OLD TIMER’S GARBAGE DAY!
By Norris Chambers
Country folks in the old days didn’t have a very serious garbage disposal problem. The kitchen held two very important items – the slop bucket and the water bucket. Of course most homes had no running water and there were no garbage disposal units mounted under the sink.
All edible garbage went into the slop bucket along with the dishwater and was carried to the long trough in the hog pen. There the hungry hogs made quick work of its disposal.
The water bucket was usually a two-gallon zinc covered container with a dipper hanging over the rim or suspended by a nail on the nearby wall. In some homes a tin cup was used for drinking instead of a dipper. Water for cooking was poured or dipped from the bucket into the proper receptacle. It seemed that the bucket was almost always dry and it was a kid’s job to refill it from the cistern, well or water barrel.
The kitchen garbage was not the only waste to be disposed of. A burn-barrel or pit was available nearby for disposing of all garbage that would burn. The burn-barrel was a 55 gallon steel barrel with a removable cover made of net wire. The wire top kept flaming pieces of paper from soaring into the air and starting an unwanted fire. The trash disposed of in the barrel was primarily newspapers and cardboard boxes.
Solid garbage, empty cans and other unwanted items that would not burn, required different treatment and different people used different disposal methods. Most farm folks piled the stuff in an inconspicuous area and when the pile became too large it was hauled to a remote part of the pasture and dumped. A few families preferred to drive a few miles down a country road and unload the trash by the side of the road. This wasn’t a nice thing to do, but a few people did some things that were not nice. Some of today’s residents occasionally throw trash by the side of the road.
Old Uncle Dave was a very neat garbage handler. On the west side of his north-forty field he dug a pit about fifty feet long and three scrapers wide. A scraper is about three feet, so that made the trench about ten feet wide. It was also deep – about four or five feet. He said that the garbage could be dumped to a depth of about two feet and then when he covered and smoothed the area it could be plowed without disturbing the discarded treasures. A pit like this wasn’t ready to cover for several years so the contents were well weather-worn when the pit was eventually closed.
Uncle Dave was a widower and lived alone. He was a very orderly person. He even had a nice concrete pad where he kept his kerosene barrel. Each of his horses had its own harness rack and knew exactly where to go when it was harnessing time! It was said that his two milk cows had their separate breakfast and supper menus for the daily milking session. I always doubted if this were true. He loved all animals and kept food available for ‘possums, skunks and stray cats. He didn’t kill snakes; he just stayed out of their way!
Telling about the kitchen slop bucket reminds me of an April First trick Clifton and I engineered for his mother, Madie Bell. She used an old two gallon galvanized bucket for kitchen waste and had either Clifton or a younger brother take it to the hog pen when it was about full. We scoured the trash piles and junk yards until we found an old bucket very similar to hers. We then took it to the blacksmith shop and carefully removed the bottom.
On the eve before trick day we substituted the bottomless bucket for the real one and waited for the fun to begin on the following morning.
The big fun started when the breakfast residue began to stack up in the bucket. The half glasses and cups of milk, coffee and water filtered through the eggs, biscuits and other waste and began running across the clean kitchen floor. Madie Bell exclaimed, “There’s a leak in the slop bucket!” She grabbed the bucket and headed for the outside door. Of course the messy contents were left on the floor, leaving quite a mess. Clifton and I and some of the older brothers laughed hardily and yelled, “April Fool!”
But she had the last laugh. She ordered Clifton and me to clean up the mess and sweep and mop the kitchen and return her slop bucket. When that job was finished we had to build a fire around the wash pot and boil some oats for the pigs because we had robbed them of their morning goodies!
I think she told every person in the community about our failed trick. That part of the fun wasn’t that funny!