Working Man’s Ph.D.

cropped-tools.jpgIn 1993 one of the biggest hits was a song called “Working Man’s Ph.D.” sung by Aaron Tippin.  Aaron Tippin has the most colorful biography of all the country-western singers I know, including a commercial airline pilot, pipefitter, truck driver, welder, farmhand, and songwriter and singer.  The lyrics for the song “Working Man’s Ph.D.” form the backbone to the point of this article and as a means of honoring those who have well-earned their working man’s Ph.D.

You get up every morning ‘fore the sun comes up
Toss a lunchbox into a pickup truck
A long, hard day, sure ain’t much fun
But you’ve gotta get it started if you wanna get it done
You set your mind and roll up your sleeves
You’re workin’ on a working man’s Ph.D

Consider the following line especially, “you’ve gotta get it started if you wanna get it done; You set your mind and roll up your sleeves.”  How many times has grit been the only determining factor between starting and finishing a project?  Starters are many, but enders are few.  Those are the two elements for success, and every working man knows the recipe.  Get your mindset and start by rolling up your sleeves.  Preparation is key to finishing strong.20th Maine

Now, cast your mind to those who have never learned how to be a working man.  They have no grit, no ability to make up their minds, and cannot stand up to adversity and spit in adversity’s eyes.  Yet, they talk a good line.  They want you to think they know.  But the lines on their brow and the lack of callouses on their hands tell another story entirely.

Take a moment and consider your first blister.  Do you remember how you earned it?  Do you remember what you were doing the first time you felt that sting?  I do.  My first blister turned into my first and most lasting callous.  I was hoeing a row of peas in a garden; I was six.  I was told that a blister from working is the mark of a man learning how to work.  I earned that blister on a hoe handled that had been wrapped in duct tape to prevent splinters.  After that row of peas, there was a row of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and lawns to mow.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted and sore, the blister was bloody, and I learned how to treat blisters so you could go to work the next day.Rocks

Let me tell you a secret; I love that blister and callous!  I have burned that callous on many a stove and pan.  I have cut that callous on several knives and received no injury.  I have softened that callous while wrestling sheep in a shearing pen.  I have milked cows and goats to the cows and goats’ misfortune with that callous.  That callous has taught me many a lesson, including how to get a blister under a callous.  In the middle of a cold winter, while splitting wood, that callous kept my hands sticking to the steel of the handle on the splitting maul.  That maul handle had been replaced so many times that my father had taken the splitting maul to work and replaced the wood with ½” steel tubing.  It heaviest splitting maul I ever used, but I never broke that handle off!

With your heart in your hands and the sweat on your brow
You build the things that really make the world go around
If it works, if it runs, if it lasts, for years
You bet your bottom dollar; it was made right here
With pride, honor, and dignity
From a man with a working man’s Ph.D

Consider something with me, think about your hardest task completed; what did you learn about “pride, honor, and dignity” about accomplishing that task?  Hard work taught you a lesson that ease and prosperity could never teach.  Lessons that you cannot pass along to another person except by teaching them the joys and pleasures of task accomplishment and hard work.  Yet, in the world today, so many want to look down on hard work, and this is a thought process that needs reversing.Good Timber

I screwed up.  I admit this freely.  I took some money for raking my neighbor’s lawn and did a poor job.  My neighbor fired me; she was right to do so.  I felt so disgusted with myself for taking money and not delivering a good job, I went over and finished that job over my neighbors’ objections.  I shoveled her snow for free that year.  I did everything I could to discharge the debt I owed to this woman for teaching me that there is no honor, dignity, and pride in a job not done well.

cropped-snow-leopard.jpgMy wife the other day asked me why I don’t quit jobs I have undertaken.  She doesn’t understand the lessons I have learned; I cannot do a poor job.  I cannot commit to doing a job and give less than my full potential and all of my talents, skills, and abilities.  Even when it means I am surrounded by enemies in a hostile environment where my life is constantly threatened.  I have to give it everything I have; I owe this debt to my neighbor that must be serviced.  I have earned a working man’s Ph.D. as well as a couple of master’s degrees from the school of hard knocks; I owe too much to those who have taught me to forget these lessons.

