Working Life

As-told-to tales from workers on the job.
1-50 of 71 Articles
January 20, 2013

Tracie Ferguson, Booking Agent

Ferguson, who grew up in San Antonio, has been booking bands for almost thirty years. Since 2000, she has worked exclusively for Gruene Hall, near New Braunfels, the oldest continuously running dance hall in Texas.In college my friend Denice Franke hooked up with three guys and formed the Beacon City

The Culture|
January 20, 2013

Mary Anne Reed, Marriage Counselor

Reed received her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from Texas Woman’s University and has been practicing in Dallas for nearly 25 years. She counsels as many as 25 couples per week.I can’t save a marriage. Only the couple can do that. My job is to help people create the

The Culture|
October 31, 2012

Lisa Cain, Medical School Professor 

Cain, whose official job title is associate professor of neuroscience and cell biology, is a Mississippi native who moved to Texas in 1992. She runs the medical school enrichment courses at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and teaches the core-curriculum course gross anatomy. When she’s not in her lab

The Culture|
September 30, 2012

Kenny Klimple, Bus Driver

After serving as a police officer for six years in the Brazos Valley, Klimple “burned out” on working with the public and sought refuge in truck driving. He got his commercial driver’s license while hauling oil equipment for Halliburton, never imagining that a year later he’d put it to use

July 31, 2012

Shelly Roper-McCaslin, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Recruiter

Roper-McCaslin, who lives in Austin, has worked with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for 23 years as a cheerleader, a choreographer, and the lead recruiter.Growing up, my dad took my brother and me to just about every sporting event in Dallas, from Rangers baseball to Mavericks basketball. But it was the Cowboys football

The Culture|
May 31, 2012

Jennifer Walden, Plastic Surgeon

Walden, who grew up in Austin, was the salutatorian of her class 
at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. After 
completing an aesthetic surgery fellowship at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, she built a successful practice in New York City, 
then returned to her hometown in

April 30, 2012

Bill Collings, Luthier

Collings makes some of the best acoustic guitars in the world and counts Lyle Lovett, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, and Joni Mitchell among his customers. His company, located outside Austin on U.S. 290, is famed not only for the high quality of its instruments but also for its refusal to

The Culture|
March 31, 2012

Rick  Reichenbach, Lighthouse Keeper

Reichenbach is the caretaker for the Aransas Pass Light Station. Built in 1855 to mark entry into Corpus Christi Bay, the now privately maintained lighthouse—which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned today by H-E-B CEO Charles Butt—is the only manned lighthouse in operation on the

The Culture|
March 1, 2012

Kim “O.K.” Estes, Horse Trainer

Estes has been running horse and hunting programs in Lajitas for the past five years, heading up trail rides, aoudad hunts on horseback, and horse-training clinics for pros and amateurs alike. A well-known cutting horse trainer, he has been a member of both the American Quarter Horse Association and the

Style & Design|
February 1, 2012

Melanie Steele, Wig Master

Steele, a Colorado native, moved eleven years ago to Austin, where she is now the wig master for the Austin Lyric Opera. She has toured the U.S. and Mexico with the Broadway production of The Lion King and served on the beauty crew of the world premiere of Elton John’s

The Culture|
January 1, 2012

Joe Arellano, Meteorologist

Arellano, who was born and raised in McAllen, is the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service forecast office in New Braunfels. His career, which began in 1976, has taken him all over Texas, as well as to Puerto Rico and Florida.There’s an old saying here in Texas: “Either you’re in

Food & Drink|
December 1, 2011

Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, Bartender

Campbell is the beverage program director for Edward C. Bailey Enterprises, which includes the Bailey’s Prime Plus steakhouses and Patrizio restaurants. The barman, who decries the title “mixologist” as a “vanity move,” started his cocktail career seven years ago—on the day he stopped drinking. After stints at some of the

The Culture|
October 31, 2011

Anthony Fiorillo, Paleontologist

Fiorillo, whose fossil digs take him everywhere from West Texas to Australia, grew up in New Haven, Connecticut. He moved to Texas in 1995 to be a curator of paleontology at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, and he is currently at work on a new dinosaur hall

