Monday, September 1, 2003

You gotta love these labors

By Gina Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On this Labor Day, we wanted to talk to some people who do jobs that seem kind of wacky and fun. They do jobs that might not seem like work - at least to the rest of us.

There are a lot of such jobs out there, but we settled on three: A couple of guys who pick up golf balls at a range; a woman who puts the filling in doughnuts and a man who clowns around for kids.

They make you wonder, do they really get paid to do that? Indeed they do.

He might be a clown, but he has the last laugh

Everybody figured Ed Gault would be a natural for clowning. He's a "class clown" kind of guy.

Firefighter-paramedic Ed Gault.
(AP photo)
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So about 2 1/2 years ago, he decided to don the big red nose, the floppy shoes and the white makeup and live out everyone's expectations of him.

Gault, a full-time firefighter-paramedic for Sharonville, is also the public education officer for the fire department, which means he goes into schools and teaches kids about fire safety.

"As a fire clown I can keep their attention for a half an hour, when in regular dress, they tune out after about 15 minutes," Gault says. "I want to keep their attention longer, so we can keep them out of Shriners."

Shriners Hospital for Children, a pediatric burn hospital on Burnet Avenue in Avondale, is no stranger to Gault's clowning, either. As a Shriner and a clown, he looks forward to making the kids forget, at least for a little while, why they are there. He performs magic tricks, juggles, paints silly pictures and tells corny jokes.

"Shriners does an incredible job at healing their wounds, and we try to bring a smile to their faces," Gault says.

The first Saturday of every month, as many as 11 clowns visit the children at Shriners. One child was particularly apprehensive at first, but the more he has seen the Shriners clowns, the more open he has become.

Making kids smile and laugh is the No. 1 reason Gault clowns, he says.

Their job makes them a moving target

Here's to you, Brian Smith and Andrew Brinker. Here's to all of your hard work driving a tractor around in the hot sun and the rain. Here's to plodding on, even when you know the more golf balls you pick up, the more people will have to aim at you.

Smith and Brinker, both 18, are the ball picker-uppers at Joe Nuxhall's Golf Center in Hamilton. Every night they pull into the path of duffers at the driving range and brave being pummeled with golf balls. Because as every golfer knows, hitting the ball picker at the driving range is almost as good as a hole-in-one on the course.

"Sometimes, when people can't hit you, they get real mad and they run out onto the field and throw the golf balls at you," says Brinker, who has been driving the ball tractor for the last three summers. "I like to speed up, slow down or turn so that they can't hit me."

Enclosed by a cage and an unbreakable glass windshield, Smith says it takes more than just "some average guy" to be the ball-picker. You have to be dedicated. You have to be willing to brave the rain and the heat and the sun. Mostly, you have to be able to endure monotony, boredom and being pelted.

Smith says the first time he was hit he thought a shotgun had gone off. Brinker said he thought it sounded like the engine blew. Kim Nuxhall, who runs the golf center and fancies himself a "master picker," said it sounded like a firecracker going off inside a cage.

I wasn't sure about that - until I tried it. Even though I knew there was a chance - albeit slight on this night - that they might hit me, it didn't prepare me for the blast a golf ball hitting a steel cage at about 150 mph makes.

"They're definitely aiming at you," says Nuxhall, who's the son of the Old Left-hander. "It's a big thrill to hit the ball picker. Actually, we should give some kind of prize."

It may look like menial work to the untrained eye, but the ball picker is considered one of the most important jobs at the driving range. What looks like aimless driving around is actually a sophisticated strategy to get the most balls in the least amount of time. Experienced pickers such as Brinker and Smith can do 12 acres in about 40 minutes.

When Bud Light launched its Real American Hero ad campaign, featuring odd jobs and those who serve in them, the ball picker-upper was touted as a real hero for driving "directly in the path of adversity."

"I got a little teary-eyed the first time I heard it," Nuxhall says. "I love that commercial. What better way to be honored than by Budweiser. Maybe they'll honor you some day, Miss Ball Picker-Upper Reporter."

We all have our dreams.

When you fill doughnuts for a living, life is sweet

There's custard filled and sunshine filled. Then you've got your chocolate ice cream filled and cream filled. But the best ones are the jelly filled.

Doughnuts, that is.

It's bayou hot in the Busken Bakery kitchen at Madison and Edwards Roads in Hyde Park, where every night from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., workers are busy mixing, shaping, frying, stacking, filling, icing, boxing and shipping doughnuts.

Veteran doughnut filler Millie Carter of Hyde Park, has worked in this bakery for 23 years. She spends about two hours each night filling the doughnuts, two at a time.

"If the doughnut is bigger, you want to put in more filling," she says. "If it's smaller, you regulate the flow to the size of the doughnut. You don't want the doughnut to bust and you don't want it all packed in one spot. You want the fill to stretch all the way across the doughnut."

Carter can hold four doughnut shells at once, filling two at a time and then restocking her hands in a continuous doughnut filler motion. She pokes the little pastries onto metal filling tubes, then slowly pulls the doughnut shells back as they fill. This way, there will be jelly in every bite.

"She's the fastest filler in this town. I'd put money on her," says Don Foxworth, the night finishing and delivery manager.

On a counter near Carter are her rejects. Six or so jelly mishaps. Doughnuts that either burst, collapsed or, for one reason or another, just weren't good enough to be Busken jelly-filled doughnuts.

Each night Busken makes 1,600 to 2,300 dozen doughnuts, says Tom Rinear, vice president and production manager. Of those, 90 to 100 dozen a night are jelly filled.

"That's why I look like a jelly doughnut," Rinear says.

Brian Adkins, who works at University Hospital, says the worst thing about his time in the military was being sent to Korea - because they didn't have jelly doughnuts.

He likes the surprise of a jelly doughnut - not ever really knowing what's going to happen when you take the first bite.

"I like it when it squishes out. Then you get to lick it off your fingers," Adkins says. "Now I'm starving for a jelly doughnut."



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