Where does the Lone Ranger get his compost?

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I love the dump.

I know, I know, “dump” went out with “negro” and “retarded.” It’s “transfer station,” thank you very much. But “transfer station” isn’t catching on, for obvious reasons. Only the people who work behind the scenes (we call them refuseniks) think of the dump as a place where stuff gets transferred. The rest of us think of it as a place where stuff gets … well, you know.

The dump's compost pile

The dump's compost pile

But here’s the thing – it turns out that you don’t just dump stuff at the dump. You can get stuff, too. There’s the swap shop, of course, where people bring any dumpables that somebody else might conceivably use. But there’s also the metal pile (where we got the lid for our cold frame), the construction material pile (where we found a pair of brand new French doors), and, best of all, the compost pile.

All year long, Barnstable residents bring their yard waste (leaves and grass clippings, no brush) to the dump. Horse owners enrich the mixture with stable leavings, and the refuseniks do the rest. Then, in April, a giant pile of rich, black compost shows up in the parking lot. And get this – you can take as much as you want.

Our compost pile

Our compost pile

It’s not quite like the compost you buy in bags at the garden center. It’s got some good-sized sticks in it, along with the occasional piece of rubber or plastic. (This year, we found a functioning Bic pen.) It also probably has chemicals, although I understand that the heat generated by composting breaks down almost everything. I’m sure Smith and Hawken wouldn’t touch the stuff with a six-foot hoe, but it serves our purpose admirably. We also compost at home, but it would take us about seven hundred years to generate the amount we need from onion skins and apple cores.

And so we get our compost from the dump, from the dump, from the dump dump dump.

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Comments

  1. beachnitpicker says:

    I love the “refuseniks.” Do people still remember those guys (the political dissidents, not the transfer station staff) ? How long before we forget there ever was a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?

  2. The word, “refuseniks” is a good old Lefty term; it’s still used in academic circles; so is “garbologist,” a term that is sometimes associated with Bob Dylan and, as long as we’re talking off the grid or Left of the grid, or no matter the politics of those who have left the grid, so is “W.A.S.T.E.”, an acronym for We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, an off the grid organization that uses garbage bins to deliver mail off the grid. This all reminds me of the negro garbage dump watchman named Bolingbroke in Thomas Pynchon’s short story, “Lowlands.” When the meaning of words, like “negro” or “mail”, change, a systemic or cultural change is usually just below the top soil. So the “new negro” became “Harlem Renaisance” and “negro”, while still in use in African-American speach, where it has several meanings, some pejorative and some not, became black and African-American. The systemic or grid changes and the cultural changes that have come about since the *New Negro* (Locke, 1925) was published are reflected in the langauge we prefer to use today. “Mail” is a tricky homophone, but ignoring it’s sound for the moment we can consider how the meaning of the word has also evolved. Turning back to Thurn & Taxis, when the pony express was fast, though certainly not as fast as the masked Texas Ranger on the old-time radio program whose voice moved at the speed of sound and light, we can trace the systemic or grid and cultural changes that led, well … to LED, the light emitting diode and to our calling “mail” “snail mail.” That solved our homophone problem, but all this speed has left us, be we Lefties or Not, feeling a bit like Henry Adams and Slow Learners.

    One lone survivor (Hi-yo, hi-yo) lay on the trail (Hi-yo, hi-yo); Found there by Tonto, the brave Injun Tonto, he lived to tell the tale.

    Speaking of “Injuns,” there is a wonderful chapter in Melville’s *Moby-Dick*, “Cisterns and Buckets,” where Melville drops a Gay-Head Indian into the head of a sperm whale. Melville, born in NYC, retunred to his beloved island of Manhattan after starving off the land and off his poor profits from books he couldn’t sell, famously stated that he could not live under Emerson’s rainbow, as Thoreau had at Walden. No, Melville was a Bartleby; a man who understood that the white sperm of the West was white-washing all cultural differences, systemic and off the grid, but he also knew that only in Romance can Queequeg pull Tashtego out of the sperm whale’s head.