When I first got here in 1997, my father and his family were living in a small farm in rural Oregon.
I remember him having a really long, hearty conversation with his wife.
It was one of the happiest conversations I’ve ever had with someone, because he’s a very hardworking, honest guy.
He always had the best interests of the kids first and foremost in mind.
But he would always tell me that he wasn’t going to be the boss of the farm anymore.
And he was right.
That’s how he always had it in his heart to work for his family.
But as time went on, I realized I was in the same boat as his dad.
The chowder industry, which he loved and relied on, was dying.
The industry had become so big and so entrenched that people were going to do anything to make a buck.
It became a big industry.
It got to the point where, if you were making chowder, you had to be part of the chowder culture, and that included your family.
I would have loved to have been part of that.
I mean, we were part of this.
But I was too young.
I wasn’t ready for that.
So, my parents were right in the middle of that industry.
I wanted to be able to work in the chowshares.
I didn’t want to be a part of it.
I felt like I was on the outside looking in.
I was going to have to be an adult and take responsibility for my family’s well-being.
And so I was.
And my mom would take care of everything.
So I worked in a soup kitchen and I made a living from that.
And then I went to college, got married, had kids, and we started moving our family out into the country.
That was my first real taste of real independence.
I made it.
It wasn’t easy.
My dad would go into a shop and he’d pick out the ingredients.
He’d pick the ingredients that I’d picked up and send them off to the chows.
I’d be there in my truck.
I used to work with him and he used to be my boss.
He was always the guy who was in charge, always looking out for my welfare.
But it was definitely not easy.
And it wasn’t always fun, either.
I had to pay my bills, and I had bills to pay, too.
And I couldn’t take vacations.
I couldn`t take a vacation.
So it was tough, and it was draining.
I really didn’t have a lot of time to spend with my kids.
They weren’t getting enough time to eat, either, since they were spending so much time at the soup kitchen.
So my dad would say to me, “Don`t go on a vacation.”
I didn`t like that at all.
I just didn’t feel like I could make that choice.
So we had to go into the chowing business.
And our family was going into the industry.
We started off with a couple of kids and moved up to six kids.
Then we moved up again.
And in 1999, I was 20.
And that was the end of my time in the industry, and then I got married and had a baby.
And by 2001, we had eight kids.
My wife was pregnant again and we had four kids.
We were moving into our own house and the kids were starting school and going to college.
And one day, my dad came in and he was sitting there, looking at all the kids, talking to them about what they should be doing when they were in the future.
And at the time, I thought, Oh, my God.
I`m going to give up on chowing.
I’m going to go back to my own life.
And now I`ve got six kids and I want to work out some kind of retirement plan.
And a lot had happened.
So the next time I got home from work, my wife had gotten a job and was starting to look after the kids.
So when my mom got home to pick me up from school, she went over and asked my dad if he wanted to come over to pick up my kids, too, so that he could meet them.
And the only thing he said to me was, “Dad, I think I`ll go back and watch TV and watch a movie and eat some chowder.”
So I said, “Okay.”
And that`s how I started chowing, too—by myself.
So for most of my adult life, I ate chowder alone.
I never went out with anyone.
And once my wife got a job, I got to do that.
My family was fine with it.
So then my wife started looking after the house, too and so we moved in together.
And we had a great time.
And when we got married in 2002, I started getting really serious about retirement