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The first time I ever got involved in a 'deep' discussion on 'the environment' was years ago at our town's environmentally sensitive dump when a group of us regulars gathered to exchange views on a host of important philosophical topics. On this particular occasion the local paper had just run a big story about how the selectmen were going to close the our town's historic dump and - along with a gaggle of other towns - help bank-roll a 'regional waste-materials transfer facility,' saying the new operation would be better for the environment.
Our first thought was: What kind of people think up names like that? Next we concluded that anyone who would want to replace the solid phrase 'town dump' with 'regional waste-materials transfer facility' and then expect normal people to use it in everyday speech are probably not the kind of people you'd want exercising authority over the 'strategic materials' usually associated with town dumps.
At our meeting that morning we recalled that we didn't start to have rumblings in the town's rubbish circles until the selectmen returned a year or two ago from that international rubbish symposium held at some fancy hotel in Las Vegas a while back. They say all the big names in rubbish were there - anyone who was anyone in the world of waste was present,talking trash and making fancy speeches about new trends and fads in the field of rubbish. When our starry-eyed selectmen finally got home - their heads now filled with rubbish - they couldn't wait to pass a new ordinance against such revered local customs as 'dump picking' and other cultural traditions associated with dumps.
Once our selectmen got that "No Dump Picking" ordinance passed and strictly enforced, it was all down hill at the dump. Selectmen from other towns eventually restricted dump picking at dumps all over Maine. When dump pickers were not allowed to pick their dump clean huge mounds of trash began to grow at dumps around Maine, overwhelming our rubbish receiving capabilities.
Whenever I think of environmentally sensitive town dumps I often think of my friend Woody Getchell from way Down East. Every week like clockwork Woody would load up his pickup truck with a weeks worth of trash - or 'waste-materials' as some would have us call it - and he'd haul it all to the dump. Once there he would throw his trash over the bank. After his truck was empty Woody would jump down off the truck and begin the most important part of his weekly dump trip - surveying the dump's unique and ever-changing horizon.
On a good day he’d see something like an old washing machine that might have needed a few wires or belts or hoses changed but was carelessly thrown away instead. Next, he might see an outboard motor that - for want of a spark plug or drive shaft - was thrown on the town's trash heap. Woody figured all these machines needed was a little tinkering and they'd most likely be good as new again and so he'd load them into the pickup.
Before long he might see an old wooden door that would be perfect for the hunting camp he and his brother Forrest planned to build once they straightened out the tricky lease arrangement with the paper company and then got the camped framed out they way they wanted. He'd just store the door and washing machine and outboard motor on the back porch until he needed them.
Woody would go on like than for most of the morning collecting one vital thing after another until he'd have a lot more balanced on that pickup of his than he hauled to the dump in the first place. Once his truck was filled he'd 'transfer' or 'dump' all that stuff onto his back porch or dooryard until he needed it - which he had no doubt he eventually would.
Dumps are so revered in Maine that the Kennebunkport Dump Association used to celebrate every year with a parade and the crowning of a Miss Dumpy.
The Dump Parade was started in 1965 by the association, a 40-member group with one president and 39 vice presidents. President and artist Ed Mayo was the power behind the dump and at its peak the Dump Parade was featured in National Geographic and the Today Show.
The object of the Miss Dumpy contest is to construct a costume from items that did or could come from the dump. Miss Dumpy was picked on the basis of her costume.
As far as I know Woody’s spouse never entered the Miss Dumpy contest, although she very-well may have.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at mainestoryteller@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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