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John F. Kennedy's months as an Arizona ranch hand

John F. Kennedy's months as an Arizona ranch hand

Joseph Kennedy got it into his mind in 1936 that his two oldest boys would benefit from manual labor in a good climate. Through a friend, he found out about the J-6 Ranch near Benson.

The younger of the two sons, John, was just about to turn 19 and had recently spent time in a Boston hospital while doctors figured out whether he had leukemia. John and Joe Jr. headed out to Arizona, where John G.F. Speiden put them to work on a crew building adobe offices on his 40,000-acre ranch.

According to historian Michael O'Brien in his book "John F. Kennedy: A Biography," it was the first paying job either brother held. They received a dollar a day and worked six days a week over four months, he wrote. (Other sources say they stayed two months, received nothing more than room and board, and also built corrals and helped with the cattle.) Work wasn't the only thing the future president did out West. O'Brien quotes a letter Kennedy wrote to a friend in which he describes in crude terms a visit to a Nogales whorehouse.


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