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Charlie Fowler, tractor painter

My favorite story from Grandpa Fowler was the one about his foreman getting after him because he was painting too many tractors.

Charlie was a small, sturdy guy of mixed anglo-Cherokee stock. Probably about the most industrious human I’ve ever known. As I recall him relating the story, when he started out on the paint line the production quota was 13 a day. Over the years, the United Auto Workers had managed to shrink this quota to something like two tractors a day — you know, the guys needed time to perfect their yellow masterpieces; you wouldn’t tell Picasso to get a move on, would you?

Trained to paint 13 a day, Grandpa Charlie could paint two tractors before his first coffee break. He’d fudge his production reports to stay out of trouble, but sooner or later his boss would crunch the numbers and find his paperwork didn’t match the supply of painted tractors on hand.

“Charlie, you’ve been painting over the quota again, haven’t you?”

He always confessed and promised to change his ways. But somehow I suspect the oversupply of painted tractors lasted till the day he retired back in the 1970s.

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Tom Mangan posted at 11:54 am December 13th, 2008 |

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