Bear Hunting at the Dump

Image_copyWhen I was growing up one of my favorite activities was going to the dump to see bear. We filled the station wagon with excited children and parked at a landfill in the middle of the woods off Forest Road, where people dumped trash, old appliances, box springs, furniture, and just about everything.

Like witnessing meteor showers, sunsets or loon dances, bear watching was part of the entertainment Up North. We parked at the dump at dusk and waited with eager eyes for a glimpse of a bear lumbering in from the woods to gnaw at watermelon rinds and table scraps.

Long gone are the old dump days. Now garbage must be sorted into paper, plastics, and glass and hauled to dumpsters that are compressed and carted away by truck.

Garbage is no laughing matter in Europe either.

Switzerland, an ultra clean country, slaps on steep fines for littering. Even garbage disposals are verboten deemed a hazard to the environment.

The Swiss take tidiness to the extreme. Since January 2013, in addition to a local recycling tax, we pay for each sack of garbage. And only in Switzerland would civil servants actually be paid to go through “illegal” garbage bags to locate owners to be fined.

The Swiss are not big on second hand goods either. In fact, garage sales are illegal. Instead communities organize fall and spring event called “troc du village” where you can resell top-notch goods. During the rigorous triage, only the best quality hand me downs make the cut. Twenty percent of your profit from sales goes back to the city. Boy, those Swiss sure know how to make money.

Switzerland is also the only country where you will never see a dumpy car tooling down the road. Dented, rusted-out, old beaters are not allowed on the highway. After new cars are 5 years old, vehicles must past a stringent inspection by the “service des automobiles” every two years, before being allowed back on the motorway.

As unhygienic and pollutant as they were, I miss the dumps of yesteryear when Grandpa would load the kids in the back of the old truck with tin cans and bump along the beat up old back roads of Wisconsin.IMG_3772_copy

Though recycling was not vogue in the 60s and 70s, we learned as children to never waste resources and respect nature. We grew up learning to pick up cans and debris carelessly discarded along Wisconsin’s back-roads.

At the lake now, my dad rounds up the carefully sorted garbage making the dump runs religiously on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday during the hours that the recycle spot on highway 45 is open for business.

“Any takers for a ride to the dump?” he’ll ask.

With little hope of seeing a bear at the modern day recycling center, no one jumps at the opportunity. Good natured, Grandpa goes anyway, stopping along the way to reminisce with the gas station attendant, postal worker and maintenance man about the good ol’ days when a trip to the dump provided good, wholesome entertainment for the whole town.

Posted in education, family, humor, social view, travel.

35 Comments

  1. Pat, this is very interesting to hear about the culture of cleanliness in Switzerland. It explains why all the photos I see of the country convey such breathtaking beauty and pristine-ness (is that a word?) And your bear story made me chuckle. It’s amazing how creative our parents were in making special family memories without breaking the bank! The simple pleasures are the best. 🙂

    • Pristine is a great way to describe Switzerland. Our parents helped us make those priceless, non bank breaking, childhood memories that help sustain us during difficult times into adulthood.

  2. Hi Pat, I don’t know about those long ago BEAR sightings nowadays. A man was recently in the news for feeding a stray bear that attacked a woman. Of course the fellow denied doing such a thing but surveillance cameras don’t lie. Those are strict dumpster rules in Switzerland. I don’t think Goodwill industries would fare so well 🙂 Thanks for this educational post- well done as always!

    Blessings,

    Clara.

    • Clara, Goodwill does not exist in Switzerland, but we do have the Red Cross headquarters. Thought as a nurse you would like to know that. Can you send me the link to your Authentic Woman site so I can re-link to mine?

  3. Hi Pat, I don’t know about those long ago BEAR sightings nowadays. A man was recently in the news for feeding a stray bear that attacked a woman. Of course the fellow denied doing such a thing but surveillance cameras don’t lie. Those are strict dumpster rules in Switzerland. I don’t think Goodwill industries would fare so well 🙂 Thanks for this educational post- well done as always!

    Blessings,

    Clara.

  4. I seem to remember a movie with John Candy in it where they bear watched at the dump for fun. I was just in the Netherlands – and they have similar restrictions on second hand goods. If you buy a bike there, it’s expected to last a life time, not just for a couple of years. We’re an all to disposable society here. Great post!

    • Yes, and the Dutch actually use their bicycles. They even ride them to work. I have learned a lot from my European friends and family on how to be less wasteful of resources.

  5. I seem to remember a movie with John Candy in it where they bear watched at the dump for fun. I was just in the Netherlands – and they have similar restrictions on second hand goods. If you buy a bike there, it’s expected to last a life time, not just for a couple of years. We’re an all to disposable society here. Great post!

