Somebody Has To Make the Gravy

Growing up in a small farming and ranching community in the nineteen-sixties was a blessing, and the rewards it afforded were lasting. One of the things I garnered from growing up in that kind of setting was a good work ethic.

Somebody Has To Make the Gravy


If you wanted a summer job back then

You could get one

That is, if you were willing

To get up at four o’clock in the morning

Work twelve hours a day

In scorching heat

But the fifty cents an hour made it all worthwhile

The work was downright brutal

But we didn’t care


By the end of the summer

We had a cigar box full of cash

And we were ready to spend it

Savings account?

Yeah, right, Dad, I’ll get right on that

Bought my first car for three-hundred big ones

An old beat up thing

I spent the next two years “fixin’ it up”

But it was mine

I was proud of it


For the rest of my working days

I carried with me the belief if I worked hard

I could earn the things this life has to offer

And if I didn’t work hard

I’d have to do without those things

Looking at the way things are today

I often wonder what happened


Many today seem to think

They don’t have to work

For things they need (or want)

Some go so far as to believe they have a right

To the things others worked hard to obtain

How did this happen?


I have my own theories on how

As a country

We’ve come to this

I contend it comes down to politics

Buying votes with tokens to ride the train

The gravy train

But nobody stopped to think

Somebody has to make the gravy


We need to get back to when

A good work ethic was something

To be proud of

Days we could pat the hood of that old car

Beam with pride and say

It ain’t much, but it’s all mine

I worked my butt off for it


Copyright © 2012 C. Mashburn

Sharing this with dVerse Poets Pub today, in response to Stu’s requests for poems about work in POETICS: Workin’ For It.


  1. Mary said

    Charles, I agree with you. So many HAVE lost the work ethic, the pride in working for something. You made your points very well in this poem.

  2. leahJlynn said

    I ditto the Mary’s comment. True to life read, thank you

  3. I think it all comes down to where kids have been raised to believe if they see it, they can have it and all they have to do is throw a hissy fit and it’s theirs. They’ve grown up spolied by parents who forgot how to simply say ‘No’..earn it like I had to. But yes, corrupt politicians haven’t done anything to help. And, when you breed upon a culture of more, more, more without limits, we are now reaping what was sown. A culture that thinks looks count more than a good heart, money talks and corruption and cheating is acceptable. The kids don’t want a job anymore, they want instant fame. They see others get it and they want it because it’s a lot easier than studying and working for a living.
    Well said Charles!

    • All true, Daydreamer. The situation we find ourselves in has so many cause and effect elements to it, it’s hard to even narrow it down enough to attempt to reverse or repair it. Things are out of control.
      Thanks for the thought-filled comment.

  4. Pats Devotions said

    Liked your article Charles.. Brought back some old memories… Pat

  5. Sherry Mashburn said

    I thank God for my parents and for their work ethic which they passed on to me.

  6. Oh yes…my first car cost me $300 too, and I worked hard for it waitressing. Once I became a mother the work got significantly harder but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and thankfully my children have the work ethic so… I must have done something right!

    • Good for you and your children! I know you did something right! I firmly believe that work ethic is something passed down from generation to generation. My grandpa had a great work ethic, my mom does, my son does, and my grandsons do. Oh, and so do I!
      Thanks for the great comment, Dianne!

  7. Well said. I’ve known friends who were richer than I was, and smarter than I was, and there was only one thing on my side: that I worked harder than any of them. That has made all the difference.

    • I can relate to that, Sam! Lots of my friends are richer than me, and most of ’em are better looking, but I guarantee you I can out work every one of them. And I’m dern proud of it!
      Thanksfor the great comment!

  8. this is strong truth charles….we have lost the work ethic…grew up on the loading docks myself…loading and unloading trucks….dad helped me with the first pick up so he did not have to shuffle me back and forth but i made payments think mine might have been $500….great piece man…

    • Yessir, we have, for the most part. There are still some who have it, and I’m proud to say many of them are members of my family. The fact is, we don’t tolerate laziness ’round here! Nothing wrong with a hand from yer Pa, either, but I applaud the fact he wanted you to pay it back.
      Thanks for the visit and great comment!

