• Oct 13, 2015
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By: Linda Myers

After we moved to Knoxville, hangin’ at the dump became one of the first Tennessee traditions instituted by my husband in his economic wisdom. After all, we were physically able so we should schlep our own trash to the dump, thereby saving ourselves about twenty dollars a month. Not much, but when it served his purpose, my husband adhered to the philosophy of “every little bit helps.” Consequently, he cancelled our service for trash collection and recycle pickup.

We proceeded to tie off trash bags, stash them in our very own brand new trash can from Ace Hardware, and sort our recycle into the seven new kitchen wastebaskets, in which he had also invested and lined up inside the garage. Rule Number One was that all recycle items should be well rinsed. We certainly didn’t want to offer any careless feasts to the bug population, all of which were surely watching this process closely, ready to move in at the first misstep. We had wastebaskets for plastics, clear glass, brown glass, green glass, steel cans, aluminum, and mixed paper, and each was properly labeled. We were golden! Retired as we were, the sorting of trash served to fill up our days and keep our minds sharp. No brown glass in the clear glass trash can for us. Wouldn’t happen on our watch!

Besides occupying our time constructively and sharpening our mental acumen, the dump proved to have social benefits. Hangin’ at the dump was a great way to spend relaxing, down-and-dirty time on a Saturday morning. Sometimes I’d make the trip to the dump with my husband; sometimes he preferred to make it a “guys only” event and invited his brother, Gene, to go along with him. On these occasions, however, he would invariably come home with a smile and a wink. “Everybody at the dump says ‘hi’,” he’d say. “They all missed you.” Thus, the weekly dump run grew in significance, gradually becoming a featured item on our list of favorite fun and frivolous activities to share.

Several months after my husband passed away, I spent hours one day diligently deliberating over the question of propriety: “To dump or not to dump?” Was it seemly for a mature widow to be lugging her own trash to the dump? Was I compromising my matronly dignity? Should I again engage the trash service? After considerable contemplation, I decided to maintain my husband’s tradition of “can do” independence (not to mention his frugality) and continue to haul my own trash.

Once or twice a week, after carefully spreading out an old drop cloth in the back of my car, I load up a trash bag or two and maybe a bag of recycling and head for the dump. It’s such a simple way to experience that rewarding feeling of achievement. I can actually see that I’ve accomplished something. There’s tangible evidence, as well as a faint lingering smell of …of something rancid in the back end of the car.

The other day during my weekly visit, another mature lady pulled up at the next bin to me. We both got out of our cars, and smiling cordially, gave a proud and knowing nod of acknowledgement, a silent testimony…”In our Chico jeans and embroidered jackets, we are not above trash-schlepping, sticky pickle jar sorting…or bee-batting,” I added, as I swatted away one of those pesky critters. “We may look like fluff but we come from sturdy stock. We are not numbered among the fiscally frisky – we are the plucky and provident ones. And we are happy to make new friends wherever we find them…even at the dump.”

Last month, I made a dump run on my birthday. As I hauled the first bag out of the back end of my Juke and hefted it into the bin, I shaded my eyes and, looking skyward, said with a grin, “Guess where I am, Vernie? You’d be so proud!”

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