I’ll Work for Cliff

As Larry sat in his office mulling over stacks and stacks of paperwork his attention was directed toward the office doorway when he heard the sound of movement coming from the other side of, and just beyond, his large wooden desk.  As his eyes strayed away from the mound of papers which covered the desktop and toward the doorway, the image of a man came into focus.

The man was someone Larry didn’t readily recognize but then, in the course of his job, he met and interacted with many people. However, the short in stature and casually attired gentleman was most assuredly not an employee of the company.  During the time that he had worked there Larry had come to know all of the employees working at the American Family Homes Company, a builder of manufactured homes.

Larry started working for the Anderson based company four years earlier and had risen to the position of purchasing agent.  He was responsible for ensuring that all the materials needed to build each home were on-site and available. The family man, then in his early forties, made daily contacts with vendors and contractors, many locally owned, trying to get the right products at the best price possible.

The owner of the company, Harry Taylor, had every confidence in Larry and when the materials were gathered together production manager, Wayne Carson, directed a crew of employees as they assembled varying sizes of homes suitable for potential buyers of all tastes and with families of any size.

The American Family Homes Company employed approximately fifty hardworking employees, all of whom lived in the McDonald County area.  The close-knit group worked together to send approximately sixty new homes per month to customers scattered throughout the Midwest and South.

However, Larry’s company wasn’t the only employer in the hills of the Southwest Missouri Ozarks building the manufactured structures.  McDonald County was home to as many as seven different companies with names like New Style Homes, Sundancer, Diplomat and others.  Not only did these companies employ hundreds of local residents but the fingers of each company reached out across the county and beyond to local suppliers who earned a living selling products to the manufacturers themselves.  This business of constructing pre-fabricated homes, which was at one time the areas major industry, dominated the county’s commerce from the early 1960’s until the middle part of the 1980’s.

Larry sized up the visitor while allotting some time for his memory to work but, after no name or recollection of a previous meeting could be brought to mind, he asked, “Can I help you.”  The man needed no time to think and abruptly answered, “Y’all hirin?”

The hiring of people who would work in the department for which Larry managed was in fact Larry’s responsibility but hiring for the production process was the responsibility of Wayne Carson.  Larry responded with a completely relative answer, “Maybe, what type of work are you looking for?”  “Prittnear anything,” the straight-faced man answered.

Rather than continue the conversation, Larry raised up from his wooden straight-backed office chair and the foam seat cushion that helped ease his backside discomfort and walked the short few steps across the room to a large metal file cabinet.  “Let me grab an employment application,” Larry said as he opened the top drawer of the scratched metal cabinet.

As Larry’s fingers flipped through file after file his hand suddenly came to rest, “Here we are,” he said.  Removing the printed form from the cabinet he looked toward the man as he closed the drawer.  “Here you go,” he said.  “You can bring this back in when it’s completed.”  “If I had my druthers I’d make it out now,” the man said.  Larry thought about all those papers on his desk and the telephone calls that would surely come before the end of the long day but he didn’t have the heart to say no.

“Sure,” Larry replied, “there’s a chair just outside the office. You can sit there and make out the form.”  “Gotta pen or pencil?” the man asked.  Larry once again walked across the office to his desk and took a pen from a coffee cup that sat atop the desk.  “Here ya go,” Larry said as he tossed the pen to the waiting man.

Larry returned to his desk and the papers and telephone calls and almost forgot about the job applicant sitting just outside his office until the man walked through the doorway.  Holding the application and pen in one hand the man walked toward the desk and dropped the two items directly in front of Larry.

“All done?” Larry asked.  “Yep,” the man answered.  “Well, as you can see, I’m pretty busy right now but I’ll look over the application and give you a call.  Is your number on the form?”   “Sis’s number is,” the man replied.  Without another word the man turned and left the office.

Curiosity got the better of Larry and he had to take a closer look at the document.  All areas of the form seemed to be completed however some of the writing was illegible.  As he perused the form, his eyes fell to the section which asked “What type of work are you seeking?”  The answer caused some concern as Larry read the words, “Work for Cliff.”  Larry thought for a moment then said to himself, but aloud, “who is Cliff?”

Larry walked out of his office and called the materials handler, Sandy Chandler, over.  “Do we have any new employees named Cliff,” Larry asked.  “Nope, no new employees at all,” Sandy replied.  Larry went back to his desk and for some time tried to diminish the size of that stack of papers but shortly his mind came back to the curious answer on the application.

He could stand it no longer and finally Larry called the telephone number on the form.  A man answered and Larry immediately recognized the voice as that of the man in his office’s doorway.  “Hi, this is Larry from American Family Homes; I have a question about something you wrote on the application.”  “Okay,” the man of few words said.  “You say here that you want to work for Cliff.  We don’t have anyone here by that name.”  Interrupting the man said, “Wrote I’d work the forklift.”  “Oh,” Larry said.  “Well we don’t have any openings for forklift operators right now, sorry.”  Larry heard the click of the receiver returning to its cradle as the conversation ended.

There were no unfilled positions at that time but Larry often thought that someone looking for a specific job should know how to spell it.



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