Down in the Dumps
by Brendan Smith
It was a beautiful early summer day when I decided to make my first visit to
I still call it the dump, that's the name I grew up with. You might call it the
transfer station or the recycling center but you can't fool me ... it's still the dump.
In New York, we never actually went to the dump, we only heard about it from
the very few who had actually been there. It was a place you didn't need to
know about, a place you didn't want to know about ... but you were still glad it
In New York garbage men (or should I say "garbage persons"?) took everything
to the dump for you. You would drag your garbage out to the curb and big,
greasy, noisy trucks would take it away to where you would never have to see it
In New Hampshire, the dump is no mystery. It is actually the number one place
for social gatherings in the state. As a "Flatlander", a new resident determined to
fit in I knew I would have to get a whiff of the dump experience.
In the town I lived in at the time a pass for the dump was a dollar. I scraped four
quarters together, bought a sticker, slapped it on my windshield and raced
home to prepare for my trip.
I needed something to bring to the dump. I wasn't going to just bring a bag or
two of garbage; that seemed to obvious. I needed something that might take me
awhile to dispose of so I could take in all I could while I was there.
There was some construction wood in the basement of the house I had recently
moved into. Not being very handy I knew I'd never figure out how to use it. I
was also too embarrassed to ask anyone if they wanted it - what would I say if
they asked me what kind it was? I figured this was a great way to kill two birds
with one stone. I heard that there was a place at the dump you could dispose of
wood without being seen.
My first problem came when I tried to put the wood in my Toyota Corolla. I
tried every angle I could imagine to get the pieces of something by something
into the trunk. They were just too big. I found a small, rusted hacksaw that I
used once for some tree limbs and within an hour I had readied my delivery to
I was feeling confident as I sped off down the street towards my date with
destiny. I rolled down my car window and waved to my neighbors, feeling a
sudden camaraderie as I approached this new phase of New England living, No
one waved back.
I arrived at the dump without incident but I was a bit apprehensive about
driving in. I really didn't know where I was supposed to go once I was inside.I
waited until a pickup truck, loaded with dump stuff, made its way through the
gate and I slowly followed it in.
Inside it was like a Disney World of junk. There was a place for everything:
garbage, old furniture, cardboard, newspapers, car batteries, tires, brush and
leaves and, as I expected but was still happy to see, a large bin that contained
nothing but wood.
I drove over and stopped behind another pickup which was parked at the bin
marked "Construction Materials". I was a bit confused though. The gentleman
who owned the truck was there but he wasn't unloading; he was sifting through
the bin and putting junk into his truck.
"Some people have no sense throwing away perfectly good wood like this," I
heard him mutter under his breath. He turned and faced me.
"Can you imagine?" he said while shaking his head.
I shook my head along with his, a wave of embarrassment weaving through me.
I didn't dare pop my trunk, instead I studied the contents of his truck as he
added more wood and something that looked like moldy roof shingles. There
was an old bed frame in there as well as a rusty hot plate, something that might
have been a bicycle once and a couple of things that were either old broken
garden tools or else extremely valuable weaponry from the Middle Ages.
"Got most of the good stuff already," he said while pointing to a small metal
mountain about twenty yards away. "Still a few good items though, if you know
where to look."
There were about ten people on this pile, sifting through this tower of tetanus
like some unsupervised archaeological dig.
"Know where there's a beauty of a lawn mower in that pile. Already got two at
home. C'mon, I'll show you."
I didn't say anything as I dutifully dollowed. I didn't dare object. He walked to
one end of the pile, picked up a large hot water heater, flipped it over and there,
in its glory was a rusted, dull bladed push lawn mower with a broken wheel
and a rotted wood handle.
"Ain't it a beauty?" he sighed. A tear rolled slowly down his cheek.
"Sure is." I said.
He held it aloft, the other explorers stopped in their tracks, mouths wide.
He carried it to my car.
"A little works all it needs," he said, not knowing who he was talking to. "Pop
"I'l have to put it in the back seat, trunk's fulla wood," I confessed.
"Got here early didja?" he said with a smile and a wink.
He threw the mower in the back seat and shook my hand. "Don't mention it."
I got in my car and drove home. I couldn't wait to show my family what I had.
About the Author: Brendan Smith was born and raised on Long Island, NY and moved
to New Hampshire in 1985. His first ten years were spent adjusting to being a