Monday, May 16, 2005

Illinois Karen and raiders of the tossed ark

You gotta love America. I mean, where else can you drive down the street, actually on the loveliest street in Smalltown, USA, and see a microwave oven lying in the gutter? Ah, yes, America. Land of the free, home of the discarded microwave!

This past weekend was big trash weekend. It is never called that. Instead it is called "Gabby Days" which makes no sense so I call it big trash weekend. Once a year the city agrees to pick up large items that are placed by the curb...for free! They agree to do this because they know that they will not have to haul away much that is left there because people from across town from wherever you live will come and take your junk and you will drive across town and drag off their junk. It is a great deal for everyone involved.

Except my husband.

He longs to have a clean basement, a woodworking shop where tools are displayed in neal and tidy form, waiting for the careful hand of a weekend project engineer. So, on big trash weekend, there he is, our boys lined up like professional trash disposers, cammoflage pants, pocket knives, boots, lugging things out of my basement and to the curb.

I, on the other hand, have already scouted out the good trash piles on the other side of town. I know where there are stacks of old drawers, leftovers from dressers and pantries of a by-gone time. I can tell you the street address of the endless pickle jar supply. I have plied these same boys with chocolate chip cookies and have sworn them to secrecy.

I call down the stairs to them, "I'm going to Hy-Vee. Do you want me to bring home Mountain Dew?" Of course they do. So off I go. I take the "short cut" to the store, stopping to load in an old granite wear pot, a worn shutter, a box containing 1950's picture frames, and a section of garden fence, now green with age and weather.

A couple hours later as I return with the groceries, I see an old door from my basement moving toward the curb. What is this? It has arms and legs that look mysteriously like those belonging to my tallest son. "Oh, why is this going to the curb? I need that door," I hollar. "It is an original."

"Dad," I hear him say, "Mom is back and you ought to see the junk in the back of the van!" The traitor. And after I baked him those cookies!

They say it is all trash but it is not. One year I found 2 dozen gallon pickle jars and after they passed through the dishwasher they were perfect for filling with cookies and giving to friends at Christmas. Another time I came across the top of an old library table that is now absolutely beautiful with new legs and and a golden red cherry finish.

Some people have no shame and root through my trash in broad daylight. Others come under cloak of night, flashlights scanning and probing the darkness, not wanting us or any neighbors to see them as they get back into their SUV's and drive away. We live in the historic district so I guess they think we have better, more historic junk. When I have shared my stories of big trash, the inevitable question is "what was your best find?" The reply goes something like this:

One year, the summer of Mollie's wedding, she and I were up late at night sewing her wedding dress. As we headed out to the store for a midnight snack, to fill our cart with frozen egg rolls and Cherry Coke, we realized that big trash weekend had come upon us and there sat a perfect pile of trash.

Now, Mollie was directing "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer" that summer at the playhouse and she had been looking for a round table for the infamous restaurant scene. There, right in the midst of the seatless lawnchairs and wet cardboard boxes holding an old awning, sat a round, white patio table.

I whipped the car to the side of the road and we detangled the table from the old mower parts, trying not to wake the homeowners. We carried it to Mollie's car and opened the trunk. Alas, the table would not fit unless we tied the trunk shut.

Inevitablly, I was faced with a dilemna. I could leave my daughter beside the road while I drove home and got the van. Not a good idea at 11:00pm. I could stay myself while she went home. Also not a good idea. We could leave the table. Not an option at this point. We rummaged around in her trunk but found nothing that would work. "If only we had something, something elastic," I heard Mollie say. Then we looked at each other and she said "We will have to use yours, mine isn't as stretchy."

So I huddled as far down onto the floor of the front seat as possible, removed my unmentionable, and handed it to her. Laughing hysterically, Mollie tied the trunk closed and we were own our way.

Harrison Ford has nothing on me.


At 9:29 AM, Anonymous sarah-brown-devost said...

LMNO (laughing my nose off)great story!

Linked here from

At 11:47 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...


I am glad you enjoyed my story....every word of it is true.
As of last night, I had seen 5 microwaves along the roadside!

At 11:06 AM, Blogger WeathertopMama said...

This pretty spring day only lacked one thing: a good belly laugh. Thanks for supplying one!


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