The South Shore Train shooshes past our lovely villagette with a bit of a click and a clack that settles our biorhythms. Like the Angeles Bells of the Middle Ages or the Call to Prayer in Muslim countries, the sound distracts us from the day-to-day and nudges us to consider far-away places with strange sounding names. In those particular cases, really far away places.
It's pretty quiet out here. Occasionally a hobby plane swoops close to the tickle the Lake, or a helicopter thwaps by. A souped-up daddy's convertible sometimes lunges through these serpentine dunes as if chased by demons. But there aren't many of them. You hear the frogs, the locusts, the birds, a dog, children laughing, an occasional wild turkey gobble-gobble. Like that.
Then there's the really bad noise that regularly, clumsily, lumbers through our narrow winding streets. It sounds like Indiana State prisoners are all being released in Humvees. Or we're being invaded by True Believer Survivalists, whose revered Book of Concatenations compels them to disturb every quiet creature within 30 miles. They are—cue "Flight of the Valkyries" music—The Garbage Collectors.
They make us set out huge bright plastic bins that ruin the rustic nature of the country roads. Their automatic lifting devices need these bins so they can be mechanically picked up and emptied into huge garbage tucks. They squeak and groan and growl.
I said it before and I'm saying it again: Our little town should hire horse-drawn carts to pick up our garbage. Maybe your town should, too. We're paying good money for garbage removal anyway, and the costs are going up. Clip-Clop. Clip-Clop.
It could be like this: A pair of dapple gray Percheron draft horses wind their way through the Indiana dunes, pulling a wagon that looks like a sleigh. A visitor snaps photos. A father and daughter wait patiently by their bags of trash with a bribe. Would a plate of cookies be enough to allow them to jump on board for a little ride along the trash route? Sure enough. A couple of teenagers join in after school, picking up trash, whispering to the horses.
In Bristol, Vermont, garbage collection is something you go outside to see, not something you hide from.
Most of the draft horses around here are used for sleigh rides or hay rides or other nostalgia-type experiences (except for the Amish who use them for farm work). But garbage collection seems. . .very interesting. . .to many people who own draft horses.
"I think it's a great idea," said Pam Worthington, of Springfield Township, current treasurer of the LaPorte County Draft Horse Association. Her family has several draft horses. "It's quiet, it's green, it's fuel efficient. Plus those 'Gentle Giants'—that's what we call them—are gorgeous and lovable. A lot calmer than other horses."
The people in Bristol, Vermont, are proving her righter-than-right.
According to Jim Johnson in Waste and Recycling News, the rhythmic Clip-Clop of the horses' hooves is the sound track for more than 10 years in Bristol, a quiet town of 3,750 people.
"A lot of people just want to ride for the fun of it. A lot of townspeople do it," Patrick Palmer, Garbage Collector, said. "It's fresh air. I think it's very calming. The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person, and that's not an original quote."
All along the route, people come out to greet the collection crew. It's a pay-as-you-throw system. Residents purchase $5 stickers and place them on each bag of trash. Recyclables are collected at no charge. According to Johnson, some folks without stickers meet the wagon at the road with either a check or cash to pay for their weekly removal.
One of the customers said she thinks the service is wonderful. "Just to have a service that's fairly green," she said. "It's not burning fossil fuel to pick up our trash. It's very quaint. "Palmer offers both trash and recyclable collection along the route. Recyclables, in clear bags, go in front of the wagon; trash goes in back; cardboard gets wedged in baskets along the side.
Bruce Gathier, owner of Gathier's Trucking Co., could be in competition with the Bristol horses, but he's not. Gathier and his employees meet Palmer's trailer twice each Friday to unload the hand-collected trash bags into the back of one of his company's garbage trucks. He also handles the recyclables so Palmer doesn't have to worry about finding an outlet for those materials.
Gathier charges Palmer half of what it would cost per bag if Palmer had to take the bags to the nearby landfill. "Having me do this for him is holding his price down so he can stay in business," Gathier said.
But, wait there's more. Next week: the French do it (wouldn't you know?).