If it walks like a gnome and jigs like a gnome…


Mornin’ all.

I shouldn’t be writing. I’ve got so much left to do that I should mainline this coffee and get to work. My fingers are itchy, though, and need to pound on the keys for awhile. So I figured I’d babble at my morning friends to appease the beast, and then I’ll get to it. I mean, sure, I’d love to get cracking on the next Newton book. But I’ve got responsibilities. I’m an adult, after all, and that means…

…oh look! The cocoa puffs turned the milk to chocolate! Yay!

*slurps from the cereal bowl*

I live in the best town in the world if you have a pile of junk that you MUST get rid of. I have bemoaned the fact that the local dump is only open three days a week. Yesterday was not one of those special days, so we decided to stick all the crap in a pile with a free sign and see what happens.

People. Took. Everything.

Old toaster oven? Gone. Lamp without a shade? Didn’t last five minutes before being snatched up. Box of rusty tools? Should have just been called ghosts for how fast they vanished. Shoes, old back packs, random car parts that we somehow had that were not for any of the cars we’ve ever owned, old cleaning chemicals from the failed one year pool experiment, cracked hoses that we specifically said had to be patched or used for something else… Didn’t matter. Anything we stuck out in the pile was gone almost before we were finished working. It was amazing.

People will take ANYTHING if you say it’s free.

…me included. Please don’t think that I’m picking on the people who went through the pile looking for an unexpected treasure to brighten up a ho-hum Wednesday. I’m not at all. I AM one of those people. Have been my whole life. I’ve already unabashedly copped to being a hoarder. I’m not picking on them. If life were different right now, I would be doing the same damn thing.

I can’t, but they did, so I’m grateful. They saved us a whole lot of effort and money, and I thank them.

What we’ve got here in town…I call it the “dump” because that’s what it was when I was a kid. You drove past the cemetery and could start to smell…well, something you hoped was NOT the cemetery. And the something-smell grew and grew until you wrinkled your nose and your dad pulled down a dirt road and turned the corner, at which point you didn’t care about the stink because in front of you was The Dump.

Yep, it was a classic “dump”, the kind that would send any environmentalist into an apoplectic fit. It was simply a great big pit with a heap o’trash in the middle. That’s it. Everything got tossed together in one giant mound. There were no restrictions and no recycling. You bagged up your trash- or left it loose- and tossed it onto the heap. Can’t get any more basic than that.

There was a man who worked there. We called him the Dump Gnome.

“Bethie! That’s horrible!!”

I KNOW!!! But we were kids, and my dad was wildly inappropriate… Besides, as mean as it sounds, the dude really, REALLY looked like a gnome. And he’d come out of seemingly nowhere to pick over what people were throwing away. He’d pull out anything that looked like it would be useful to someone else and placed it off to the side for people to take.

Hoarding is NOT a new phenomenon, people. As long as people have been throwing out useful crap they just got sick of, there have been hoarders snatching it up.

So the Dump Gnome, he’d take things like lamps, bookcases, furniture, blenders, tvs, books…anything that looked like it was in decent condition. He’d set it aside, and then encourage people to have a look through and see if there was anything they’d like. I can clearly remember him guiding Dad to the treasures and handing them over like the dump puppet in The Labyrinth. “Here’s a bear, dearie. Isn’t it a nice one? So pretty…”

…wait a minute. Stop everything. I’m having a revelation right now.

He was my first pusher. That gnome-y little bastard! Wow, I never thought of that before. But he was, wasn’t he? And damn if he didn’t turn a whole town into hoarders! That sneaky little… Okay. I will never again feel bad for calling him the Dump Gnome.

Sorry, got way off track there. Just…mind blown.

Okay. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The dump of yesteryear.

At some point when I was a teenager, the town decided that the heap of hazardous materials and the toxic fumes they produced were a bad plan for the environment. They stopped letting people pile the garbage up willy-nilly, and covered the whole thing with dirt and sod. What was once the town dump became a mountain that we had to pretend was always there. Then huge containers were brought in and what was once the dump became a transfer station. Recycling goes in those bins, trash and non-recyclables over here, please. Trash gets super compacted into bricks that get carted off somewhere to be someone else’s problem. You know, because letting it be someone else’s problem is modern environmental responsibility.

