What is good money? This is relative to who you are, where you come from really, and how much you need. In those days to me making $5,000 in a summer was good. Planting trees was supposed to bring double that, at least that’s what I heard. I decided to make the move.
It was rough. Living in the middle of nowhere was hard on the morale; I was 500 miles from nowhere, living in a tent for 3 months. Cannot access TV, take a normal shower (you can jump in the lake where we drink but temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit). I’m not a loner; to me life is all about being around people. Once I got caught in the middle of a hurricane while I was sleeping. I found out afterwards - I thought I had been attacked by a bear since my tent blew several feet away. I woke up and got prepared to fight that bear for 1 second, then realized that it was a hurricane. The trees were falling down. I found some solid ground to hide for few hours. I looked around after and saw only 1 tent still standing. My friend Patrick L was still sleeping! The guy was heavy, maybe that helped. That made me laugh for a moment. He then woke up and came to our solid ground.
The first day was truly hard. I learned to plant trees. You get about 200 trees in 3 bags, and you have to pour water in to make sure they don’t dry out and die, bringing the weight to 50 pounds. So after the first day, I checked the money I made, looked at it sadly - $16 and I was exhausted. Wow, what a waste. This had to change. I learned to pour in water NOT like they told me to, which brought the weight to only 10 pounds, and good enough so I can now move quickly.
The basics were simple; you get a piece of land, sometimes very nice, sometimes very difficult. A nice plot of land is land where they’d already removed all the trees and cleaned it. It looks like farm land, no obstacles. We call that “the cream”. I did not see much of that since the best techniques for cutting trees was to cut them in the forest and trim them there. That leaves the seeds in place to increase the chances for natural trees to grow. That makes things difficult since you cannot plant a tree too close to an existing one. It also meant that you had to plant trees between trees, rocks, hills, bushes.
I got along for 3 summers. I planted a lot of trees. About half a million. My best day was 6,000 trees in 8 hours of work. That job was like running half a marathon 5 days a week for 3 months. Non-stop. I did not get to those numbers the first year; I got to fifth gear after the second year. I had thought when I was planting 2,000 trees a day I was on top. I used to reach 2000 per day until one day a guy came from nowhere. He was unknown to anyone; he ran all day came back to camp with a figure of 4,000. He was just passing by. That taught us a lesson: You can always do better. Well, this is what I did. I moved the third gear to fifth (I thought I was on fifth already but hey). I then started to come up with those numbers too. I never saw that guy again but that was a lesson on how to work hard.
During this stay of deprivation, I started to appreciate everything. Just driving on the road was so relaxing after a day of work. Drinking water was so great or eating fruit. When I came back to town, everyone was special. Everyone was interesting. This changed the way I see life today and taught me what it takes.