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Life as a potato digger is tough. For starters, I had to get up with the chickens. After a hearty breakfast, Mom handed me a lunch pail that usually contained a leftover biscuit and a piece of bacon from breakfast, and I walked what seemed an endless two-mile trek to the potato garden. I remembered reading a book about Abraham Lincoln that said he once walked 20 miles to borrow a book. I decided I shouldn’t complain, but be thankful I didn’t have 18 miles to go. Also, I was thankful it was late July and school was out for summer. Otherwise, I would be going to school and digging potatoes.
Mr. Mobley informed me that his farmhand, John, would be my boss. Approaching the farm, I saw the tallest, strongest man I had ever seen.
“I’m Woody,” I said, extending my paw to meet him.
“Nice to meet you, Woody. You’re right on time for work, actually early,” John said as he looked at his pocket watch. “I like that in a worker. I’ll show you the ropes and then we’ll get to work. Digging the potatoes should take one week. “At the end of the week, providing the job is complete, you will be paid your earnings. Any questions, Woody?”
“No, sir. Let’s roll.” I replied.
“Not roll, Woody,” John corrected, “Dig.”
John and I worked side-by-side and became buddies. Sometimes we sang songs to pass the time or we talked about the news of the day.
“Hey Woody, did you read in the newspaper that the government has just minted the very first Lincoln penny?”
I have one, I wanted to shout, so proud of my treasure. Instead, I replied with, “Really? Lincoln is my all-time favorite president.”
During break, I read the newspaper. It verified information Chloe gave me earlier – that the 1909 Lincoln penny was the very first penny to ever feature the likeness of a president. It was issued to celebrate Lincoln’s 100th birthday.
The article went on to say that since many people feel President Lincoln was one of the most important presidents ever, his likeness should be on something worth more than one cent. Other people feel since President Lincoln was a common man, and a president to the common people, the penny was a good choice.
I wondered about my 1909 penny. I wish I had carried it with me so I could hold it, but I knew it was in a safe place and would be waiting for me when I arrived.
By Friday evening, I was dog tired, yet I felt great knowing I had worked hard and completed the task. In the beginning, my job felt meaningless, but John had bragged on my work and added, “You are not just digging potatoes, Woody. You are providing food for families.” That helped me see the importance of my task and motivated me to work harder.
At the end of the workweek, I received my first ever paycheck for $2. I was rich. John explained the average pay for farm work was usually a bit higher, but since I haven’t had any experience – and since I am a dog – my pay is lower.
“You’re a great digger, Woody, and a great worker,” he said. “Thanks for being at work every day, on time and giving 100 percent without complaining. Anytime you need a job, let me know.”
I thanked him again before walking to Mobley’s Mercantile to show my appreciation to Mr. Mobley. Standing in the store, I was tempted to spend my earnings. I had promised my parents and myself that I was going to start saving. Yet what could it hurt to spend a cent or two?
“Do you have anything for a penny?” I questioned. “Sure,” Mr. Mobley said. “You can buy a stamp to send a letter, purchase a newspaper, or buy some penny candy.” Since I didn’t need to send a letter, and I had read the newspaper earlier in the day, I decided to purchase a peppermint stick for Chloe. It was her all-time favorite candy.
I couldn’t wait to get home. I put $1.98 in my bank and gave Chloe the candy and one of the pennies from my pay. Giving Chloe a penny would allow me access to one of the pennies from her jar, hopefully taking us back to the 21st century. I closed my eyes, pulled a penny from the jar and immediately looked at the date to the right of President Lincolnee
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