Now there ain’t no shame in a job well done
From driving a nail to driving a truck
As a matter of fact, I’d like to set things straight
A few more people should be pullin’ their weight
If you wanna cram course in reality
You get yourself a working man’s Ph.D

There is a truth in these simple words, I wish to convey in the soberest words possible, “there ain’t no shame in a job well done.”  There is no end of shame to a job poorly done.  Consider the current president; why does the common person, those of us carrying working man Ph.D.’s, scorn the president?  Why did the common person, those carrying working man Ph.D.’s, heap praise on President Trump?  The simple truth and reality in the sentiment, “there ain’t no shame in a job well done,” but there is no end of shame in a job poorly done.  Use any other person you care to name, John Wayne and Kim Kardashian, who gets the stain and who gets the praise of a job well and poorly done?  President Reagan and Nancy Pelosi?  Michael Jackson and Mother Teresa?Leadership Cartoon

The job doesn’t matter, driving nails, driving trucks, nursing babies, keeping a house, accountant, pipefitting, welder, buyer, etc., what matters is how well the job is completed.  Do you take the job and do it well or poorly?  For if you do it poorly, there is nothing but eternal shame, the work itself will always testify of your performance, and people will speak of your incompetence.  Do it well, to the best of your abilities; even if a scoreboard might proclaim you are a loser, you have won victory and honor, pride, and dignity that can never be taken from you.  How you perform the task is the deciding factor, not the job, not the task, not the scores and the statistics, your performance of the task’s duties.

When the quittin’ whistle blows and the dust settles down
There ain’t no trophies or cheering crowds
You’ll face yourself at the end of the day
And be damn proud of whatever you’ve made
Can’t hang it on the wall for the world to see
But you’ve got yourself a working man’s Ph.D

The hardest lesson I learned in the US Army was how to shave without looking at myself in the mirror.  Then I had to learn how to live with my mistakes to shave and look myself in the eye.  Right there and then, I learned the lesson contained in the following lines, “You’ll face yourself at the end of the day; And be damn proud of whatever you’ve made.”  In junior high school, I read Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” and the following quote stuck in my mental craw.  It comes out often to teach me more lessons.

The soil of a man’s heart is stony ground. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ’Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home.”

Thank you!Hard work teaches hard lessons, but the lessons learned are worth more than gold and diamonds, and I wouldn’t trade a single lesson learned for all the money in the world and all the fame in Hollywood.  Of all the degrees and titles I have acquired in this world, or will acquire, the only one I ever want is that of “Hard worker,” for that single title says it all.  When the chips and markers are counted at the end of life, I want to be found pulling my weight.  I might be disabled, I might be stubborn as a Missouri Mule with a mean streak a mile wide, but I want to be found pulling my weight.

Now there ain’t no shame in a job well done
From driving a nail to driving a truck
As a matter of fact, I’d like to set things straight
A few more people should be pullin’ their weight
If you wanna cram course in reality
You get yourself a working man’s Ph.D

Bobblehead DollMy deepest thanks to Aaron Tippin for his example and his incredible talent as a singer and person.  I have met many military people who sing Aaron Tippin’s praises, and I am very grateful for the talent shared.  May I encourage you to consider how well your studies are progressing on your “Working Man’s Ph.D.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Father John Patrick Mulcahy – M*A*S*H 4077 Chronicles

Father Mulcahy 2Of all the unforgettable characters from M*A*S*H 4077, one of the most important characters is Reverend Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, Chaplain, United States Army.  A most courageous and kind person, a character full of intestinal fortitude, with a deep desire to help the living, and a solid right hook when needed.  Father Mulcahy has always been a hero of mine, and I wanted to explain why, as a tribute to both the character and the actor William Christopher.

Father Mulcahy:
This isn’t one of my sermons.  I expect you to listen.”

Humility is not a weakness!

Of all the attributes of Father Mulcahy, his humility always shines through.  From his unfailing kindness to seeing the best potential anyone can have, to representing the best of what the Chaplains Corps means, William Christopher, as Father Mulcahy, produces flawlessly the sentiment that humility is a strength, a desirable, needed strength.  Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy belts the unruly and demanding lieutenant in the jaw, the episode where Father Mulcahy rides in a helicopter as a counterweight or the episode where Klinger and Major Burns get into it over a scarf, and Father Mulcahy talks Klinger into giving him a grenade.  Never do you see Father Mulcahy backing down, giving up, or losing sight of the potential goodness of a person.Father Mulcahy 4

Father Mulcahy struggles with the US Army’s ineptitude to promote him to Captain in a couple of episodes.  Even as he struggles, you see Father Mulcahy learn invaluable lessons, teach kindness, forthrightness, and compassion, and diligence, and reliance upon the strength that only comes through commitment to something greater than oneself.  Father Mulcahy’s strength is one of the glues that held M*A*S*H as a TV show together for as long as it ran.  Why; because Father Mulcahy was genuinely genuine!

Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy sits down with Colonel Potter shortly after Klinger takes over for Radar as company clerk.  Who else could have talked Colonel Potter down without talking down to Colonel Potter and allowed Colonel Potter the opportunity to act without disrespecting his rank and position?  Who else could counsel Major Houlihan, chastise Captains Pierce, Honeycutt, and Trapper John, hold Major Burns’ feet to the fires of accountability, and seamlessly interface between the enlisted and officers?  Nobody!  Better still, Father Mulcahy did all this while epitomizing the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If—
By Rudyard Kipling
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except for the Will, which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

From an interview with William Christopher, we find that Father Mulcahy was not just a character played but a person in reality.

How did you and Barbara survive the many disappointments caused by failed interventions when Ned was young? For example, the assessment of one doctor that he was “retarded,” and nothing could be done other than to “take him home and love him.”

We regarded this particular guy as a young psychologist who may not even have finished his studies. Maybe he was still in his early practice, a student who hadn’t earned his doctorate yet. In any case, we felt he was in the wrong field. We thought he couldn’t possibly know us and advise us to just accept a limited life for our son….  But we both believed that people make mistakes.

Humor is a Prerequisite Quality

Father Mulcahy always used humor to express himself.

Major Winchester was a blessing.  May the good LORD never bless me with him again!”

Some of the funniest lines in M*A*S*H belong to Father Mulcahy, and unless you are listening closely, they are often missed for the banter between the central characters.  Consider the episode where the company sings the M*A*S*H version of “Gee Ma; I wanna go home.”

A chaplain in the Army
Has a collar on his neck,
If you don’t listen to him
You’ll all wind up in heck
.”

Humor plays an incredible role in facing traumatic situations and coming through, not unscathed but mentally capable, confident, and more able to achieve.  Father Mulcahy teaches us this lesson in spades, with dignity, class, and a ripping sense of humor.

Father Francis Mulcahy:
Try to be compassionate. Remember, even one of our saints received a Dear John letter.”

Don’t be passive – Be Active – Work Hard

Father Mulcahy 5There is a story about how William Christopher got sick with Hepatitis, and the show’s producers wanted to remove Father Mulcahy’s role entirely.  Instead, Alan Alda went to bat for William Christopher, changed the scripts, and wrote Father Mulcahy’s sickness into the show to keep Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.  Why would Alan Alda do something like this for a co-star?  There are several reasons; Alan Alda was a good person.  William Christopher was a good person.  But William Christopher was always working hard; he was not supposed to carry litters and all the other stuff he was always doing in the background.  William Christopher set a standard of behavior that modeled what a chaplain was supposed to do, and military chaplains copied his behaviors, mannerisms, behaviors, attitudes, and work philosophies.

Consider this for a moment; military chaplains learned how to be chaplains by watching a fictional character, imitating a US Army unit on a Hollywood set.  Reality has been changed to emulate fiction because fiction better reflects how people should act in reality.  I was not the only chaplains assistant who measured his chaplain by Father Mulcahy.  It is gratifying to know that many chaplains in the military have measured themselves against Father Mulcahy, found themselves wanting, and then worked to improve how they responded.Father Mulcahy 3

Name an episode where Father Mulcahy is not working, and I will show you an episode of M*A*S*H that was never made.  Father Mulcahy was always available, always cheerful, and constantly engaged in a good cause, as he himself said, “to be helpful to the living.”  Carrying towels, standing in for a nurse, providing an extra set of hands in surgery, comforting a patient, nurse, soldier, patient, always there, always caring.  One of the most poignant episodes is when the Bishop of the Catholic church is coming for a visit, but a soldier wants to give blood for his buddy, and he finds out he has leukemia, and Father Mulcahy spends all night, not on his sermon, but talking to this young wounded soldier.  Take a page from Father Mulcahy; working hard is not going to kill you.  Engage!

Father Francis Mulcahy:
[Wearing a dress] While I was showering, someone stole my robe and left me this… this… house frock!

Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger:
Better not take it off, Father, or you’ll be a defrocked priest!

Father Mulcahy:
How would you like to get last rites, [raises his fists] and a few lefts?

Standing for your Convictions is Mandatory

Father Mulcahy:
How dare you! You seek refuge in this house of the Lord when it serves your purpose. Then when it’s no longer convenient, you desecrate it by pointing a deadly weapon at another human being. Private, a faith of convenience is a hollow faith.”

Father MulcahyThe episode this quote comes from is where the mess tent is being used for services, fresh eggs had been donated, and a soldier comes in seeking ecclesiastical refuge and is AWOL from his unit.  This episode has always been a favorite of mine; it has come back in times of stress and trial when the harder right and the easier wrong conflict, and I have the choice to make about which to follow.  Father Mulcahy always chooses the moral high ground, the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, and the lessons he taught through living are not easily forgotten or pushed aside.  I might not be as practiced in the execution of living the harder right, but I cannot choose the easier wrong, and that makes all the difference.

Father Mulcahy:
Klinger, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, but you take the cake.”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.