Enos Hawkins landed his first job in the industry at the age of 17
LEBANON, MO. – One of Mark Twain’s many well-known quips includes, “Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Mark Twain never met Enos Hawkins but his thoughts certainly describe his last 45 years on the job at the John Deere dealership in Lebanon, Mo.
According to current employment statistics, the average American changes jobs five times over the course of their working career. It is a rare and fortunate individual, like Enos, who walked in the door of his future career at age 17 and stay there for a lifetime.
“I was right out of high school,” he admitted at the parts desk of Heritage Tractor. “I went to work for Dooley Palmer Jr., on June 7, 1976, the Monday after Memorial Day as a new high school graduate. I’d been working at a local APCO gas station. I wasn’t even 18.
“Dooley Palmer Jr., was the owner of Palmer Motor and Implement. His brother Roy called my mother Helen Hawkins and asked if I was interested in a job at John Deere. He was wanting to retire as parts manager. Roy is also my wife’s grandfather. Back then, they didn’t even have a service manager at the time. Dooley owned the John Deere tractor dealership in Lebanon for 52 years and I was with them for 26 years of that. They were the best because it was a completely family-run business back then. It was sold to John Donald in 2002 and I worked with Dooley’s son, Pat who stayed on for another year. Larson Farm & Lawn took it over in 2016. Heritage Tractor bought the dealership in 2019 and they are the current owners.”
Enos has four different bosses, but he said they had all be good.
“When I started, there were multiple tractor dealers here in Lebanon – International, Ford, Deutz, as well as John Deere and we all helped each other,” Enos said. “They are all gone now, with the exception of John Deere and a Kubota dealership that just came in a few years ago.”
After starting in parts, Enos moved to a service manager position. Then when John Donald bought it, he transitioned to salesman.
“That’s probably the part of the business I liked the best,” Enos commented. “I got to travel all around to different counties – Laclede, Pulaski, Phelps, Hickory, Webster, Polk, Wright, Texas – and others. The best part was I got to travel to the farms and the farmers would take me to their fields and show me the equipment they had. From there, we would talk about what he needed. I enjoyed seeing the countryside while driving around, while selling tractors and equipment.”
Enos is now back in parts, in a sense, right where he started but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I like what I do. I am a mechanically-minded person,” he said. “I was raised on a dairy farm where we milked cows for 30 years. Now, I raise beef cattle, 100 head of Herefords crossed with Santa Gertrudis, with my wife Denice daughter, Leslie and my brother Bruce on 600 acres out by Oakland. Leslie was in FFA in high school. Her show steers were the ones we raised on our farm. When she started showing at the Laclede County Fair, she was the only one with red steers in the beginning but by the time she quit showing, there were 10 or 11 others who were showing red steers, too,” he added proudly.
Enos and Denice have two other daughters – Erinn, who works in Elkland as an esthetician and is married to Ashton Cox; and their daughter, Deidre lives and works in the Atlanta, Ga., area and has their one grandson, 13-year-old Jaylen.
“I’ve seen so many changes in this business over the years,” Enos said of the industry. “When I started, of course, there were no computers. We did everything by hand. We handled a part, five different times before we handed it over to the customer. That’s how I learned so many part numbers, writing out tickets by hand. I now serve the grandkids of a lot of my original customers. Now that makes me feel old,” he added with a laugh. “We had one phone line, then two and we might have 10 by now. I don’t even know. I used to take stock every two weeks and now it’s every day. There are five of us doing parts every day and we still can’t keep up!”
He admits quietly he thinks about retirement but he’s not quite ready yet.
“When I do though, it will be to go home and farm,” he said with a smile.