September 30, 2011

Mina Thornton, Ropa Usada Dealer

Thornton opened Tres Hermanos Ropa Usada thirteen years ago in Hidalgo. As president of the 25-employee business, she buys ropa usada, or used clothing, from around the country and resells it in South Texas and throughout Mexico.People always ask, “Does this color look good on me?” I never ask. There’s

The Culture|
August 31, 2011

Michael Brewer, Clock Repairman

Brewer, who moved to Texas from Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, fixes antique clocks in his Carrollton garage seven days a week. While he has no formal horological training, a 34-year career in rocket science helped him perfect the art of taking things apart. Tick, tock. Tick and then tock. Most people

The Culture|
July 31, 2011

Cheryl Evans, Church Sign Writer

Evans, whose official job title is facilities manager, has lived in Amarillo for 55 years. For the past two decades she’s overseen the building and grounds of the Southwest Church of Christ, including its four-by-ten-foot sign. She changes the message every Monday.You can’t just put up there “You’re all going

The Culture|
June 30, 2011

Jason Macias, Night Police Officer

Macias has served as a patrolman with the San Antonio Police Department for the past seven years. He works the shift that runs from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. (known as the “dog watch”) and is based out of the Central Substation, which oversees downtown and its surrounding area.A police

The Culture|
May 31, 2011

Bobby Jones, Game Fowl Breeder

Jones, who lives in Gatesville, has been raising game chickens for almost fifty years. He sells his birds to clients around the world, and in April he testified in Austin before Senate and House committees to oppose a bill that would outlaw the raising of game birds in Texas. Cockfighting, or “harvesting,” as it

Style & Design|
April 30, 2011

Chris Treviño, Tattoo Artist

Treviño, who has been tattooing for more than twenty years, is the owner of Perfection Tattoo in Austin. He is known for his traditional Japanese designs, which have earned him an extensive client base in the U.S. as well as in Japan, where he travels four times a year. He grew up in

The Culture|
March 1, 2011

Jody Blackburn, Folk Healer and Tarot Reader

Blackburn is the founder of the Magick Circle, in Brownsville, where he offers card readings, cleansings, and spiritual healing.I first learned about folk healing from an elderly woman in my neighborhood named Rita. None of our neighbors in Brownsville liked her much. They called her la bruja. The witch. I

The Culture|
January 1, 2011

Bob “Bleed” Merkt, Vintage-Car Builder

Merkt, who grew up in Wisconsin, has been designing and building hot rods for more than twenty years. He moved to South Austin in 2007 and is currently a partner and main fabricator at Austin Speed Shop.When I was six or seven, my uncle gave me his collection of fifties

The Culture|
December 1, 2010

Annie Nelson, Housing Admissions Specialist

Nelson, who grew up in Orange in a family of eleven, worked thirteen years for the Dallas Housing Authority before taking a job in 2006 with the Fort Worth Housing Authority, which currently serves six-thousand-plus families. She determines the eligibility of applicants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, known as

The Culture|
October 31, 2010

Mike Wheat, Game Warden

Wheat was born in Pasadena and grew up near Cuero. After graduating from college and the Texas Game Warden Training Center, he was stationed in Tyler County for five years before transferring to Ochiltree and Hansford counties in 1996. He lives in Perryton.I credit my dad with my love for

The Culture|
September 30, 2010

Andrea Karnes, Museum Curator

Karnes, who grew up in Fort Worth, earned art history degrees from the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University. She has worked at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth since 1989.This is my twentieth year at the Modern, and I still get the question, What is a

The Culture|
August 31, 2010

Jackie Hopper, 911 Call Operator

Hopper, who grew up in Weatherford, became one of his hometown’s 911 call operators right out of high school. In 1997 he joined the Austin Police Department, where—except for a hiatus to get his college degree—he has worked in the emergency communications division for seven years.When you call 911, the

