Junk, treasure a matter of perspective


One man’s junk really is someone else’s treasure. I thought of my sister the very first time I heard that statement.
When we were kids, my sister Debi was always interested in stuff that others were glad to throw out. If she heard that a trip to the town dump was in the plans, she would beg me to ride along and help her look around while we had the chance.
Memory. She can remember going to the town dump – a little area located just past the village cemetery and mausoleum. I am just enough younger that my memory does not include that particular dump.
Debi said, “Oh, yes. Don’t you remember? We would pull the truck just off the road about 50 feet or so and sometimes there was someone there to help push and shove stuff out of the back of the truck. Other times, we just did it ourselves, and I would try to sneak a good look at what other people had thrown out and wonder why!”
One day, she remembers overhearing our parents talking about the dump, and her ears perked up. The gist of the conversation is that the village dump was about to close, and our parents were concerned about what they would do with our junk from then on.
This is evidently where my memory starts. I remember riding in the truck one day with my sister, and she whispered to me, “This is a new dump. We’ve never seen this one before. Help me look around while they dump our stuff, OK?”
I probably rolled my eyes, but I tried to be the good little sister. I remember we pulled into a private drive just past a farm that my father rented, planting several large fields to corn.
It wasn’t long after jumping out of the cab of the truck that I heard my sister shriek, “WHY would anyone throw THIS out?”
I scurried over to take a look. It was the bottom of an old cupboard, one door missing, another sitting all whopper-jawed, sticking out of a bunch of cans, bottles and other trash.
Junk. I wanted so badly to say, “Because it’s a piece of junk!” but that would have offended my sister, who, at 8 years old, already had a keen hankering for antiques.
We saw lots of broken dishes and shattered remnants of strangers’ homes.
“What if this wasn’t broken until they threw it from the back of their truck?” Debi would ask.
It was a rhetorical question; it didn’t get any answers from me.
I asked my sister recently what she remembered about these dump site visits. She literally jumped out of her chair just thinking about it.
“I always found it so cool. I looked around at everything else others dumped and thought, ‘Boy, what could I do with THAT?’ I remember not wanting to leave, but Mom always yelled at me to not touch anything, and then right away it would be time to get back in the truck and go back home.”
Debi said her first memory of a dump is the one that was back in the woods behind our home farm.
“It was piled probably 6- or 8-feet high. I climbed in and around it many times. There was a bottom of an old Hoosier cupboard and I’m sure all the pieces of what had been in Mom and Dad’s kitchen when they first moved there. I believe I only ever ‘saved’ a bottle or two from that old dump … you know, some things are harder to hide from Mom than others!”
Mom says no. She said the only thing stopping her from dragging that old Hoosier back into the house was knowing, “Mom would have told me no! I’m sure I could have bribed you to help me,” she said with a laugh.
It was that old farm dump site that provided us with the boards we needed to build our own tree house. By that time, the old Hoosier must have deteriorated, or I’m certain my imaginative sister would have wanted that added to the first floor of the tree house!
Years after my great-grandfather Charlie died, I remember a ruckus in the community when his former farm was about to become the first official landfill in the county.
While others were up in arms, I remember my father saying, “It has to go somewhere.”
My dad even predicted the day would come when regulations would exist over what people could legally dump, and the charges to get rid of junk would seem crazy, prompting more littering than ever.
Once again, I guess he was pretty wise.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.