  9. hedgewitch said

    Yep, I agree Charles, when you work for things, you value them–started working at fifteen–my mother had to sign a release because of child labor laws–at the local five and dime(no longer in existence), every day after school and all day Saturdays –and worked till I could look at the kids around me(*standing* around watching me work) and say “I’ve been working longer than you’ve been alive. If you are alive–you haven’t moved for 45 minutes…” 😉 But don’t get me started. I think things are going to get worse before it gets better because no one has a clue how hard it is to make things *work.*

    • I started younger than that, but I don’t think they’d come up with the child labor BS at that time. I was mowing lawns for the neighbors when I was twelve, and workin in the vrious farm fields when I was thirteen.
      I agree; it will get worse, and unless the few that do have values can lead the ones that don’t out of their ignorance, I can’t imagine how this country will look in ten years. It does not look good. And, like you; don’t get me started.
      Thanks for the thought-filled comment!

  10. Amen!

  11. poemsofhateandhope said

    Ahhh see I love this….and a controversial topic….particularly in the UK. There is so much talk about whether it ‘pays’ to work – because some people can get more money by being on ‘benefits’….this really isn’t an easy topic, as every situation is different….but from my past experience of working in banks- it kind of grates in me when peopleplead poverty (when they’re not working) but refuse to cancel there £120 per month sky tv subscription…. Oh and also they need money to go and by a new x box game- because otherwise they would be so bored…oh- and of course- lets not talk about the time when someone complained that they had to go and choose the free kitchen the government where paying for- for them…these are REAL things I have experienced- I think it makes it more difficult when people who want to work, to pay their own way, and don’t ‘expect’ things….but on the flipside- there are genuinely people who need and should be supported- damn- I don’t know- its a really difficult subject- look what your poem did! It made me write an essay! Ha ha- I love the premise- I would rather pay my own way,be skint,, but know that I’m not relying on others to bail me out…it’s about self respect and self pride I guess….great poem….unafraid to tackle this topic head on

    • I hear ya, Stu; it is a difficult thing, because, yes, some do truly need help. But in the US, too many are doing the things you point out; living the good life, and not working for it. I know folks who have the same things I have–some have more–and they are living on the gov dole. I’m sorry, but that ain’t right! As for not afraid to tackle the subject, I ain’t skeert a much, and politically-correct is a dirty word in my house. I say it like it is.
      Thanks for the awesome comment, my man. I love it!

  12. Laurie Kolp said

    I certainly agree, Charles. I think the “entitled” are missing out though, don’t you?

    • Yes I do! I can’t see where they can gain any satisfaction–sense of achievement–when nothing is earned.
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Laurie!

  13. aprille said

    Charles, thank you for taking me back to my student days, and we didn’t have grants, we added two years onto the five years required through working for the fees and accommodation. And I loved it. The jobs I had in a big city were varied and fascinating. I even did TV variety shows , live TV, with gloopy make-up and interesting people. Worked as translator and PA for a famous international Orchestra and for a GM motors man who lent me his Cadillac plus chauffeur. I was lucky, and young and had a whale of a time.I ought to have taken notes 🙂

    • And, that’s the way it should be! This idea that the government “owes” anybody and education is absurd! I applaud your efforts!
      Thanks for the great comment!

  14. claudia said

    We need to get back to when

    A good work ethic was something

    To be proud of….yes….i def. agree whole-heartedly..

  15. kelly said

    this made me smile… i bought my first car for $200… man, i loved that car, though it was old as dirt and drank oil like soda. i so agree, this country has lost the work ethic, so much entitlement–i think we’ve taught our children to expect it. how to get it back… that is the question.

    • So glad when I make someone smile! And, yes, that is the BIG question.
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  16. margo roby said

    I love the title. Perhaps we introduce it to schools as a motto. I’m hoping when the entitlement generation realises its not getting far fast, they’ll maybe look at the reasons and start us towards a new work ethic generation, hopefully in time for my needing all their support in my old age.

    • Haha! Planning ahead, and looking out for number one! Nothing wrong with that! But seriously, we need to find a way to turn this around. Unfortunately, it may be one of those situations where we have to hit bottom before we start back in the right direction.

  17. I am craving gravy!

    • Git yerself a ticket and git in line! But if you’re really craving cravy, be sure and stop by when you come through Texas. I’ll whip up some a my out-o-site biscuits, and some sausage gravy. Of course that leaves the dilema of whether to put gravy on the biscuits, or some of my fabulous homemade jam. Be making some apple butter soon, too. Decisions, decisions!!

