A high school diploma from the most prestigious prep school in America. Unemployable in Maquoketa. Fortunately an unanticipated opportunity arose – the Maquoketa Police Department was hiring, and it was a civil service position. A standardized test, a high score (“Best ever in the state of Iowa,” said the UI professor who administered the test. “Don't hire him, he will be trouble”).
Fortunately Buddy Olson, the Chief of Police, was one of the most open minded Chiefs in Iowa, and gave Rick an interview.
Have you ever smoked marijuana?
When I was in Nepal, where it is legal, I did.
If I were your age I'd be smoking it, too, but I'm hooked on alcohol.
Two years on the police force and Rick learned a lot, without having to arrest a bunch of people and ruin their lives. He only fired his service revolver once, when he was asked to put down an escaped steer on its way to the slaughterhouse. Yes, it only took one bullet. No, being a vegetarian didn't make pulling the trigger any harder.
Eventually there was a new mayor and being an older fellow he wanted to run a tight ship ('older' is relative, of course – his predecessor was 100 years old the last time he was elected mayor). He told Buddy to have Rick shave his beard, or Buddy would lose his job as Chief of Police. Buddy flipped a coin and it came up 'keep my job,' so he told Rick to shave his beard. Rick didn't, Rick was fired, big PR mess for everybody.
Along the way Rick called an (ex) friend in Iowa City and asked if he had any dirt on Bill's opponent in a race for the Iowa legislature. Whoops! The (ex) friend ran a computer trace (came back empty) but, when he heard Rick had been fired, panicked, called up Buddy and told him what he had done. Well, he didn't tell the whole story, just the part convenient to him. So Buddy fired Rick again. This time it got some more press, since the press makes its living selling dirt not tidy whiteys. In the end Rick appealed the second firing and the city chose not to contest it so he really only got fired once. Go figure.
A short stint as a carpenter's assistant then Rick moved to Cedar Rapids, planning to take an auto mechanics course so he would have the skills necessary to fix his van and/or motorcycle, should they need it, during his planned five year trip to South America.
Things didn't quite work out that way.