Monday, March 07, 2005

Town Fathers to the rescue

I left you with the picture of the town residents slowly being poisoned by the burning rubbish. Choking and gasping they begged the “Town Fathers” for relief. Relief came quickly as the Councilmen, reacting in a standard manner over 15 years, passed a town ordinance banning open burning of garbage. Hooray! Much of the reason everyone was choking was from burning tires. At our local skating rink, when I was a kid, someone would come down from the DPW and bring a tire and light it to keep everyone warm. It would burn for hours and if you stood on the upwind side it was ok. What else were you going to do with tires? I continue……
The Town Dump was full and a newer one was built in a bigger ravine even further from town. The Garbage Brothers were getting old and no one else was forthcoming about wanting to take over their business. When we stopped burning there was more garbage and the town moved into weekly pickups because no burning meant really smelly garbage cans in our alleys, all crawling with maggots and cats. The people wanted more and got more. The Garbage Brothers had their workload double overnight but refused to put on another crew or buy more equipment. They held firm that their success laid in the fact that they directly controlled their entire company. Come to think of it, I don’t think they ever had a company name except the Garbage Brothers. No stationary, no business cards, no secretary, no taxes or at least very little as all of their business transpired in the garbage areas of the alleys. They resolved any money collection problems they might encounter by simply not picking up the offenders garbage. Most delinquents quickly repented their ways. Their monthly fee was collected in little white envelopes attached with thumbtacks to the white racks with the three beat up silver cans in them. Occasionally you would see a son or nephew help out, as “Shorty” wasn’t getting any taller [in fact he was shrinking a little] and needed to be spelled on occasion. Remembering that they were now working a double shift and had been for years. When the Garbage Brothers did retire, the town decided, as all towns evidentially do, to take over the garbage business and make money. The Garbage brothers left town and moved somewhere else. We later heard that they moved to some island in the South Pacific with their wives. Worried about taxes I think. Well the new dump went high on a ravine, so high that the new dump road had 3 switch backs on it [for real]. They built a little shack for the DPW guard, and a fence with a gate and they called this “The New Town Dump”. The guard was there to insure that hot ashes were not dumped and everything was orderly. You could still dump there, yourself, but you had to pay the guard a fee or leave him a six pack of beer occasionally. Later we all found out that the guard was not suppose to be collecting a fee and our town fathers solved that problem by sending him out to work on another part of the DPW. The last that I was around the garbage collection trials was after my release from the Navy and I was now Chief of Police. The dump was a place for us to go shooting. Lot’s of Rats provided moving targets. One Easter Morning my dispatcher called and notified me that the dump was on fire and needed checking. I quickly climbed the three switchbacks and as I cleared the top I saw that we had a problem. The dump was burning and wind had taken it into a nearby stand of timber. The woods were tinder dry and the fire had immediately crowned moving across the ridge at 50 MPH and was surrounding my town below. As I looked back at where the fire had started and jumped to the crowns, two lumbermen [skidders] with their skidding teams ahead were racing their teams to safety, below the crown fire and as the fire started dropping down. I stood mesmerized by the life and death struggle taking place before me. Whoa…this is a whole different story, for another time in this blog. Leave it suffice to say that was my last contact with the towns rubbish problems. I now leave and move to Western Massachusetts with this story. [we leave the fortunes of Shorty behind us and move across the country to learn more about the adventures of fire starter, who has changed his name to Dick]

4 comments:

dayna said...

"Their monthly fee was collected in little white envelopes attached with thumbtacks to the white racks with the three beat up silver cans in them."

No WAY !! That is too funny.

Ted said...

You didn't dare steal the money because there was always some nosey old neighbor keeping track of what the kids did. If you got caught stealing money from the envelopes, Shortys older brother called your parents and told them there would be no more trash pickups! Now your dead meat. If it was a stranger hanging around the garbage racks then someone called the cops [correction, cop] or the sheriff and our local Kangeroo Court system would keep the stranger in the county jail for a while. Everyone watched out for everyone else in those days.

dayna said...

"If you got caught stealing money from the envelopes, Shortys older brother called your parents and told them there would be no more trash pickups!"

Now be honest, do you know this from personal experience? I could ask your brother.

Ted said...

You have to remember that this is really small town South Dakota in the late 40 and 50's. Population 4,000. As I mentioned about a stranger stealing and then getting arrested by the polce or sheriff. He got sent to County Jail and worked off his fine and paid back shorty and his brother by having to work on the garbage truck. We still had state reform school in those days for "WAYWARD YOUTH". A friend of mine got causght stealing money from a house and was sent to reform school until he was 18. Wives didn't work back then and they usually brought the money out when the Garbage Brothers arrived but some put the money on the racks with thumb tacks. The wives didn't make a very interesting story so I just left them out. Can't check with my brother. He was less than one at the time and probably remnembers zip.