In the Trenches: Cat's in the Cradle

Rick Williams

Rick Williams owns Rick’s Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business since 1986. Contact Rick via e-mail at ricksignco@aol.com.

It will come as little surprise to most of you that being self-employed, and specifically being in the custom sign business, means a 40-hour work week is as rare as a Bigfoot sighting. We’ve heard of them, maybe had a near encounter once or twice, but for the most part hours like that are more myth and mystery than reality.

That does not mean I took a pass when my kids were small, and let Sharon have all that work, all that fun, and all those wonderful memories. I helped with their homework, bathtime and read them to sleep most every night. Then, if needed, I went back to work, or shifted gears and wrote hundreds of articles for the magazine you’re reading now.

But that was years ago, however, the pitter-patter of little feet are still common in our household, but now it is our little grandkids, or grandsons to be more specific (now we have four).

They live nearby, and we love seeing them, but my work schedule is probably worse than ever. A sign shop has an almost unique way of consuming the owner’s time, and clients seem to excel in finding ways to waste mine, or at least take far more of it than a given project will justify… or pay for. And I have not been able to solve this problem in the decades I’ve been trying.

So, it isn’t easy to take the time I want to with my little boys… and yes they are mine as much as their daddies were. But this past year, any whining I might have voiced about my challenge had to stop as my wife and world champion babysitter, fought a battle with colon cancer and had to take some time off.

So, instead of Sharon (“Bebe”), it was Pop that picked the two oldest up from preschool at noon, and took care of lunch plus two or three hours more, so their mom (the bookkeeper of both our companies) could get her work done. One or two days a week, Carson, Caden and I we were off on our adventures, spending time fishing, exploring, riding tractos, and doing little boy things that were not only fun for them but also for the little boy with gray hair, too.

The sign shop survived, and we made special memories, and I even learned a thing or two. I learned, as they learned, about the fish and wildlife of our East Texas creeks and rivers, and that includes being sure to watch out for those lurking and ever menacing “crockadators.” I didn’t even know we had those, but Caden sure did.

We never saw one, though we became experts in fishing the small interconnected creeks that make up the rain water drainage system of Longview, Texas. With kid-sized rods and reels, cane poles, and wire fish traps, we became local experts on whatever lives in the shallow waters nearby. Crawfish, giant tad poles, minnows, perch, bass and bream, the boys know them all by now. And Carson, as smart as any five year old I’ve known, invented a word requiring no translation into any language, and the word is “twangled,” which is much more descriptive than the normal term, his own contribution to the American English lexicon. Pop has “un-twangled” many a line for that little fisherman.

Sharon is now doing fine, and her reports are good. They caught her cancer early and treated it aggressively. Now she’s back to babysitting, and has another grandson to go with the others. And Pop is back working long hours at the sign shop, taking care of business.

But that doesn’t mean our adventures are over, no sir. I really do know what’s important and try hard to keep my priorities right. Perhaps Harry Chapin’s lyrics still say it best, though I’m taking a bit of liberty with this version:

The cat’s in the cradle, and the silver spoon,

Little boy blue and the man in the moon,

They’re growing up fast, growing up too soon,

I’d better take the time while I can,

Glad I’m taking time while I can.

If you have little kids in your domain, I hope you’re taking time while you can, too. Have a great month.