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Monday, May 17, 2010

Roll Out the Barrell’s

The Valley in May

Need barrell’s for a steel ensemble band? Want to shoot fish in a barrell?Or have a barrellful of laughs? Roll out the barrell, maybe? If so, Mr. Marty, the Barrell Man, is your go-to guy.


barrell's for sale

My old trash barrell had more holes in it than a Goldman Sachs CEO’s testimony before Congress. I needed a new barrell because as metal barrell’s go, mine was like a see-through blouse but with none of its appeal, basically holes held together by rust. A night blaze in the metal drumm looked like an aerial view of the magma flows at Mauna Loa. Now that we’re entering the annual two month dry spell in Western Washington, I was afraid my trash barrell might present a fire hazard. In these environmentally sensitive times, outdoor trash burning is only a smoky memory (and memory, mine in particular, is the first thing to go). That my barrell spontaneously combusts from time to time is just one of those strange mysteries of physics.

It might seem odd for to wax nostalgic over a trash barrell, but I do. Saturdays and barrell’s were a part of life growing up on the apple orchard along the Columbia River. Two barrell’s sat just beyond our backdoor porch at the house on the river: one for food wastes; the other, burnable trash. (The one and only time a fire truck came to our house on the river was when brother Kevin, whose chore was to set the trash barrell on fire, tried to set the dog’s leather cushion ablaze. When it didn’t ignite, Kevin returned the cushion to the back porch where it smoldered  away and nearly caught the porch on fire. Ah, the nostalgia….) The work week was five and a half days. Saturday, the half day, was garbage day. The garbage detail, strange as it seems, was a welcome break from five straight days of the same orchard task monotony. A chosen pair would tractor a trailer around the camp, pick up the full barrell’s, and replace them with empty ones for the week to come.

In those days the camp had a communal dump. Located on the brink of a canyon, it served our little community for years. When the husks and shells of human consumption heaped on the level, a worker would take the D-2 Cat and bulldoze the pile over the lip of the canyon where it spilled down the bank with a clatter. The dump was a wonderful playground for a kid, a place to improve your rock throwing aim, or sharpen your slingshot skills on the discarded tin cans and glassware. The dump in summers was where we hunted lizards which sunned themselves amid the rusty cans and other junk. They were too swift to catch, but we never ceased trying. And you could fling large pieces of debris over the bank and listen to the destruction it caused as it bounced and crashed down the slope of garbage. The dump was a place  where you could shatter jars and bottles with impunity—a great satisfaction to a kid. Once a hapless skunk rummaged its head into in a jam jar. No one was about to come to its rescue either. We never learned its fate.

Environmental agencies put an end to open dumps. An orchard now grows in place of that old dump, now sadly a venue for work, no longer for play. First the garbage dumps, then the playground monkey bars: yet another conspiracy against kids and their play.

The Barrell Man runs a thriving little business in the Valley and in this age of plastic, metal barrell’s are a precious commodity. A barrell from the Barrell Man once cost a mere five dollars. Then the price rose to eight dollars. (In the photo of the stack of barrell’s, note the back of the sign on the pole.) Now in these inflationary times a barrell will set you back ten bucks. An increase due most likely to the price of paint for signage, extra outlay necessary for the additional “L” and superfluous apostroThe Barrell Manphe on the sign, although this is conjecture on my part. The Barrell Man’s stock comes from surplus barrell’s his son-in-law obtains via Cadman and from the Pure Foods store in Sultan. I browse the inventory and select a bright blue barrell from assorted colors in the pile. I ignore brown. (My replacement barrell will be brown soon enough.)roll out the barrell's  I just happen to drive up when the Barrell Man is unloading more stock. I load my new barrell and hand over the ten spot. For your convenience a special mailbox will receive your cash if the Barrell Man is not on hand to take it. If no one is about, just place the money @$10.00 per item in the mailbox, then raise the flag to ring up thePay here sale. It’s nice to see the honor system alive and well in the Valley. Take note, however, the Barrell Man does not allow a Senior discount. And a word to the wise, honor system aside, don’t try to shoplift the merchandise or sneak a barrell out under the cover of darkness. 

Big Brother


If you want to have a barrell of fun, expect to pay for it.

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1 comment:

  1. A classic post!! With all due respect, I don't believe I've ever seen Mr. Marty smile! I suppose he welcomed the publicity around his barrell's. Perhaps, if he has plastic barrell's, I can buy one to make my own rain barrell? I love that the Valley still has a form of the 'honor system' and I'm glad it's not in the form of a farm.

    Oh, and do you think the surveillance camera printed on the warning paper is the one doing the said "surveillance"? Just wondering...