Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Metal Man

The metal man came yesterday. He’s different than the junk man. First of all, you don’t have to pay him. He doesn’t pay you either but he will get out there with you and gather up the broken lawnmowers, tobacco shack stacks, and assorted rusty farm machinery the previous owner left for you because you couldn’t see it when he was showing you around the place since it was summer and the grass was waist-high.

When winter came and everything was brown and bare, we discovered those things in our pasture, along with a family dump that is filled with exciting things like old bottles. There are a ton of moonshine bottles, old Listerine bottles with their black plastic caps still intact and aspirin bottles. You can tell a lot from a person’s trash. We speculated that whoever was into the moonshine tried to hide it with a little Listerine and then had a headache the next day.

Kurt was mad when we found the dump. I was too but I tried to let it go. I pointed out to him that most farms have old dumps. What were the people supposed to do with all their garbage in the old days before you could bring it to the Dumpsters down the road? People took care of things themselves in those days. They had to.

What I like finding the most are the broken tea cups with tiny roses on them and the enamelware cooking pots, all dented and rusty. It makes me think of the woman who lived in the house back in the Depression. Did she drink tea with lemon in the kitchen? Did she keep one of the enamelware pots by the bed because it sure is a long way to the only bathroom downstairs on the other end of the house? Maybe there was no bathroom at all in this house in those days? Maybe they had to use the pot until morning when they could get to the outhouse?

What I don’t like finding are plastic containers that once held things like motor oil. There is nothing uglier sticking out from the brush than a bright yellow motor oil container. These things, like spring water bottles, long-necked brown beer bottles and the green plastic Mountain Dew soda bottles came from someone recently who could have loaded them all up and taken them to the dump once a week and certainly should have known better. These are the things that won’t break down and turn into dirt, effectively putting a stop to a natural cycle of things and wrecking the beauty of something we don’t have much left of.

That’s why I moved to Virginia. Because it’s so clean and beautiful here. When I look out my kitchen window to the road that curves past an old white farmhouse, red barns and fields mowed in neat rows that roll like ribbons, it looks fake to me, it is so pretty. And then there is the occasional glint of an aluminum beer can sticking out of the grass on the shoulder of the road. It’s beautiful here but there are people every where who ruin things.

The metal man took everything we could find including an old oil tank and a piece of farm equipment that looked like a sleigh but had plastic holding tanks on the top of it and jagged teeth on a rod in the back. He didn’t talk much. He said, “Lemme git dat chain on dem spreaders and I’ll pull ‘em up.” And that was about it. I wanted to ask him if he felt good, cleaning up the earth like this, but I don’t think he cared about that part of it.

The chain rattled like a charm bracelet as he scooted down the gully. He took a hook and found a pipe to attach it to. Then he climbed back up and looked around. He stretched. He moseyed over to the truck and took a sip of his beer. In his defense, it was a Sunday. I was counting my blessings that I got him over here at all, never mind on a Sunday. And then he tossed the bottle into the pile of junk below where it landed with a clink on something tangled up in a faded blue Wal-Mart bag. I made a mental note to slide down there and get it later.


Heather Froeschl said...

Where'd you find this guy!? Tell me! We've got so much metal junk in our woods - the old dump - we've not even started to make a dent. But do I have to go in there with him? I just know there's a thousand snakes in there...they don't show up anywhere else on the property and I assume if we just leave them be they'll stay happily in the junk piles. Old bikes, bedstands, metal roof sheeting, you name it!

I love the bottles! That's so cool, and such a pretty picture they make! Good image you've presented, all around.

House on the Glade Hill said...

I also, need to have a "metal man" come out to my house. My husband threw his back out on Wednesday while cleaning up the garbage behind our shed. Most of it was metal too.

Great story. Your writing has gotten a lot more focused and tighter. I enjoyed it before, but really feel there is more purpose in your stories. I always love the way you describe things. So colorful!