By Rich Creason | For The Times-Post
From kindergarten to high school graduation, I attended five different schools.
As anyone who has done this realizes, it’s hard to make friends when you are new to a school where all the rest of the kids knew each other for many years.
I was not in sports or any clubs when attending school, and all of my spare time was spent working with our horses or doing odd jobs around the neighborhood.
I had no friends, and that was fine with me.
In 1965, I went to Purdue.
It was just like high school.
I had no friends and worked hard to keep it that way.
When I graduated five years later, I had a Bachelor of Sciencein Wildlife Management.
I was supposed to get a job as a wildlife biologist or maybe a conservation officer.
It didn’t happen.
I got a job putting up chain link fence.
When the weather was bad I worked at a gas station my boss owned. I think that was back when we still pumped gas for the customer.
I liked the fence building part but it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life, so I wasn’t happy.
A guy I knew from the bowling alley worked at the Pendleton Reformatory.
He told me they were always hiring if I was looking for a more permanent job.
I applied, got the job, and the superintendent asked if I would like to be his groundskeeper. It sounded better than working in a cellhouse, so I told him yes.
So, that’s where I remained for the next 32 years.
It was a steady job, and I knew it wouldn’t close down and leave town like all the factories did back in the ‘70s.
And while I had a paycheck coming in on a regular basis, it was not a place conducive to making a lot of new friends.
Over those three decades, I can say I probably only had two people I would actually call friends.
And I don’t know how I got those two.
One actually worked with me on the grounds.
When he was assigned to my area, I was told he was just like me and after a short period together one of us would probably quit or kill the other.
That was about 25 years ago and we still get along and go to lunch together a couple times a week. (The other one I haven’t seen or talked to in 15 or 20 years.)
On my 55th birthday, I retired. I walked out of prison and started to enjoy life.
My wife told me she had seldom seen me smile.
I began going to church with her every week.
I became the doorman and greeted people coming in with a smile and a handshake (before Covid.)
People started to talk to me.
I baked refreshments for after service gatherings.
I was asked to put on assorted shows for kids in day care. (In the past, I just thought kids were good if you cooked them long enough.)
I did metal detector seminars for other church senior groups and nursing homes.
I don’t know how it happened, but I accidentally made friends.
We met a couple at the Pendleton Farmers Market and soon after, they unofficially adopted us as parents.
We dine out with them several times a week and have been invited to their house for Father’s Day and Christmas and birthdays.
A new couple joined our church and shortly after. They began eating out with us once or twice a week.
Today was Father’s Day.
The church couple joined us at Red Lobster for lunch.
That afternoon, both couples showed up at our house to rototill my garden.
Susie said it all started back in 2002 when I retired from the reformatory.
While many folks enjoy their jobs, mine was one I disliked every day.
I guess anyone who had no friends to begin with, and worked in a prison for over three decades, might have a reason for being unhappy and having a bad attitude.
My wife didn’t believe it until I actually showed her my grade school report cards.
Each one had a check mark next to the line which said, “Does not work and play well with others.”
Maybe I have changed since then.
Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].