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'At your disposal'

Friendship and Cushing, adjacent towns, maintain a common dump, and up to a late hour the sign still said FRIENDSHIP-CUSHING TOWNSHIP DUMP. Otherwise, Maine seems to have opted elegantly for the newer versions, such as COMMUNITY LAND FILL and SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL AREA. But Friendship and Cushing have nevertheless subscribed to the newer ecological niceties, and we are neater than before. We employ one more town official, the Dump Master, which is unofficial but a title that derived easily. Both Friendship and Cushing have long had Harbor Masters, officers who handle the waterfronts, and neither town would think about a joint effort in that direction, but the towns combine to share the one Dump Master.

Which is prefatory to the customary Sunday alarm at our house, "Dump run day!" The week's you-know is hoisted into the stern of the pickup truck, and I hie to the dump, four miles away and precisely at the Cushing town line, there to fraternize with residents and summercaters who have come to make their contributions. It occurs to me that this is a latter-day pleasure, and one that was unknown in my youth. There may have been odd moments when something from our household was hove over the bank at the town dump -- our town had one -- but I don't remember any. We had other disposal programs.

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First and foremost, every family in our neighborhood maintained pigs and poultry, and there was no such word in our bright lexicon as garbage.m I suppose garbage, like landfill, is a pleasanter word for what went before; what went before, with us, was swill.m Garbage is refuse; swill is an asset. We had another word I remember that came out of our old English beginnings -- orts. "Take out the orts!" was a reminder not to forget the kitchen leavings when we stepped out to pick up the eggs and feed the biddies. There was a "swilldish" in the kitchen sink, and there the orts would accumulate, but only between trips to the henhouse. Mother, as dump master in our old family kitchen, was careful to distinguish between food for the chickabiddies and food for the porkers. Some things went one way, some another.

A flock of hens appreciate orts. I, or whoever did it in turn, would arrive at the henhouse door, orts at the ready, and knock as if at a house portal. Always knock before intruding on hens. If you swing the door open and startle them, they will squawk and carry on and fly to the rafters, coming down in a huff that curtails production. So you knock, and all eyes are toward the door when you come in. Then some of the hens peck at the eyelets on your boots, and show great interest.They know what's in that dish. Our hens ate as well as we did -- the same things, really.

It's good fun to feed a pig, too. When they are little they learn to squeal and oosh as prologue to a feast, and as they grow older they add numerous refinements. I never tired of hearing a pig eat. As with the hens, we had to give the pigs food over and above the kitchen scraps, and the mainstay of porcine management was skim-milk -- presupposing a cow. Mother put the table milk in pitchers, and the rest went into setting pans to be skimmed milk, stir in a can of meal, garnish with orts, and you've got a pig without cark or care.

Maybe somebody is going to say that we took our bottles and cans and packaging to the dump -- must have. Nope. Things didn't come in packages then; they were wrapped in grocer's paper or put in a paper sack. We had a place out back where useless waste paper could be burned, but a good bit of it went into bundles and was tied up for the junkie. "Junkie," now, has another and less respectable meaning, but in those times he was a man who came regularly with a horse and wagon and paid, even if sparingly, for whatever we didn't feed out or burn. Mother probably didn't open ten cans a year, and her preserving jars were laid away for reuse. And the junkie took other things that, today would be tossed away. Old iron, odd pieces of furniture. We had one junkie who would buy garden sass in season, because he also had a stall at the public market in the city. And I remember that once in a while we would offer him something we wanted to get rid of, and he'd shake his head. "Nope -- but I'll haul it off for you; put it on the wagon." We knew he'd turn a penny on it, one way or another, but if he couldn't -- he'd take it to the dump. Saved our going. Cushing and Friendship have no municipal removal services, so now I go every week. Not too many pigs and chickens, either.

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