“Hello boys and girls. I must say, I feel honored to be standing up here in front of you today. To think, the Benjamin Franklin 5th grade Career Day! It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in your seats. Does anyone know what a drover is?”
I pan a sea of blank faces and hear the sound of crickets chirping. Not the start I wanted.
“I see you’re just as confused as I was the day I walked into Drover Incorporated twenty years ago to fill out an application. The ad read no experience necessary. And back then I had a lot of experience at being inexperienced. A drover, boys and girls, is someone who drives cattle and sheep.”
Faces perk up. Hands sprout like dandelions on a freeway hillside.
“Yes, you there with the One Direction t-shirt in row 4, seat 7.”
“Where do cows and sheep like to go?”
“Any place you can imagine. Some like to be driven around so they can run errands. I once drove a couple of bulls to a hockey game. Boy, were they rowdy!
“Yes, girl in the front with the Game of Thrones pencil case.”
“How do you make money from that?”
“You’d be surprised how much money animals make these days. Sheep, for instance, are loaded. They have wool coats and are always itching to go downtown to empty their pockets on useless stuff.
“Boy with the skateboarding shirt in the back, what do you want to know?”
“How much money do you make?”
“See that limo out there?”
The collective response I was hoping for. Good luck following that, Mr. Fireman!
“But you have to pay your dues, boys and girls. You have to work hard and make sacrifices. It took me 15 years before I could afford one of those babies. Fifteen years of taking all sorts of crap from cows and sheep. ‘Take me here!’ ‘Take me there!’ ‘Why are you late?’ ‘Why are you going this way?’ ‘I told you not to keep the meter running!’ You name it, I’ve heard it. One time a cow spent the whole time I was driving her gabbing on the phone with a friend. She laughed so hard milk ran out of her nose. It poured down her face and seeped into my upholstery. When I asked her to help me clean it up, she punched me in the face. I had a hoof mark for a week. And I never did get paid for that job.
“Yes, speak up studious-looking girl with long red hair and green spectacles.”
“Why do you want to drive animals around instead of people?”
“Good question. I guess because animals aren’t afraid to reveal their thoughts and innermost secrets. They talk to me about the books they like. Animal Farm, by George Orwell, continues to be a popular read with them. You’ll probably read it one day when you’re in high school. Some animals complain to me about their jobs. I’ve learned over the years that cows yearn for something better. People milking you for everything you’ve got will do that to you. And sheep would rather be working in sleep disorder laboratories instead of making coats. That way they can give something back to society I suppose.
“Yes, distinguished-looking fellow with the University of Phoenix hoody two rows over.”
“Do you have to go to college to become a drover?”
“Not really, but I studied animal husbandry. That’s the science of finding mail-order brides for animals who want to settle down and start a family. I have time for one more question.”
“Did you ever dream of becoming a fireman?”
“Only when I got punched in the face by that cow.”
Standing ovation. Cheers and whistles. Two thumbs up from Mrs. Finkelstein.
“You guys have been great. Try the tater tots. And remember to be nice to your lunch ladies!”
Illustrated by Joyce Sajovie