“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 that you are 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 was 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 Big Time Rush tee 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 Harry Potter 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 and empty their wallets 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 in the biz before I could afford one of those babies. Fifteen years of taking all sorts of abuse 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 cow, in particular, spent the whole time I was driving her gabbing on the cell phone with a friend. She laughed and laughed until milk ran out of her nose. It poured down her face and seeped onto my upholstery. When I asked her to help me clean it up, she hauled off and slugged 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. Animals aren’t afraid to reveal their thoughts and innermost secrets. They talk to me about the books they are reading. Animal Farm, by George Orwell, seems to be a popular read down on the farm. You’ll probably read it one day when you’re in high school. Some animals complain to me about their jobs. I have 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 spending all their time making coats. That way they can give something back to society I suppose.
“Yes, distinguished looking fellow with the Princeton hoody two rows over.”
“Do you have to go to college to become a drover?”
“Not really, but I went to college and so did my co-drovers. We majored in liberal arts. I have time for one more question. Make it a good one.”
“Did you ever dream of becoming a fireman?”
“Briefly, when I got punched in the face by that cow.”
Standing ovation. Cheers and whistles. Two thumbs up from Mrs. Finkelstein.
“Thanks a lot, boys and girls. You guys have been great. Try the tater tots. And remember to tip the lunch ladies!”
Illustrated by Joyce Sajovie