Memories of trash and treasure: Part I

trash dump

One man’s trash 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 fascinated by stuff others were happy to throw out. If she heard a trip to the town dump was in the works, she would beg me to ride along and help her look all around for “finds” while we had the chance.

She can remember going to the town dump — a little area located just past the village cemetery and mausoleum.

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!”

She remembers one particular day, overhearing our parents talking about the dump, and her ears perked up. The gist of the conversation is that the village was about to close the site, and our parents were concerned.

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, okay?”

I probably rolled my eyes, but I tried to be the good little sister. I remember Dad turning his truck into a dusty path just past a farm that he rented. 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, the whole sorry-looking thing swallowed up by cans and other trash.

I wanted so badly to say, “Because it’s a piece of junk!” But that would have offended my sister, born with a hankering for antiques. I saw 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 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 it would be time to get back in the truck and head home.”

Debi said her first memory of a dump is the one that was back in the woods behind our home farm, surely existing long before our arrival there.

“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!”

She said the only thing stopping her from dragging that old Hoosier back into the house was knowing that “Mom would have told me no! I’m sure I could have bribed you to help me,” she says with a laugh.


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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.



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