Romancing the Dump
There was a knock on my door. I had been back in Harlem only a few weeks. It had been a long day, opening boxes, finding places for tools, putting supplies away. I was tired and dusty and not expecting company.
I opened the door and the man standing on the other side asked, “Want to go to the dump?”
“Is this a date?”
“I noticed your driveway is full of boxes and bags. I thought you might want to haul them to the dump,” he explained. “And I brought along a couple beers.”
“Umm, yes on hauling stuff away and no on the beer. Just let me change my shirt.”
The man is an old acquaintance from my high school days, one of few who have remained. Most of my classmates have moved on to greener pastures, so to speak, to other towns or out of state for better jobs. Tonight, surprisingly, he is all dressed up, combed and polished and ironed. I have seen him several times around town since I came home, wearing dingy jeans, mud boots, ripped jacket, and the ubiquitous stained farm-equipment or insurance-company cap. He used to dress pretty spiffy in high school. I remember that you could have sliced cheese with the crease in his jeans.
We never dated back then. He was a few classes ahead of me in school and I knew my Dad would never have approved. Besides, I was such a priss he never noticed me. What I remember most was his reputation. Partying and fighting, fast cars, ducktail hair cut, white tee shirt with pack of Camels rolled in the sleeve. He still has that hair cut.
We loaded up my trash. And off we roared, out of town, up the hill to the dump, left front fender flapping. We heaved the stuff into the transfer trailers, got back into the pick-up. He must have figured I was a modern woman so he let me open my own door. He eased over to the fence.
We sat there overlooking the vista, the Milk River Valley and the town beyond. It was a clear night and the lights of town melded into the lights of Fort Belknap across the river and the stars above dipped down a bit just to be part of the picture. It truly was beautiful.
We sat quietly for a while. Then talking about the old days came easy. We remembered the town when it bustled with commerce on Saturday afternoons, when we students crowded into the matinee at the Grand, then afterwards had cheeseburgers and milk shakes at the Confectionary. We talked about friends long gone and loves long past. Then he drove me home.
Since then the Harlem dump has become an integral part of my over-all tour package when I have visitors from out of state and want to show them a good time. The view from the dump is beautiful in all seasons and all times of the day. The scene is beautiful with snow covering each dip and fold of ground and the mountains beyond. It is beautiful with emerging greens of spring, or when clothed in the golden hues of autumn. My favorite time is when the 4:00 freight rolls through from the east with the grasses of summer providing the backdrop, both ranges of mountains purple in the distance, and a few cumulus clouds plumped in the sky.
And I love the priceless look on my friends’ faces when I ask, “Want to go to the dump?”