      • Charles,
        In our family the sausage was cooked and then the gravy from the sausage fat and only with PET milk. The sausage then would go in the biscuit which was covered in gravy. My grandmother would then butter the second pan of biscuits and leave them on the stove to keep warm so that we could slather them with homemade plum jam and pear honey after the sausage was all gone. As I kid I would eat between 8 and 12 biscuits myself for breakfast 🙂

      • Now, I hope you noticed there was no “homemade” before the sausage gravy. I get mine out of a box–the gravy, not the sausage–but I remember the days when my Aunt Ada made her gravy from the drippings and milk. Every time I went to see her, she fixed me biscuits and gravy. She also had the homemade jams–wild plum was the best! Back in the day, I could put away a biscuit or twelve myself!

      • yeah, there is only homemade gravy in our world, and wild plum is indeed from the Gods! Growing up in a country home in Texas was truly magical!

  18. zongrik said

    it really makes me sick that kids don’t mow lawns etc today. my neighbors have 6 six, and i’m disabled and not once do their entitlement mentality parents tell them that the right thing would be to come and ask if i need help. i’ve had surgery, been in a wheelchair, and it just didn’t matter. now, if i have something extra to give to them, well, that’s cool, they’ll take it. and i can tutor for their yard work and help them with music, teach them how to write. but none of that matters…disgusting!!

    Sonnet 24

    • Sounds way too typical, Zongrik. And, yes, it is disgusting when people only care about themselves. They want everything given to them, but they don’t want to put any effort into getting it.
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  19. all time oldes said

    Hey – Respect – Great poem!

  20. Bodhirose said

    You’re right, Charles…there sure seems to be a great deal of the feeling of entitlement today and sadly, I think you’re right about it coming from politics…what a nasty business that is! Or is it from over-indulgent parents..maybe a bit of both..

    • Lots of things have contributed to the situation, but I contend most of it stems from an out of control government trying to control our lives and not realizing they’d stepped over a line. Parents, in my opinion, got caught up in the money for nothing and your kicks are free syndrom, and didn’t realize the out of control government was going to drag them across the line with them. I’ve been saying for years; the government is too big, it’s broken, and it can’t be fixed. I hope I’m wrong about that last one, but I know I’m right about the first two.
      Okay! Off my soapbox! Sorry!
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

      • Bodhirose said

        Believe me, I can get going on this topic too. I agree it’s broken and I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this mess. Start from all politicians and think of some other way to run the huge business we’ve created..?! I don’t know..

      • All we can do is try, I reckon.

  21. This is a great poem and a great deal of truth spoken! One thing to remember about having a good working ethic is the self respect you gain from working hard for your own achievements! 😉

  22. I agree with you Charles ~ It all boils down to the values that we have, and pass down our children. I still believe hard work is the key and given the right opportunity, we can achieve what we want ~

  23. Argh, can totally get your frustration on this one, I’ve been raised the old fashioned way, you want something or want to be something, then you damn well get off your back side and work for it! Had a job since I was 13yrs old and have been in some form of paid employment non stop ever since. When I was made redundant I came straight home and got to looking for something else, and when there wasn’t anything, I set myself up self employed and started a business…. And I’ll be raising my children to be productive members of society, doesn’t matter how financially successful they are, but it does matter that they get out the door every morning and have a purpose. Don’t get me started on society, makes me crazy every day and I could really get all political…. But your lovely blog is not the place. Nicely done Charles!

    • Good for you, Vanessa! I like your attitude!
      Thanks for the visit and great comment!

  24. Chazinator said

    I like the sentiments expressed here, and I certainly understand them. There is a sense of trial overcome in jobs that take the guff out of you. I’ve done this for manual labor and in an office environment. It’s different types of work, the manual was more gratifying perhaps since it included overcoming my physical limits but also to contend with nature. The office is more mentally taxing, drining a deeper core perhaps. Your words here have obviously rung a bell in me, but I’d like to say that I know lots of people who work hard, and I’ve rarely seen someone who just didn’t want to work. That said, your poem gets to the heart of things, and I like it for that.

  25. Raivenne said

    AMEN Brother! I say the downfall started in the “Me! Me! Me!” of the 80’s and got worse from there.

    • I think the me generation had a lot to do with where we are, but I also think it started well before the eighties. And, yes, it has gotten progessively worse, and seems to be picking up steam.
      Thanks for the comment!

  26. Everyone seems to now expect something for nothing. Fame seems to be the only incentive left which will motivate the young. How sad.

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