“There is a Senate and a Congress who carry on endless sessions discussing garbage disposal and outhouse inspection, the only two questions over which they have jurisdiction.”

The sun is just now breaking through the clouds to defy the prediction of rain showers. We’re going to the dump later so I’d appreciate it if Mother Nature held off on the rain. I have a trunkful.

When I was a kid, the town trash trucks came once a week. My dad would haul the heavy barrels out of the cellar to the curb. The truck always had at least two men hanging off the back. They’d jump off, grab barrels, empty them into the back of the truck then toss the barrels to the curb. The guys wore heavy gloves and grubby clothes. I liked to watch when they’d compressed the trash to make more room. Our next door neighbor was a trash man and once in a while he’d do our home route. We’d all wave and yell.

I never really thought much about the garbage can in the back yard by the steps. It was in-ground, and you had to depress a lever to open it. I hated emptying the garbage from the house. The bin smelled awful and there were always maggots. The garbage truck also came once a week. The garbage man walked to the backyard carrying one barrel slung over his back. He’d open the bin, pull out the garbage can and dump it into his barrel. I always thought being a garbage man had to be the grossest job, but I was wrong.

The grossest job is being a night soil man anywhere. His job is to go from outhouse to outhouse to empty the pails while people are sleeping. I just happen to have met one in Ghana. It was while I was visiting my friends who didn’t have running water. I was back and forth to their outhouse during the night as I was suffering from a volunteer’s common ailment which necessitated frequent visits to the outhouse. I can’t imagine the night soil man was as surprised as I was. When he pulled out the pail, I heard the noise and jumped up. He poked his head just a bit into the hole and greeted me. I greeted him back. He smiled and put the empty pail back inside. I sat down. It had been the most interesting encounter.

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14 Comments on ““There is a Senate and a Congress who carry on endless sessions discussing garbage disposal and outhouse inspection, the only two questions over which they have jurisdiction.””

  1. im6 Says:

    RIP Paul Kantner (1941-2016), guitarist, songwriter and founding member of Jefferson Airplane. Kantner died Thursday of multiple organ failure following a heart attack earlier this week. Let’s remember him with the original version of this song (covered by CSNY):

    • katry Says:

      im6,
      Thank you for reminding me. I saw the news in the paper yesterday then totally forgot. I’ll remember for tomorrow.

      It seems I am posting songs far too often as memorials.

      This is a great choice!!

  2. olof1 Says:

    The garbage truck comes twice a month to collect out garbage and twice a month to pick up the second barrel which they think we should toss food in. None of us here in the village toss away any leaft over food so it is just a waste of our money and their time. It would have been better if they collected the garbage every week instead.

    I could have had some understanding for the wasted food collecting if they had made compost from it but they burn it like all other garbage so what’s the use???

    I always thought it exiting when the garbage truck came to where I grew up, they had four places to go to and the big barrels stood just outside our apartment building and the barrels were made of iron. The lids were so heavy that children rarely managed to open them up to toss the garbage in them 🙂

    Very windy here today but I think it was less bad than they had predicted, the steady wind was harder but the gusts less hard instead.

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      The town here has no trash trucks. You have to pay a private company to pick up your trash or get a dump sticker to do it yourself which I do.

      I don’t get why they make you separate the food if it goes with all the other garbage. I have to separate papers, plastic, cardboard, glass and cans.

      I remember the backyard of my grandparents apartment building. There was a shed filled with barrels and each apartment had its own barrels, no recycling in those days.

      As soon as I got into the car after throwing my trash, it started to rain. I was quite lucky as the rain was heavy.

      Have a great evening!

  3. Birgit Says:

    I’m glad we still have garbage trucks every two weeks, packaging waste and residual waste separately, I think passengers would complain if I’d carry my trash by tram or bus to the dump.

    • katry Says:

      Birgit,
      There haven’t ever been garbage trucks sponsored by towns on the Cape. All of the towns have dumps. You can pay a private company to pick up your trash. The house next door is a summer rental, and they have pick-up every Saturday.

      Gracie would miss her dump runs.

