I wasted no time as the signing date for my working papers grew near. With practicality my motivator, I scoured the employment options for a young teen entering the work force. My friend's older sister was a lifeguard and I learned that I could make seven dollars per hour working at the local pool. No other part-time job could compete with that pay rate and few companies would hire someone so young, so I signed up for lifeguard training. This tapped into my savings, which I carefully managed from allowances, birthdays, and the occasional babysitting job, but I could see the future and I knew that I would quickly make back the certification fees. With careful budgeting, I would be able to say "Good-Bye" to off seasons and "Hello" to riding lessons all year long!
Several weeks later, I completed the American Red Cross Lifeguard training, passed all the tests, and became a certified lifeguard at age fourteen. The age cutoff has since been raised to fifteen, and looking back I cannot believe that I was able to complete some of those tests. I retrieved a ten pound weight from the bottom of the diving tank and held it at chin-level while treading water for at least one minute. I swam more laps than I ever had before or since and many of them were with a "victim" in tow. Knowing that my slight frame had to be strong enough to save a swimmer in distress, the evaluators certainly did not go easy on me. For the final test, I had to tow an "active" victim the length of an Olympic-size swimming pool with the lane ropes removed. My "victim" was a six-foot tall, male lifeguard and he thrashed and rolled like crazy to try and dislodge my hold as I pulled him across the lanes. Little did he know, I had the dreams of affording my saddle time and years of following the movement of a 1000 pound animal on my side. I held on to that "victim" like my life depended upon it and finished the final trial victorious! It was a very proud day.
...I never became employed as a lifeguard. Shortly after earning my certification, I inquired about working at the local pool and learned of their strict employment rules. I had to work everyday during the summer season from 4 pm until 8 pm. All the new lifeguards had to work this shift and you were not granted days off or vacation weeks if your family was going away. Being only fourteen, I did not have a driver's license and my parents were not willing to commit to such a relentless chauffeur schedule. So my dream of financing yearlong riding lessons was postponed until the next summer when I would be fifteen and eligible for more opportunities.
I was disappointed, but not ready to give up. A year later, I would have my success.
To be continued...