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Four strange ways to make a living

I recently read an article about the oil fields in North Dakota that mentioned Mitchel Brown, a freelance horizontal drilling expert. Brown was described as "a sawed-off shotgun of a man with a high excitable voice and mismatched eyes -- one blue and one eggplant colored, since an accident in 1990 when a hose on a rig collapsed and sprayed hydraulic fluid in his face." The article went on to tell that Brown held his first job on a rig at the age of 14 in Oklahoma, where his father was a professional trap shooter.

When I read about a professional trap shooter, I stopped reading about the oil fields and Mitchel Brown and wondered about the life of a professional trap shooter, and whether all of them have "sawed off shotgun" sons and even whether a blue eye is better for aiming then an eggplant one. One thing leads to another when you're just imagining, and I also got curious about other strange ways to make a living.

The sport of trap shooting started in 1793 when they originally shot live pigeons for competition. Then, around Civil War time, they switched to clay pigeons because passenger pigeons were nearing extinction and were needed, with their little built-in radar systems, for the war effort. Trap shooting is even an Olympic sport now, with international competition requiring 125 shots. All I know about the sport, for pros or amateurs, is that they wear ear gear to protect their hearing from the loud booms. How much these folks earn is not reported, but if you can nail 124 out of 125 clay pigeons time after time I would guess you could put food on the table and buy jeans and bikes for the kids.

Our son, Buckwheat, has a neighbor who is a professional fisherman. It's not his hobby, it's his career. That's right, his only job is to fish in tournaments against other professionals. Of course these pros have sponsors who provide boats, motors, tackle, caps, jackets -- everything but worms and leeches. Some of them have second jobs, but the good ones (it has nothing to do with luck) can make up to $75,000-$100,000 a year. Buckwheat's neighbor doesn't have a second job, he has a wife who practices medicine. Even my grandson, Christian, who would rather fish that eat ice cream bars, says he would never be able to do nothing but fish.

You can also make a living as a professional body builder. But it's not easy. If you don't have a natural "x" shaped body with wide shoulders and narrow hips, don't even think about it. But if you do and decide to pursue muscles for money, you will find yourself working out strenuously, studying carbohydrates, proteins, dietary supplements (and anabolic steroids too if you care to bulk up big and fast the way Arnold Schwarzenegger did) and get yourself some gross posing trunks, shave your entire body, including armpits, tan and oil yourself and prepare to flex and pose. That all makes trap shooting and fishing sound pretty appealing, doesn't it?

Another way to make a living, if you have the stomach for it, is professional eating. These pros are known as "gurgitators." This sport is most popular in Japan and the U.S. The competitive menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, pancakes, chicken wings, asparagus (for vegetarians presumably), ribs and even whole turkeys. Most contests last less than 15 minutes, and provide up to $10,000 in prize money. The International Federation of Competitive Eating provides up to $400,000 in prizes each year. The less prestigious, Association of Independent Eaters, founded by "Chowhead" Chapman, offers smaller prizes. The recognized champion of competitive eating is Joey Chestnut, 27, who set a world record at the Nathan's Hot Dog Competition on July 4, 2009, on Coney Island, where he rammed down 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Chestnut earned $218,500 in his profession last year.

If there is a moral to this story it is this: Unless you have an eggplant shooting eye that never misses, you're a master fisherman, have a young "x" shaped body, relish eating 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes for a living or are married to a doctor, don't quit your day job.