If you are a rural person who has been around long enough, you might still refer to your local recycling center/transfer station as “the dump.” If this is the case, you know that your Maine town dump has, without fanfare, taken the place of your long-gone post office, garage and village store. Your dump has morphed into a meeting place where people of all ages now gather to shop, socialize with neighbors and be updated with the local news.

You have heard me boast of our St. George dump before. Not just because it has earned plaudits on the national level for excellence in recycling, but also because I can’t think of another place in town I’d rather visit.

Because there is a rapid turnover in stock at the transfer station store, it might take several visits to furnish an entire cottage, but it has been done. Last summer, for pennies on a dollar, a visiting nephew bought pots, pans, a tent and everything else he needed to camp out in the woods with his family for two weeks.

When it comes to appreciating one of Maine’s greatest natural resources, I am obviously not alone. If you stop by a neighbor’s house on your way to the dump and offer to take something down for him, you will usually learn that he was there that morning, or was going in the afternoon. Few people would willingly give up their biweekly – or even daily – trip to the St. George dump.

Dump runs, by the way, are always planned, and your overflowing boxes of cans, paper or bottles to be recycled are usually not the primary reason for your trip. You might need a board of a certain size or a tire for your bicycle. You are pretty sure you can find a piece of angle iron that might be just the thing to repair a broken lever on your mowing machine.

During World War II, there might have been a municipal dumping ground, but I didn’t know anything about it and nobody had enough gasoline to drive to dumps then anyway. People on my end of St. George simply carried anything they didn’t want out back and threw it over the stone wall into the woods. In Port Clyde, they threw it overboard.

Seventy years ago there were dozens of pristine abandoned dumps in the woods where people had lived years before, and little boys spent many happy hours in archaeological investigation. If you’ve ever walked in the Maine woods, you know that many of those old dumps are still there, although by now they are pretty well picked over.

It might have been 50 years ago that I became aware of our town’s landfill, and only then because my father called it “the bird sanctuary.” At the time, it was providing nutrients for hundreds of seagulls, and it was a sad day for them when dirt was hauled in daily and bulldozed over the tons of rotted fish and lobster shells.

Later, when the street drains were updated in Tenants Harbor, slabs of granite perhaps 3 feet square and 4 inches thick were dumped there. That must have been a long time ago, because I was still foolish enough to risk my back by loading a few of them onto my truck by myself. They became my back steps.

One thinks of one’s friends while visiting the transfer station. I sometimes bring home a sturdy piece of steel for Wayne Hilt. One day I brought my boat-building neighbor, Jimmy Parker, a choice piece of oak. After surveying it with his professional eye, he said, “It’s a good thing the road to the dump goes two ways.”

I showed him some nice wide boards that had been thrown out when they renovated the Port Clyde General Store and said I was planning on building shelves in my tool shed. Then I’d have a place for all the clutter on the floor.

Jimmy said that was a bad idea. He very astutely pointed out that if I built shelves and removed the clutter, the clean floor would be an open invitation to drag home even more.

This is an inescapable natural law that applies to barns and garages – and, often, municipal buildings. Because nature abhors a vacuum, no matter how well you plan, it quickly fills up and you soon wish you’d built it 3 feet wider.

Again, I am proud of our dump, or whatever progressive young people want to call it, and I can’t think of another place in town where a visit gives me more pleasure.

Wilder Oakes, who was brought up on a dock in Port Clyde, might disagree. Back before our dump was the most popular shopping and social center in town – when it was no more than a pile of rubbish and rotten lobster shells – Wilder says he used to take girls up there on a first date to shoot rats.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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