Hector, the garbage collector

Ed Rood

"We’re being buried alive in our own garbage!” was the headline that attracted my attention.

The story below the bold headline stated each American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage each and every day. That’s enough to fill 80,000 football fields 6 feet deep with garbage per year. 

Later in the story, local and state governments are scolded for not enacting or enforcing recycling laws. Citizens evidently feel it is just too much bother and time consuming to recycle their trash.

Let me tell you things have changed since I was growing up. Back in the good old days throwing something away was a major happening. Even soup cans and tuna fish containers found at least one new use before being discarded. 

Ed Rood

I remember my mother and my grandmother reusing tin (aluminum) foil over and over again before it saw the bottom of the garbage can.

People paid to have their radio or toaster repaired. They didn’t toss it and buy a new one. The same went for shoes. As long as there were tops on them the soles could always be replaced. 

Husbands changed the oil in the cars themselves and dumped the old oil in the gravel street out in front of their house to hold down the dust.

Mothers would use the jars the grape jelly came in for drinking glasses. A chicken found itself featured in several different menus before it became just a bunch of bones.

Now and then people actually did discard a few unwanted items. This was before towns had garbage collection so a tin garbage can would hold the stuff until Dad took it took the dump outside of town once or twice a year.

In between times, those cans usually stood behind the back yard next to the alley.

Slick and I made a habit of roaming those alleys. It was a constant adventure to lift the lids and check out the junk as it accumulated.

It was not a richly rewarding undertaking because most folks didn’t discard anything of much interest to young boys, but occasionally we hit pay dirt – a dilapidated banjo or a splintered baseball bat – one never knew what we might discover. 

But, like all good things, it didn’t last. One fateful day a battered old Chevy stake bed truck rolled into town. On the doors were hand-painted “Hector, the Garbage Collector.” It was the beginning of the end of Slick’s and my alley roaming. 

Before long, Hector had parked his trailer next to the dump just east of Huxley and taken up residency there. Not only did it eliminate our in-town treasure hunting it also killed our dump explorations.

It’s all been downhill from then. As the years have passed garbage has increased but the fun of garbage hunting has all but died. 

Well, maybe not completely. I guess garage sales have taken over. Maybe Slick and I had better start roaming again! 

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.