I once used to live in Austin, City Of. Now I live in Austin, City Of, but in the part of Williamson County that sticks a little finger of tax-grab down into Austin. ( The rest of Austin is in Travis County, the way God ((and Democrats)) intended it.)
What this has to do with anything: Twice a year, usually April and October, but it rotated, Austin Solid Waste Services sent out an announcement to you U.S. Mail: the week of, say, April 13th will be Big Trash Day in your neighborhood. In other words, pretty much anything you could get to the curb, they had to take. There were rules; no broken glass, no nails in lumber, no demolition trash; don’t put anything near the mailbox or over the water meter; separate wood, metal and rubber—up to eight car tires at a time. Don’t put anything against a fence, blocking an alley, or under a low tree ( they have a flatbed truck with a big grappling device to pick stuff up on a long arm and put it in a regular garbage truck and they need, in the words of Larry Storch in The Great Race, “ some fightin’ room.” )
They also had Big Brush Day, another twice-a-year—yard waste; all the limbs that broke off during the last windstorm etc.—but that doesn’t concern us here.)
Through the years, on Big Trash Day, or the weekend leading up to when it starts on a Monday—I’d gotten several swell bookcases, stands, chairs, small tables etc. Absolutely nothing wrong with them except someone got tired of them, or they clashed with the new couch or something.
In South Austin ( and, I’m told, in Japan where they have Big Trash Day once a month, and the places are so small that if you buy anything new, you have to throw something out ) scrounging and scavenging is de rigeur. In the run-up to B.T.D., there anything swell put out at twilight is gone before dawn. Less nice but still servicable stuff may last right up until the grapple-truck turns the corner, but probably not. Every pile tends to get smaller; my guess is in S. Austin, the solid-waste people end up with about 60% of what was put out for them…
The last month I lived in South Austin, Doug Potter, who knew I was looking for a TV stand, called me—it was B.T.D. coming up in the next neighborhood and on his jog he’d seen a likely-looking pile with part of an entertainment center sticking out of the middle of it. I drove over in my ‘85 Toyota Tercel Wagon full of tools.
Well, that pile turned out to be a dud ( as many do) but the next one over was a goldmine—there was a pie-shaped formica-topped built-in corner desk that had once been part of a run of built-in cabinets. ( I may have mentioned this in reference to the tractor-desk I’d made, last time.) I could tell it had been custom-built judging from the style, in the 1950s, because the formica had been put on after the top had been nailed into the run of cabinets—over the nails.
Long story short: it didn’t work out as a desk ( balance problems after I put legs on it) but it’s now the yellow, half-moon shaped headboard of the bed in the new house, and a damned fine one, if I do say so myself.
This is high-tone suburban North Austin. Scrounging is not the Life Style. The great new is , every trash day is Big Trash Day. We’re on Round Rock ( the town that killed Sam Bass ) Refuse, and anything you get to the curb, they take. Every Thursday! Last week, at dawn, I went two blocks up the street, afoot, to see what was out. There, in three pieces, leaning up against a garbage can, was an, at least, 100 year old solid oak desk. I picked up the 3 ½’ x 5’ top (covered with hard rubber of the kind they haven’t used on desks in at least 80 years). It weighed around 150 lbs. I put it on my foot and pissanted it 2 blocks back to the house. I took the car back. The two side pedestals, filled with drawers, were too big to fit in the wagon without reconfiguring it completely, and the garbage truck was coming. So I took all seven 18” x 36” drawers, including one double-file drawer ( all solid oak) which I’m using now for files. The top and the other 6 drawers are out in the garage, awaiting my liesure attention.
Today, just before the first rain squalls from Tropical Depression Erin hit, I drove around the neighborhoods. A block down, in perfect condition, was a 40-yr–old Disney Hunny Jar Winnie-The-Pooh lamp with an illustrated E.H. Shepard shade, sitting on top of a garbage can. I brought it home, tried it out ( it needed a new $2.00 pushbutton socket, which had been replaced once already, as the socket didn’t have an Underwriter’s knot on the wiring) and found the sticker from the high-tone store it was bought at—$78.99.
I advise you all to check whether Your Town, USA has a Big Trash Day, or if it’s like Round Rock Refuse, every week.
Just because it’s out with the rest of the garbage doesn’t mean it’s trash….