July 23, 2024

Column: “That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” The Dump


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 29 “The Dump”
By Bruce Williams

I’m not sure what it is about going to the dump that I love so much, but it’s a multi-faceted, multi-layered history that I feel compelled to elucidate.  My first experiences with the dump came as a child at what was known as the Hawk’s Prairie Landfill.  It should’ve been named Seagull’s Mound, because it was the flying rats that circled the putrid wasteland, having flown inland from the sea to secure morsels of garbage for their sustenance.  Every trip to this massive pile of garbage filled me with the hope of finding a working television for my bedroom that didn’t have the screen already smashed, or a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s possibly real chocolate factory, or maybe even a satchel of bank robber’s discarded money—discreetly stashed in a dumpster to a avoid the heat only to be incredibly, unluckily picked up shortly thereafter by the untimely arrival of a garbage truck.  As unlikely as any of these scenarios were apt to unfold, hope abounded—especially in the days when you could still climb up the heap and kick through the coffee grounds, disposable diapers and tin cans in search of gold bars and working cassette players.

All is possibility with empty pockets and a galloping imagination.  Much like I would stare at an excavated construction hole and imagine all the probable wagon wheels, discarded tomahawks, dinosaur bones and buried treasure chests I could find if only allowed to get down onto that lower ground level and begin my archeological pursuits.  The landfill permitted that access, even if it might require a tetanus shot and some antibiotics along the way.

There’s a lapse in my serial dump trips; from those early years in my Dad’s pickup truck discarding Williams house refuse to the here-and-now where I’m surrounded by so much accumulated clutter that the dump provides sweet respite to witness no longer wanted merchandise disappear down the hole of dispair into the shipping container below.  My bachelor couch—taken from a plastic covered find by an ex-girlfriend at a Street of Dreams garage sale ($800 still new for $100!) through the years and moves and sun bleaching until it became a dog couch Ruby would shed on as she barked warnings out the front window at passersby.  Watching its discolored, frayed filth careen down the metal, 45 degree  lips of the acceptor lubed with garbage juice of unknown origin that would adhere to my boots’ tread leaving its milky evidence on my floor mats for a week or so thereafter provided me with a satisfying sense of closure.  A life (of a davenport)) well lived.

After our recent purchase of a truck and subsequent big move, I’ve taken no less than four heaping loads to the Algona Transfer Station (the dump’s Christian name)—the last run with such a precariously tied-down Jenga-fied mess it would’ve made the Beverly Hillbillies proud.  Even the crew cab and passenger seat had styrofoam and waxed cardboard as their fill…the downed tailgate providing a disorienting eyeview in the backup camera, the twirling pavement causing me to open up the driver’s door old school while going in reverse.  The dump: the only place where wearing a face mask is actually preferable.

I wonder about the workers at the dump, too.  They’ve got to be paid pretty handsomely for having to smell that liquefying putrefaction day in and day out.  I remember how hard it was just working in a seafood restaurant to get that fish smell out of your clothes and hair—imagine inhaling that tell-tale dumpster odor all day and the massive garbage boogers it must create.  Do they have to soak in tomato juice after shifts or do they just crawl into bed at night with the missus after applying a couple of generous squirts of Paco Rabanne?  These are the questions that haunt me as I lie awake at 5:42 a.m.

I might have one more dump load in me before we’re entirely settled.  Normally an avid recycler, why do I throw it all out the window just to toss the hundred or so big cardboard moving boxes over into the abyss (they’re biodegradable—right?) instead of parceling them out over the next ten bi-weekly recycling pickups?  Sadly, I must admit my own true nature is more anti-clutterist than it is environmentalist…and I can live with that.

So next time you’re there, think of me.  Breathe in that ever-changing yet distinct, notably human concoction not meant to occur in nature deep into your lungs (or take up smoking—it’s healthier), and look over at the next truck.  You might see me wrestling an old box spring out of the back and tossing it through those faux-velveted ropes, complete with exaggerated follow through like I just sank a three pointer before halftime.  We’ll exchange knowing glances and not speak of that which we are doing.  Adieu.