Tony Vagneur: Who needs to make a run to the landfill? I’m in |

Tony Vagneur: Who needs to make a run to the landfill? I’m in

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

It’s not the kind of thing you forget, a trip to the dump. And believe me, I’ve been to the dump more times than I can remember, or even count. Don’t forget, I was in the solid waste business for 25 years.

Yeah, right, I always called it the garbage business when someone asked, and it drove a lady friend of mine crazy. “You don’t have to say it that way, you can say you’re a rancher, or at the least, in the solid waste business.” Yeah, you’re right, I could, but I don’t.

The first thing to greet you at the dump, excuse me, solid waste center, or more colloquially, the landfill, is the smell. Garbage has smelled the same for eons, and will undoubtedly continue to smell the same for millennia more. It may be unpleasant to some, but to a garbage man, it smells like money.

So my partner Margaret says to me, “It’s time for a landfill run. Is your dump trailer around?” Oh boy, that sounds like the spring cleanup, only by now it’s the end of July, but it’s a weird summer, or has been, as autumn usually begins to show its colors around the second week of August so we really missed spring, or so it seems.

Now, the household trash man, Isabel, comes Wednesday, which is a blessing, but to load up the stuff Margaret was talking about took one large John Deere tractor with a front loader, including grappling hooks, a large chain, a socket set and a cordless drill. Whew! It also took Eric who, climbing like a monkey, positioned the chain where needed. Eric, Margaret and I (with the help of the tractor) got the torn down shed nicely nestled in the dump trailer. Don’t forget the quarter-mile (it seemed) of one-inch plastic irrigation pipe, no longer usable, and various odds and ends, including a leaky water trough, stored neatly under the granary balcony, waiting for liberation day. Cover it with a tarp and away we went.

He was big, very big, and brown (no, not cinnamon), a dark sorrel, if you insist, a bear clambering around the side of the landfill. We didn’t mean much to him, as he sees people all day, and Margaret’s camera was out trying to get a decent shot. Something scared him, and there’s a lot of noise at the landfill, so the ever-agile creature took flight, lumbering up through the jack-oaks, undoubtedly stretching out in the shade somewhere, taking a snooze and planning a return attack after closing.

A summer trip to the landfill belies the pure hell such a trip can be in the winter. Most people don’t go around there except when it’s nice out, and for good reason. Think of a garbage truck, tandem-axle, slipping and sliding up that steep hill on icy roads and then slipping and grinding through the mud going to the landfill face to empty the truck.

In the old days, it got a little western from time to time. Being the only company in town, we were given a key to the closed gate for weekend or after-hours use. Weekends in the winter are the busiest times for commercial trash removal in a ski town and come Saturday or Sunday, be damned, we made multiple trips to the landfill. Since we were the only game in town, it was obvious how many loads we had dumped over the weekend and it didn’t frustrate anyone’s billing system to figure it out.

It wasn’t unusual to get stuck in the muck and mire, sometimes with a loaded truck, which would cripple our ability to clean up Aspen’s alleys. Frank Bishop was the dump tender in those days and he left the keys to his D9 Cat right where needed. A truck weighing 45,000 pounds or more, buried up to the axles in mud, took a lot to get unstuck.

Someone would have to climb under the truck to get a chain hooked up to the frame, and then tromp around in the same mud, getting the Cat positioned and hooked up. By then, there was clay mud clinging to your feet, making it seem like frisbees were glued to your boots, greasy muck stuck to your clothes, and your gloves would be mud-covered and soaked. It all went with the job. Alcohol soothed the pain when we finally finished a brutal winter day.

It can still be rugged like that some days, only they don’t give out keys to the dump anymore, and they sure as hell won’t let you drive their equipment. It’s so civilized, it seems.

My dump trailer worked fine last week; our trash was left neatly and effortlessly at the face, and we returned home for an excellent lunch, prepared by Margaret. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at