This month we are pleased to present Chris Nelson for our Spotlight Feature. Chris is a successful, resourceful, and valued member of the agriculture industry. Chris is also a self-made engineer who loves spending time in the outdoors with his "kids". We would like to highlight and extend a heartfelt thank you to Chris for his dedication and service to The Shriners organization where he is known (to name just one of many positive contributions) for growing out his curly hair to make a truly authentic curly-headed Shrine Clown! Please enjoy reading more about Chris in this month's Contractor Spotlight.
How did you get involved with DCI?
A DCI recruiter called me out of the blue one day and asked if I would be interested in working on a project as a contractor with a focus on ag software installs. Absolutely! Right down my alley! I still don’t know how they found me and that’s okay; I was found.
Tell us about your background:
I’ve spent a great deal of my time over the years clearing pastures, digging small ponds, farming, and crop insurance adjusting, but I’ve always been fond of technology and new software. I have hauled dirt into town for backfill projects and have engineered and laid limestone walls, paths, and patios. I’ve managed people on projects and trained adults on software and driver’s education. I've taught and tutored kids of all ages in various subjects.
What is the best thing about being a DCI Contractor?
Time is flexible to an extent and the folks at DCI are empathetic, inquisitive, and patient. The compensation is fair and none has been denied or delayed.
Tell us about your home and family.
We bought our place in ‘92 and put up a pole barn with a small bunkhouse at one end. The intention was to build a house within five years from cattle income. Cattle markets plummeted in ‘95 and I sold my herd. A few years later, after nearly losing my nose to the grindstone (metaphorically), I added another room to the bunkhouse. It’s super small and in a shed, but my kids - Janey, Sage, Blue, and Tuffy - call it home. Janey is my doorbell, Sage is my ever-pleasing helper, and Blue and Tuffy keep small, furry intruders at a minimum.
What are you driving while you work?
A 2014 Chevy Silverado 4x4 ... and I am content about it because most of my journeys are in the country.
What was your first job?
My dad owned a Ford dealership for most of my youth. My first job at four years old was picking up cans and bottles in the lot. Cans were a penny and bottles were five cents. This was before the five-cent refund for cans. My second job started at five years old and was pulling weeds out of gardens and sidewalks. I acquired a garden tractor at ten years old and started mowing lawns all over town. I pulled my push mower and weed whacker (the old manual type) on a snowmobile trailer that I overhauled. I had twenty-six lawns within two years!
What are your hobbies and interests?
I’ve played piano since I was six and even got into an improv jazz band for a while back in the 90’s. I can’t spend much time inside though, my kids and I go on walks frequently - at least twice per day in the warm months. We walk through the pasture and around the creeks and ponds. They check for trespassers and I take pictures of all things big and small.
What do you do the first hour of the morning?
Coffee is the very first order of the day. Second is to go outside, breathe in the air, talk to my kids, and discuss with them what the day holds. They don’t say much. I then check e-mail and phone messages and reply where necessary.
What is your greatest achievement?
Becoming an engineer without the degree or certifications. I have a good eye for slope and have used that in creating ponds, roads, and stone creations. I have constructed buildings without blueprints.
What are you ordering for your favorite meal?
A one-pound KC strip and lobster with grilled greens and a Caesar salad. A piece of warm German chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream can top it off ... or start it. I’m not picky!
Who is your favorite musician or artist?
What is the happiest memory of your life?
I am a Shriner and a Shrine Clown for Shrine Circus. I don’t wear a curly wig because I already have natural curls. I let my hair grow specifically for the kids - I pick it out, fluff it up, and the makeup gal colors it for me with hair spray paint. A lot of kids are afraid of clowns up close, so I try to give them a pleasant memory. The kids marvel at my huge “wig” and I tell them it’s my real hair, I even let some of the younger ones pull on it. Seeing their faces light up when they realize I’m totally crazy is the biggest kick. I smile for days after just thinking about their big smiles.
Tell us about your favorite pet.
January was with me in the '90s. She was a black lab and the smartest kid I’ve ever had. The first time I took her out to round up cattle, I didn’t expect much out of her. She had tracked deer in the past, but I never had her out of the truck when messing with the cattle. One day, I rode my cutting horse out to the pens, through the pens, and out to the cattle - the cutting horse took over my job (hang on!), so I paid more attention to Jan. I never gave her any instruction, and yet she figured out what we were doing and went from side to side keeping the group together. I was extremely impressed.
What three people (living or not) would you invite to a dinner party?
Beethoven, Ayn Rand, and Plato ... providing English is the chosen language.
Who did you see at the first concert you attended?
BB King. It was a backyard party with some friends and BB was the surprise guest. We had our own small concert and I had a short conversation with him.
Tell us something about yourself that most people who know you are NOT aware of.
I can talk to anyone anywhere at any time, so most would assume I’m an extrovert. However, I’d rather spend most of my time in nature with my kids.
Where in the world are you dying to visit?
I not only want to visit, but should live on the equator or as close as I can get to it. Blue water, LOTS of heat, and a little bit of jungle for nature walks. No cold. Fiji looks nice!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Education is good and has helped advancement, but the best all-around advice I’ve received is regardless of education, spend more time listening than talking. Some folks think I’m quiet and don’t have an opinion - I do, but I listen and watch non-verbal cues. That teaches more about people than any education ever can.