Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 07, 2021


"... I had fun"

In February, I wrote about the death of husband Art's brother and our efforts to clean up his house for sale. That earlier effort created a garage full of trash bags stretching from the back wall to the door.

In April, Jim, the hubby of Art's cousin Kris, offered to lend a hand as well as his pickup truck to move those bags to the county landfill.

Jim arrived around 10 a.m. Because of the pandemic, we hadn't seen him for the past year-plus, except once when he dropped off some culinary fare Kris had generated to keep our motors running while we labored at cleaning the house. We spent an hour and a half chatting about things people talk about when they've been separated awhile. A bit before noon, Art suggested we should set aside our jaw-boning and get to the task at hand.

Perhaps the first sign it would be a "day to remember" was when Art asked if Jim had ever been to the landfill. He had not. So Art did an online search, figured out how to get there, and then announced they quit accepting "donations" at mid-afternoon. Soon, the three of us were outside, dragging bags from the garage and flinging them onto the truck.

Once loaded, a strange utterance came from my mouth: "I think I'd like to go along."

Perhaps it was a sign I need to get out more. After all, the sight of decaying foodstuffs and the not-quite-describable related aroma aren't inviting. But before I had a chance to rethink it, we three were in the truck and on our way.

Seven miles later, we turned into the driveway next to the great mountain of accumulated refuse covered with a grass carpet. While there was something about the sheer size of the summit that gave me pause, Jim mentioned that people have come great distances to see the site because they collect the methane generated to use as fuel. Soon, it will be delivering the gas into a conventional natural gas pipeline.

A few hundred feet inside the grounds, the road was divided by painted lanes. Jim took the one at the far left marked for garbage and household waste. This led to a scale next to a kiosk where the fellow peered over the load and informed us it would be $18.

After we paid, he told us to turn right and follow the signs and we did just that ... sorta. All the signs to that point had been nicely-lettered, professional-looking ones, which was in sharp contrast to the four-by-eight sheet of plywood with a hand-generated red arrow and the word "Landfill."

We dutifully followed, but soon things began looking a bit odd. The empty vehicles we met were huge, with the smallest being the refuse-collecting type normally combing city streets on trash pick-up days.

We rounded a small ridge in the trash mountain nicely covered by a fresh growth of grass and gas-collecting pipes sprouting from it. The way in front of us looked like a moonscape. Jimís truck navigated the deep ruts pretty easily, but cars would have had great difficulty. To the right was a mountain-in-progress, complete with seagulls searching for morsels. A Caterpillar dozer cycled up and down the mountain side, pushing trash on its skyward journey and returning empty.

We didn't feel we belonged there, but signs don't lie! Jim backed up next to the base of the hill and he and Art got out and began heaving bags onto the ground. I thought I might help until I opened the door and saw how mucky the ground was. I decided instead to take a couple of pictures from the safety of the truck's running board, then hop back inside, and shut the door to keep the smell at bay.

The dozer began closing in on us. When about 30 feet away, the young fellow who emerged from the cab asked if we had been sent there and suggested the area with "skips" would be more convenient for us. He said we were welcome to continue, but we'd have to head up the flank of the hill to continue unloading.

Art and Jim looked up the incline, looked at each other and then returned to the truck cab. Art remembered seeing something on the website about an area with skips organized for general trash disposal by the public. We had followed the signs, so where were they?

As we worked our way back toward the scale, Art spotted another nicely-lettered sign on the large building nearby. As directed at the kiosk, going right was correct, but it was the sign on the building's other end we should have followed next. The plywood sign was intended only for the professional trash haulers.

The public area was nicely organized with skips for every possible type of garbage or recyclable material - household garbage, mattresses, paper, plastics, glass and so on. The elevated roadway meant the truck back was level with the skip's top. We quickly emptied the truck and headed back for another load ... or that was the plan.

Once again, we were lost. The way in had been one-way and now we couldn't find the exit. So we returned to the kiosk where the fellow gave us additional directions. If we had spent more time looking and less time shooting the you-know-what, we would have seen the neat, albeit small, EXIT signs.

Trips number two, three and four followed, each executed more smoothly than the one before.

Closing time arrived with one load still in the garage. But that was OK. After we said our "good-byes" to Jim, I turned to Art and said, "I know this sounds strange, but I had fun!" And the remaining load? Well, that's an opportunity for more fun in the future!


Top-left: Art prepares to toss a bag into the truck while Jim heads into the garage for another; top-right: "Is this the right place?" The dozer is at the upper-right coming to us; lower-left: The skips are found! Jim shoulders a new bag while Art goes for another one; lower-right: by the last trip, we realized backing up to the skip meant less work.



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