Teenager braves heat to raise money for trip
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — “Have a blessed day,” Joe Cane tells a woman in a luxury Buick after she hands him a crumpled up dollar bill.
The 15 year old, with a smile as wide as a blue Mississippi sky in June, triumphantly nods and places the bill in a makeshift money box with the rest of his earnings.
He makes sure to tell each customer to “have a blessed day.”
But this was far from his first dollar earned in the oppressive summer heat.
Cane has his place of business set up on a dusty corner of Sixteenth Section Road and Old West Point Road, on the opposite side of the crossroads from Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.
His storefront consists of the traditional yellow Igloo cooler with a red top, a table for his drinks and a metal folding chair. He also has a cardboard sign with “Lemonade” in green marker and “50 cents” in red.
From June to early August, on every day but Sunday, motorists and passersby can buy ice-cold lemonade in red Solo cups from Cane for 50 cents a drink.
His hottest commodity is pink lemonade, but he also sells traditional lemonade and lemonade iced tea. For the low price of 25 cents, customers can also get a cup of ice to crunch on in the summer heat.
Lemonade iced tea might not be his biggest seller, but he keeps it around for a few dedicated customers.
“Only a few people get lemonade iced tea, but because some of the people I’ve met that are real friendly with me like the lemonade iced tea, I keep it.”
In the off season, Cane is a dual-enrollment student at East Mississippi Community College in the Career Technical program.
But during the summer months, he braves the suffocating humidity and a pesky wasp nest each day to raise money for something he wants . a trip to Mississippi Comic Con in Jackson on June 23.
The annual convention attracts droves of comic book, video game and pop culture enthusiasts, and is the biggest of its kind in the state of Mississippi.
This is the third summer Cane has set up shop to fund a Comic Con trip and after a couple summers of learning the ropes, he is a seasoned veteran.
While an entrepreneur in his own right, his mother does still check in by calling his cell phone to see if he needs anything.
“The first year, I would be out here all day, but that would discourage me from coming out,” he said of the hot summer months. “I would get so tired doing that. So I only come out here for four or five hours now.”
He has also incorporated some help this year, as his sister is taking shifts to buy a new phone.
Looking back, Cane said his first year on the job was his most important in terms of experience. And with a little elbow grease, he set a goal and reached it through his own sweat and hard work.
When asked what inspired him to tough out the sweltering Mississippi heat in the first place, he said he wanted to buy a PS4 game console and finance his first trip to Mississippi Comic Con.
“I got my PS4 and went to Comic Con,” he laughed as another customer pulled up and bought two cups of lemonade.
He’s been to Comic Con twice on his own dime and is confident that he will break even this year to attend the convention.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” Cane said of the convention, which many people attend in costume. “I’ll just dress up in a dark cloak and a mask.”
Cane is considering a career in business, but has several possible paths he would like to consider.
“I always thought I wanted to be the type of person to invest in businesses and help other people out while helping me out, because, that way, we will both earn money,” he said. “One of the jobs I thought about was being an engineer or a computer engineer or a welder or a video game engineer.”
A year ago, Cane said he earned his best day, when someone donated $100.
This year, he typically sees an extra $10 on Fridays and Saturdays. However, he said Mondays have been particularly busy this year.
“If I’m not out here, I have family business or it’s raining,” he said.
The job has seen Cane caught in heavy rain storms and even stung in the neck by a bee, but if you ask him, he will tell you each day on the job is worth it.
“I love working out here and getting the job done, because life is always going to have its hardships and you’ve got to just push through it.”