Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Was Your First Paid Job?

I remember it well ... my first job as a geological assistant. Well, actually, I was still at high school, but it was the first job I had where I actually got paid.

My family lived on a copper mine eight miles from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory and I spent the last couple of my high school years at a boarding school at Charters Towers to the east in Queensland. I only came home for the Christmas holidays between November and January and mid-year for two weeks in June and July.

Because I had nothing much to do and my father wanted to instill in me a work ethic, he arranged a job for me in the then Exploration Department of Peko Mine. Because of my age, I was not permitted by law to work on the mine site, but the Exploration Department was out of harm's way and I had a strong interest in geology so it seemed like a good match. Me, two geological field technicians, three genuine degree qualified geologists, and a geological draftsman.

While I didn't know it, the plot that my father and chief geologist, Barney Elliston had hatched was to keep me busy (the devil finds evil things for idle young boys to do) and I'd be paid a pittance from the petty cash tin as I was not only too young to work on a mine site, but too young to work period. I was not yet 14.

My position as "geological assistant" meant that I had to prepare to do field trips with one or other geologist. I would go to the mine canteen with a small requisition document and pick up sandwiches for our trips, ensure the water bags were filled and that bottles of additional water were on board our Landrover 4WD vehicles. I had to make sure there was at least one, but preferably two geologist's hammers on board and then advise my travelling companion that this had all been achieved.

Off we would drive into the Central Australian outback to places with no roads, no people, no shops, nothing but rocky outcrops and short, stunted acacia trees and spinifex as far as the eye could see. I loved it.

When we got to our destination, my geologist companion would consult a few maps and then we'd scratch around looking for different types of rocks while he took notes and made annotations on the maps. At a suitable time, we'd find the shade of a gum tree, make a small fire to boil our billy and sit around chasing flies away while we ate lunch and had a cup of tea with condensed milk.

After my first week or so, I was given a much more responsible task ... cracking cores. The Exploration Department managed several diamond drilling rigs that produced hundreds of feet of round core nicely stored in core trays. My job was to use a core splitting machine to put half of the core into a hessian sample bag and the remainder back into the core tray. The bagged samples would be sent to our Assaying Lab for analysis of the contents.

Core cutting was a boring job, but something that had to be done.

I forget how much I got paid, but it was better than nothing and I enjoyed the company, the field trips and the things I learnt about the life of exploration geologists.

What was your first paid job? Write a comment and tell us.


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