Sunday, May 31, 2009

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

The town dump opens at 10:00 am on Saturday morning. When we first moved here, I imagine a landfill pit in a pasture where junk is stacked according to category. In the pit would be smoking garbage. That's what I was used to in the past. Our dump is a steel building that has various bays for town equipment and large parking apron in front,usually mud filled, and a central storage area for two large dumpsters. Off to one side is an enclosed area with a small heater and window. The town chairman presided over informal meetings in this warming room. With the town chairman facing prosecution for "Elder Abuse" when it was alleged that he threw the 65 year old town clerk to the ground breaking several ribs, the town chairman was forced to resign. In the April election the son of one of the town board members is elected chair.

The run to the dump is a bi-monthly event for us. A chance to meet Kickapogians and get the latest news of the world through the eyes of rural America. The access ramp to the opening of the shed is clogged with pick-ups backed up to the door. On either side are an equal number of trucks. The noise of people dumping glass containers into a dumpster is deafening. "You serving doughnuts today?" I ask the father of the town chairman who's been picked to watch over the dumpsters and prevent outsiders or townsfolk from throwing nuclear waste into them. "Yeah, but they're all gone. You're too late." Darn. Then, I remember an Amish woman on Parsonage Road makes doughnuts on Saturdays.

Dawn and I unload the plastic garbage cans of sorted trash: aluminum cans, recyclable glass plastic and tin, garbage bags in clear plastic, a laundry waste basket for basement trash, two cardboard boxes filled with refuse from garden and outdoor work. I stack the plastic garbage cans in the truck and drive off for doughnuts. On Parsonage Road, a narrow gravel road right off the US highway, I spot Titus' brother with a beekeeping veil tending to hives near his fence line. His children stand in a row far enough away so they won't be stung . I wave. There's no sign in front of a single story white house with a circular drive and two tractor tires painted white holding a bed of petunias. Darn.

I remember last week's auction. There was a mention of another antique auction the following week. Same place, same time. "How much money ya got?" I ask Dawn. " Eleven dollars," she says. I have four left over from the forty dollars I made selling woodpecker doorknockers the previous week. I don't see any cars lining the road. Dawn reminds me that the auction site is further down the road past the goat farm with an unusual limestone outcropping behind the single story white farmhouse. Turning the corner, I can see their farm yard filled with a crowd of people outside and a full parking lot. There's one Amish buggy parked on the other side of the fence. We walk down the gravel drive toward the house and barn. In front of the barn, one of Titus' daughters is grilling hot dogs and bratwurst. We both wave and stop to chat. The perimeter of the barn is lined with tables. The tables are filled with bakery. The auctioneer inside is moving fast selling old tools. Dawn says, "His nasal twang would drive me nuts if I had to be here all day." Behind the auctioneer's podium are tables filled with auction items. We move past people sitting bench style, eating hot dogs and watching the bidding. Most of the items up for sale are what I'd expect at a farm auction. Old signs, glass milk bottles from the day a milkman came to your door, pulleys and tools, cast irons toys and lunch boxes. When the lunch boxes come up for bidding, the auctioneer starts at $25. "Old lunch boxes are hot right now," says Dawn. Most of the items offered for sale are featured in articles in Country Home magazine and the like where women decorate suburban houses to look like a farm kitchen. The problem is that they're too neat, too cute, too organized, too, too! No farm kitchen would be decorated in this fashion-the creation of an over active imagination of a housewife with nothing to do. Dawn says the trend nowadays is minimalism. Country kitsch with just a few antiques.

We are jaded artists. There's a missing feeling from the assemblage. No nostalgia, no presence just the feeling of greedy antique dealers hoping to sell Grandma's granite ware or earthen crocks for twice what they paid. We scan the bakery. I spot a pecan pie selling for $5 but remember I'd asked Titus' daughter to bake one next week. A round faced rosy cheeked Amish woman sits in front of a table with cheery kolachies. I peel off three of my four singles and hand them to her. Driving back home, I resist the temptation to sample a cherry Danish. A 10 minute trip to the dump takes over an hour. Isn't that what life in the country is all about?

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