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When I was a Kid we didn’t have video games but we didn’t feel deprived. That’s because when we wanted to do something exciting my brother and I would go up to the town dump and shoot rats. We couldn’t do it if there was anyone around. Lucky for us there was seldom anyone around, not even Alva Harris, the dump tender, who was supposed to be there.
While dispatching rats, my brother and I would look around for useful items that had been slightly used and only needed a little tinkering.
I was thinking of my early dump-days recently when I read in the local paper that our selectmen had voted to close down the dump. Along with a gaggle of surrounding towns, my toen was going to help bankroll a “regional waste-materials transfer facility.”
My first thought was: What kind of people think up names like “regional waste-materials transfer facility.”
I then wondered why anyone who would want to replace the easy to remember phrase “town dump” with “regional waste-materials transfer facility.” Did they really expect people to use the monstrosity in polite conversation? They’re probably not the kind of person you'd want exercising authority over the kinds of sometimes toxic materials associated with dumps.
Whenever I think of town dumps that are truly sensitive of the environment, I often think of my friend Woody Getchell from way Down East. Every week like clockwork Woody would load up his pickup truck with a week’s worth of trash – or “waste-materials” as some would have us call it – and he'd haul it all to the dump. Once there he would throw all his trash over the bank, and after his truck was empty, Woody would jump down off the truck and begin the most important part of his weekly trip, which was, of course, surveying the dump's unique and ever-changing horizon for treasures.
On a good day Woody would see something like an old washing machine that might have needed a few wires or belts or hoses changed but was carelessly thrown away instead. Next, he might see an outboard motor that, for want of a spark plug or drive shaft, was thrown on the trash heap. Woody figured that all these machines needed was a little tinkering to be good as new again and so he'd load them into his pickup.
Before long he might see an old wooden door that would be perfect for the hunting camp he and and his brother Tink planned to build once they straightened out the tricky lease arrangement with the paper company and then got the camp framed out the way they wanted.
Woody would go on like that for most of the morning collecting one essential item after another until he'd have a lot more balanced on that pickup of his than he hauled to the dump in the first place. Once his truck was filled he'd “transfer” or “dump” all that stuff onto his back porch or dooryard until he needed it, which, there was no doubt, he eventually would.
Dumps used to be revered in Maine, and it’s sad that they’re disappearing. The Kennebunkport Dump Association even used to celebrate its dump heritage each year with a parade and the crowning of Miss Dumpy. The parade was started 50 years ago in 1965 by the association, a 40-member group with one president and 39 vice presidents. President and artist Ed Mayo was the power behind the dump, and at its peak the parade was featured in National Geographic and the Today Show. The object of the Miss Dumpy contest is to construct a costume from items that did or could come from the dump. Miss Dumpy was picked on the basis of her costume. She didn’t need to be talented or congenial.
Let me know if you ever hear about a “Miss Regional Waste-Materials Transfer Facility.” I suspect I’ll be waiting a while.

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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