  6. In Maine, bears weren’t the only one’s foraging through the dump. In my youth, we had dump pickers who would take a trip to the dump to see if there was anything worth salvaging. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” they would say. Now, the green movement calls it re-purposing, like it’s a new idea. 😉

    • Re-purposing…never heard that term before. I cringe to think how wasteful I have been in the past and now I try to be more careful of our limited resources.

    • Long gone are the days when the bears rarely roamed out of the wilds. It seems like there are more bear sightings in cities than ever before.

  7. When I was a kid, we actually had an incinerator in our back yard in southern California (in the 1950s). I never saw my Dad burn anything in it, but every house in our tract came with one. Amazing to think of that now! Although Switzerland sounds somewhat constipated, I am proud to say my husband and I routinely fill our recycle bin far more than our trash can. But they’d have to pry my garbage disposal from my cold, dead hands 😉

    • Oh yes, Lynne, a garbage disposal is one of things I miss most about America. It rates right up there just behind family and friends. ha ha No, seriously.

  8. When I was a kid, we actually had an incinerator in our back yard in southern California (in the 1950s). I never saw my Dad burn anything in it, but every house in our tract came with one. Amazing to think of that now! Although Switzerland sounds somewhat constipated, I am proud to say my husband and I routinely fill our recycle bin far more than our trash can. But they’d have to pry my garbage disposal from my cold, dead hands 😉

  9. Well. I certainly learned a lot about the Swiss in this. If I lived there I might be fined a lot. Though I am a religious recycler. Unlike most of my family. I’m constantly picking plastic bottles out of the trash.

    • Good for you, Jamie. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to recycling. I know a lot of my neighbors have compost piles in their backyard for waste, but I am hyper sensitive to molds, so that is NOT an option for me.

  10. I love what I learned about the Swiss and recycling. I think it’s an incredible way of life, and I only wish the U.S. would follow their lead.

    BTW, we have bear in our woods! Many. It’s why we put our garbage out in the AM, otherwise it would be all over the street. Recently, I took photos of them on our back deck, two cubs “dancing.” Paid particular attention to stay out of their way – especially cause mama is somewhere keeping a close eye!

  11. The late summer of 1977–I spent 6 glorious weeks visiting friends in Geneva. Loved every minute of it–we’d go to the French Alps on weekends for picnics. Loved the long languid lunches during the week and sweets bar/restaurants at night. Met one Swiss person the entire time and still not sure when work was done though I know they worked hard
    But I will never forget the train ride to Italy. As soon as the train turned through the tunnel-I knew we were in Italy from the laundry hung almost haphazardly. I could breath again. Imperfection ruled!

  12. The late summer of 1977–I spent 6 glorious weeks visiting friends in Geneva. Loved every minute of it–we’d go to the French Alps on weekends for picnics. Loved the long languid lunches during the week and sweets bar/restaurants at night. Met one Swiss person the entire time and still not sure when work was done though I know they worked hard
    But I will never forget the train ride to Italy. As soon as the train turned through the tunnel-I knew we were in Italy from the laundry hung almost haphazardly. I could breath again. Imperfection ruled!

    • Pia, thanks for sharing wonderful memories of your trip over here. Perfection in pristine Switzerland, indeed. All the homes in our neighborhood have carports, so I can see what people keep in their garage space. Nothing! Even those areas are ultra tidy. I wonder where the Swiss store, well, junk. Even the wood piles here are uniformly stacked and each logs is lined up straight.

  13. Such a coincidence I’m reading this now. For some reason I was thinking today about the way people littered before littering was outlawed. I remember seeing people literally throw trash out the car window and the streets were full of debris. I remember when the first anti1littwri g campaign was launched — “Don’t be a litterbug.”

  14. Such a coincidence I’m reading this now. For some reason I was thinking today about the way people littered before littering was outlawed. I remember seeing people literally throw trash out the car window and the streets were full of debris. I remember when the first anti1littwri g campaign was launched — “Don’t be a litterbug.”

  15. I’ve never seen a real, live bear, Pat, but this post takes me back. Garage sales are kind of a Big Deal in Central Illinois. I think folks tend to believe they’re adhering to the adage, Waste not Want not, by recycling their “gently used” clothing, tools, toys, whatever. Actually, I think many of them spend a lot of time going from sale to sale, picking up stuff on the cheap, then selling it themselves later, ha!! Switzerland seems like such a beautiful country — no wonder they don’t want folks littering or tooling around in beat-up cars!

    • Funny I do miss the old garage sales. When my sister was five, she bought a kitten for 5 cents at one of them. I don’t know how anyone could make a profit on reselling rummage sale goods. I guess beat up cars would ruin the picture perfect, postcard image of Switzerland.

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