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Getting an education outside of school

Now that school’s out and young people are blessed with an abundance of spare time, the world of free enterprise will probably have some new entrepreneurs.

It never fails. Take some kids, add a little imagination and some extra hours and you have a new business in the making. Sure, it might be something as basic as a night crawler or lemonade stand or, perhaps, it could lean more to the exotic such as house painting or log splitting.

It all goes hand-in-hand with youth. There seems to be no end to their energy or imagination.

I must admit that way back when Slick and I took a few plunges into the business world. None of our ventures set the world on fire but they did make us enough funds to keep us entertained.

I remember the one particular summer when we went into the lawn mowing business. It seemed a natural thing to do because Slick and I both had the chore of mowing our own lawns (for free). We decided that by mowing aadditional lawns we would soon be rolling in money.

The business got off to a great start (thanks to several relatives). We spent most of that summer on the business end of a couple of push mowers.

When I say push, that’s exactly what I mean. The only power those mowers had was the power we supplied! By the time August rolled around the heat had taken a big toll on the grass and two young mowers. We decided it was time to find a new form of income.

By then the mowing game had gone from once a week to once every other week. Along with that, our enthusiasm had waned to the point that we’d just as soon make it once every other year.

Yet the thought of doing without the profits from our mowing business was depressing too, so we decided to get into another — less strenuous — line of work.

After several hours of brainstorming, Slick and I came up with an idea to make a killing: the fish business. Not just the regular, run-of-the-mill fish business, we hit upon the idea of raising exotic tropical fish.

We knew most of our friends had a few guppies swimming around in a bowl in their bedrooms, so we figured they might want to add a little class to their act.

The next time my folks ventured to Des Moines to buy supplies for the newspaper, Slick and I went along to buy fish inventory.

It didn’t take us long to blow all of our lawn mowing loot on a few pairs of swordtails and some angel fish. From all the information we had read, those particular fish were supposed to reproduce faster than rabbits.

The only thing we hadn’t planned on was the fact that some adult fish like to eat their own babies. It took a few hatches before we figured out that if we didn’t separate them as soon as the young were born, we wouldn’t have any young ones swimming around.

By the time Christmas rolled around our fish business was doing nothing but costing us money. What few young fish we manage to raise and sell only brought in enough to buy feed to feed our broodstock (who got awfully hungry when they weren’t eating their young).

The end of our fish business came like a bolt out of the blue. One cold winter Saturday – after much coaxing from my mother – we decided to clean our aquariums.

We placed our adult fish in a smaller bowl and started cleaning the aquariums in the bath tub. Finishing our cleaning chores, I went to retrieve our broodstock. What met my eyes was enough to send chills up the spine of any young entrepreneur — my pet cat Simon licking his chops as he stood over the spilled bowl.

Turns out Simon had eaten us completely out of business. The only inventory remaining were a couple snails and some really stinky seaweed.

Well, at least Simon saved us the trouble of having a liquidation sale!

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)

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