…did you pick up on the sarcasm? Because I was layin’ it on pretty thick there…

My point is that now it’s all very tidy and no fun whatsoever.

The Dump Gnome couldn’t hack the life full of restrictions and left shortly after the mysterious mountain that had totally always been there appeared. His spot didn’t stay empty for very long. Now, there’s an heir to the picker throne. He also pulls aside useful items, though he’s much more selective than the gnome ever was. And he never encourages people to take the items. In fact, if he’s not on his cell phone, he’ll glare at you if you so much as look at the pile. I guess he’s one of those high-functioning hoarders.

Ya know…I wonder what happened to the Dump Gnome? Much like a wild west gunslinger, he suddenly found himself in a world that moved on and left him in the past. Almost poetic, when you think about it.

Anyway, I’m glad the pile on our lawn went. The transfer station has rules the dump never had, and we would have ended up paying a fee to rid ourselves of some of that crap.

We found a ton of scrap metal, too. Now, “scrapping” around here is big business. There are many people who make it their job to ride around and collect metal junk that people no longer want. They load their rigs with everything from springs to refrigerators, then take it back to their work areas where they spend hours breaking it down into the different components. Once they’ve got it all down to bare metal, they take it to a local junkyard and sell it.

“That’s a business?”

Hell yeah. In fact, scrap metal collection is a HUGE business. However, you’ve got to do it in bulk to make it worth your time and effort. The scrap yards pay by the ton, and if you don’t have a rig crammed with a few tons of material that’s been carefully picked apart and sorted, it’s not really worth it.

We had an entire station wagon full of odds and ends metal, including a lot of aluminum which is going for crazy money right now. We checked to see if it would be worth it for us to haul it up ourselves. Since we don’t know enough about metal to sort it properly, what we had was a “mixed” load, and it probably would have netted us about $30. Not worth it, since we’d have spent $10 in gas there and back.

For us, it didn’t make sense. But, for people who make this their business, the pile was an excellent find. Two really cool guys stopped to see if they could have it, then chatted with us while they loaded it all into their truck. They explained the process of scrapping in detail while they worked. They do it for a living, and they went item by item to tell us how to break it all down next time if we were interested in scrapping things ourselves. They said if we broke it down and sorted it like they suggested, we could have turned that $30 pile into at least $100.

…with lots of time and effort. Trust me, these guys are going to have to work hard to turn that rust into gold. It’s going to take muscle and lots of time to make it worth it, and we were more than happy to let them have the whole shebang. We’ll have another pile in a couple weeks, probably even bigger than that when we tackle the larger garage. Maybe we’ll break that one down ourselves and see what we can make.

I have a helper awake. He does not appear to be in a good mood. He’s got his blankie pulled over his head and keeps sighing dramatically. So much drama in one so young… I wonder how loud he’ll get? It’s impressive, actually. I can hear him over Land Down Under in my headphones. Can people hyperventilate by excessive sighing?

Oh, okay. He’s amped it up by flopping on the couch. He’ll be fine. The flopping will get the blood flowing and counter the effects of the dramatic sighs.

He best get the angst out of his system. His older brothers are away today, so it’s just the two of us to tackle the teen bedroom. Normally I make the kids clean their own damn room. However, we’ve got to be brutal, and bags of crinkled and torn Magic cards that are totally hidden where the boys think I don’t know about them just won’t make the cut. D10s with the numbers half rubbed off aren’t viable, either. I promised them I’d keep good stuff, and I will. I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty in salvaging Bionicle and Lego pieces, decent Magic cards, dice that aren’t all rubbed bare… It would have been so easy to toss the junk, and honestly, I doubt they ever would have known. I plan on doing the same in their room. But how many piles of old school papers they were too lazy to walk 20 fricken feet to throw away do teenagers really need, hm?

Ten bucks says I find a cache of dirty socks shoved in the corner.

Guess what the sighing helper’s first job is going to be?!

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Thursday, August 21, 2014. I wasn’t kidding about the socks. I can smell them from here. I’ll send the 8 year old in with a trash bag, rubber gloves, and a gas mask. Hey, he owes me for the early morning drama-thon…


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