  4. Bob Says:

    Jobs like garbage men used to be sought after because they were government jobs with union benefits and a pension. In those days men had to work for their local city counselmen’s election to even be recommended for a city job.

    Today everyone has those plastic cans that are picked up by the truck itself and dump the contents into the top of the truck. There is only one man driving the truck and he probably is working for a contractor for lower wages than his predecessors and without benefits. Many messy jobs have been either automated or are being contracted out to companies who are not very particular of their workers nationality.

    Did the outhouse in Ghana have TP, corn cobs or Sears catalog pages? 🙂

    I’ve been in Toronto all week and the weather has not been too cold nor has there been any accumulation of snow. Last night there were some snow flurries. According to my Canadian coworkers they have had a very mild winter so far.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      It wasn’t like that where I was a kid. There were no councilmen, just selectman, and they had no control over jobs like trash collector. You put your name on a list and waited.

      I’ve seen those trucks picking up the barrels to empty. Each had two men, one being the driver.

      The outhouse was a bring your own toilet paper, but I did have Peace Corps friends who used their Reader’s Digests for toilet paper.

      Boston was 10˚ warmer than usual in December. Right now January is only 4 degrees above normal. The snow levels are much lower than usual. It has really been a strange winter.

  5. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Wow. The most I ever worried about finding in the outhouse box was bees or snakes. Never a person smiling up at me from below. 🙂

    My house still has the in ground garbage pail. It doesn’t have the pail any more but it still has the cast iron lid. The raccoons used to to try and open it in the dead of night. Since it was under my bedroom window, I could hear them out there stomping on the foot tab on the lid. They weighed enough that this would lift the lid an inch or two before it fell back down with a loud clang. The tab broke off and that defeated the raccoons. No leverage and they weren’t strong enough to get their clever hands under the edge of the lid and lift it.
    My father used to refer to the garbage truck as the honey wagon. I remember the smell and the maggots. I also remember that there were usually yellow jackets.

    Today was cloudy except for a brief appearance by the sun. I did see one snowflake. It was damp which made it feel colder than it was.

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I think my Dad also called it the honey wagon.

      I bet the one at my old house is still there as well. I’m thinking it could be welded shut for safety sake.

      I emptied the last of my trash and got into my car when all of a sudden it started to pour. I ran into the next store on my list and by the time I came outside, the rain had stopped.

      Quiet tonight and quiet tomorrow.

      Have a great evening

      • Caryn Says:

        I saw one that had been completely dug out of someone’s yard a few streets over. They dug out the entire cement casing and the cast iron top and left it by the roadway for the trash to haul away. It was not even 3 feet long. I was surprised. As a kid I always thought they were bottomless. 🙂
        Mine hasn’t been opened in decades and is probably filled with soil by now.

      • katry Says:

        Caryn,
        I’m surprised the buried metal didn’t rot away.

        That had to be heavy. I’m amazed the trash truck would take it away.

  6. Jay Bird Says:

    Fascinating topic! I recently visited the new down-sized home of a couple I’ve known for 50 years. They like “orderly” living, in a development where everything is strictly managed, down to the last blade of grass.

    It must have been garbage day, as each house had two identical trash bins (one for garbage, one for recyclables) in exactly the same place in each driveway. Reminded me of the “Nutcracker” in an odd way. Not my idea of fun… The apartment complex I now live in has dumpsters.

    I’ve known rural folk who had to carry their trash/garbage to the dump weekly. I’ve been spared that, despite 13 different residences in my adult life.

    I was brought up to respect the garbage men, the cops and the teachers. Good people doing a job we need done.

    • katry Says:

      Jay,
      There are developments down here which are pretty much the same as the one you visited, and they cost megabucks. Each place looks exactly the same so I suspect there are clearly stated garbage rules. I’m figuring the place has pick up, no dump for those residents.

      Most of us carry our trash to the dump as no town on the Cape has town trucks for trash pick-up. Private trash companies are expensive while the dump sticker is $125.00 a year, way cheaper than week by week pick up.

      I haven’t ever thought of being anything but respectful. Like you, it was the way we were brought up.


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