The Culture|
July 31, 2010

Weldon Lister, Master Engraver

Lister, who grew up in Boerne and lives near Welfare, is a third-generation firearm and knife engraver. He makes his designs in steel, gold, silver, and bronze using a hammer and chisel.My dad taught me how to engrave when I was seventeen years old. I started on six-by-twelve practice plates

The Culture|
April 30, 2010

Liliana Quevedo, Realtor

Quevedo grew up in Juárez and has been a realtor in El Paso for six years. She is an agent for One Realty El Paso.</emAs a bilingual realtor in El Paso, with roots in Juárez, I have a lot of connections in Mexico. I got my license in 2004, just

Style & Design|
March 31, 2010

Ghassan “Gus” Karim, Tailor

Karim, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1969, has been a master tailor for fifty years. He is the owner of Gassane Tailors, in Austin, and has made custom suits for Bill Clements, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush.My father was a tailor and had a big shop in

The Culture|
March 1, 2010

Andrew R. Espinosa Jr., Process Server

Espinosa, a lifetime Houstonian, has been serving legal papers—summonses, subpoenas, complaints, writs—to people facing court action for the past sixteen years. He is an owner and the director of civil process at Court Record Research.I kind of fell into this. Around 1989, I had picked up a job with a

The Culture|
February 1, 2010

Melanie Matcek, Matchmaker

A San Antonio native, Matcek runs Heart and Soul-Mates, a personalized matchmaking service for clients across South Texas. She is also a licensed relationship coach.After becoming single again in late 2006, I started to do the online dating thing. I had heard the horror stories, and I quickly realized

The Culture|
January 1, 2010

Captain Michelle Racicot, Army Trauma Nurse

Racicot grew up in New Mexico, but San Antonio has been her home base since she was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in 1998. She plans to leave the Army next spring and get a graduate degree in nursing from the University of Texas at San Antonio.My mom was an

The Culture|
December 1, 2009

Adam Ohler, Firefighter and Paramedic

Ohler, who was born in New Mexico, worked as an EMT and firefighter in Utah before moving to Houston six years ago. He is stationed at the West University Place Fire Department.I’m not going to lie: I enjoy fighting fire. There’s an adrenaline rush—it’s exhilarating. I hate to say it,

The Culture|
October 31, 2009

Randy Goode, Artificial Inseminator

Goode grew up on a ranch in Damon, where he now runs an artificial insemination business. He travels the country collecting DNA for a U.S. Department of Agriculture research project on mad cow disease.Back in the seventies, my dad learned to artificially inseminate cows by reading a book and using

The Culture|
September 30, 2009

Doug Ables, Chimney Sweep

Ables, who grew up in Brady, owns and runs Ables Top Hat Chimney Sweeps. He has been sweeping chimneys in Central Texas for almost thirty years.When I was 28, my wife and I moved into a house in Brady, and I started looking for someone who could sweep our chimney.

August 31, 2009

Dawn Cockrell, Midwife

Cockrell has lived in West Texas for twenty years and has been delivering babies for fourteen. She opened West Texas Birth Services, in Odessa, in 2001.My mother gave birth to my younger sister when I was sixteen. They induced her at forty weeks, and I was present for the

The Culture|
July 31, 2009

Jim Adler, Personal-Injury Lawyer

Adler, who grew up in Dallas, has been a personal-injury lawyer for 36 years. He is the founder of the Houston law firm Jim S. Adler & Associates and appears in television ads in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.I started out doing law enforcement work for the Texas State Securities

Style & Design|
June 30, 2009

Susie Q., Mystery Shopper

Susie Q. (not her real name) has been reviewing hotels, restaurants, and retailers anonymously for about six years. She works for several market research companies, such as Sinclair Customer Metrics, to whom she reports her findings after posing as an everyday customer and testing out products and services. She has

Being Texan|
May 31, 2009

Jennifer Love, Forensic Anthropologist

Love has been the director of the forensic anthropology division at the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office since 2006. She was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.The forensic anthropology division here has three anthropologists, and we have three main responsibilities: identification, skeletal recovery, and forensic anthropology services. Anyone who is a victim

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