It doesn’t take much for an imaginative 10 year old to find adventure. One summer I found adventure on a garbage truck.
My father worked in a chemical factory not far from the Mississippi River. It was a tough, dirty, tiring, and demanding job, but it helped to put hot dogs and buns on the table. Four kids aged 10 and under had no trouble with appetites.
That summer the workers at the chemical plant went on a strike which lasted a few months. My father found odd jobs around town to keep the bills paid. One job was driving a garbage truck. I had the privilege of riding along his route through town.
Garbage trucks then are not garbage trucks today. Back then, a garbage truck was not much more than a large flatbed truck with wooden slat sides.
Forget about garbage sorted by plastic, bottles, cans and recycled material. There were no plastic bags in those days. People dumped garbage into aluminum garbage cans which the ‘refuse handlers,’ a term totally foreign to garbage workers back then, would pick up and toss into the truck bed.
It didn’t take long for the back end of a truck to fill up with junk of all kinds– filthy, dirty, stinky junk. Junk that was perfect to excite the adventurous spirit of a 10 year old small town boy with not much else going on in the summer but baseball practice.
Dad let me ride around with him on the garbage truck. Once the junk had reached a certain height in the truck bed, sometimes he’d let me ride in the back. With the junk. It was so dirty and stinky that both of us needed two baths when the day ended.
My first bicycle came from leftover bike parts that my father found on his garbage truck route. At the end of a day we would take the truck to a place a few miles outside of town and dump the garbage into a big landfill. Except it wasn’t really a landfill. It was a garbage dump. A real garbage dump with real garbage and not one EPA official within a thousand miles.
The garbage truck my dad used was not a dump truck, so it didn’t dump the garbage. It was a manual process to get the garbage in, and just as manual to get it out again.
That was the summer I learned to find an adventure in anything, and a great test to learn how to make the best of a tough situation. Riding around in the cab of that truck with my dad was an adventure not forgotten.