The Unofficial Dump

by Mary Van Pelt



Not far from my home, in the vast and sandy chico brush land, was a place I called the Unofficial Dump. I think the place had been a dump since the early 1940s, used by people who could not get to or could not afford the legal landfill fee. It was a place where people traded in silence – a used television set or an easy chair in fair condition left at the dirt and gravel entrance would disappear within a day. I once found an almost new almond colored Rubbermaid dish drain rack. I always found this place fascinating, like a modern archeological dig, a statement about our throwaway society.

There was a path that wandered through an assortment of refrigerators, ovens, dryers, and washers all with rusting bullet holes; shattered porcelain toilets and rusting bedsprings. There was wire, chicken wire, barbed wire, bailing wire and wire coat hangers; vacuum cleaner parts, busted stereo systems, recliners and sofas with handfuls of cotton stuffing puffing out of the torn upholstery. A red fox lived in a den beneath a mound of dirt and tires reminding me of a colorful drawing I once saw in a child’s storybook. There were cancelled checks, rusting paint cans, clothing that didn’t sell at a yard sale, red high heel shoes, dried out tennis shoes with curled toes, and shattered windshields that sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight.


Last year progress invaded this tranquil place. Giant yellow Caterpillar tractors, graters, and blades – four of these monstrous machines moved in. They cleaned up the dump and buried the mounds of stuff I found fascinating. The fox den was demolished and red fox was made homeless. The gigantic machines compacted the land and made a wide path for a new street. The Unofficial Dump was forced underground. Like sharks in water, sticks with neon pink streamers now mark lots that will be sold for homes.

Conventional, mainstream thought would say that the dump, formerly an eye soar, has been turned into an economic opportunity with a potential for growth, a place for the construction of new homes.

But there are a few, just a few, who say that the dump, before it was moved underground was a treasure trove of opportunity, an opened market, a place of distribution and trade, items discarded and then rediscovered, like the prize found at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks.

In the name of progress, development, and growth new homes will be built. New home owners, perhaps unaware that their houses are standing upon a twentieth century archeological dig, buried treasure now frozen in time, will find new places to dump their trash.


© Copyright 2006, Mary Van Pelt.