Garret Mathews / General Interest

Garbage – Literally Speaking!

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Garret Mathews

Garret Mathews

As a former summer replacement garbageman who once worked four consecutive days without throwing up, I must protest the automatic thingie used these days to hoist rubbish containers.

If a modern-day garbage process-server comes across a receptacle that is too heavy, or too smelly, or too laden with dead rodents, he can affix it to a device on the back of the truck that catapults the stuff into the hopper.

He doesn’t touch the can.

He doesn’t have a personal relationship with the slop inside the can.

He simply activates the automatic thingie and hydraulics takes care of the rest.

No muss, no fuss, no peristalsis.

The guy doesn’t even wear gloves.

This does a tremendous disservice to those of us who came this way before.

Those of us who not only wore gloves, but scrubbed our hands in 20 Mule Team Borax so our fingers wouldn’t rot off.

I only hope the folks who handle rotted foodstuffs on today’s trash trucks have the good grace not to call themselves “garbagemen.”

That’s our word.

They are “automatic thingiemen.”

Big difference.

To be a garbageman is to lift.

Doesn’t matter if the can contains 99 percent cinderblocks with only a dollop of trash on top to satisfy the legal requirement.

You lift.

Doesn’t matter if the can is filled with homemade pickles so foul that maggots took one taste and staged an emergency evacuation.

You lift.

To be a garbageman is to learn to stand downwind.

Proper – and even improper society – does not want to mingle with persons who see the basic food groups at their absolute worst.

Automatic thingiemen can eat with the queen.

We dined around the grease rack.

To be a garbageman is to never – and I mean never – return the lid of a trash can to its rightful place.

That would violate the only rule of the job: Do not touch something nasty more than once.

The way we flung the tops, I wouldn’t be surprised if some ended up in outer space.

Orbiting trash can covers.

Courtesy of your handy-dandy garbagemen.

It is the proudest of legacies.
Editor’s Notes:  Garret Mathews tells us:   I’m retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. In a 39-year career, I penned more than 6,500 pieces on every subject from moonshiners to murderers. You can read some of my work by going to and clicking on the Favorites icon.  For information on other projects, click on Coming Together and FolksAreTalking on the Plugger site.” Also, go to, and, for even MORE great articles from Garret, click here!  Email Garret at He’d love to hear from you!

Garret Mathews is retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. He penned more than 6,500 pieces on every subject from moonshiners to murderers and Appalachian snake handlers to mail-order brides. His legacy website ( contains links to columns – his (“Favorites”) and those mostly written by others (“Columnists: While We’re Still Around”). At “Coming Together,” you can access interviews Mathews conducted with civil rights volunteers who went South in the ‘60s to register voters and desegregate schools and businesses. At “Folks Are Talking,” you can read several dozen feature stories and columns (early United Mine Workers organizers, early coal hand loaders and a female furrier who dissected muskrats while eating peanut butter sandwiches) that Mathews wrote during the ‘70s when he worked in Southern West Virginia. He and his wife MaryAnne moved to Carmel in 2013 to dote on their grandchildren, Gavin and Ben.

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