Down in the dump

Spotter Tony Jaramillo, right, looks over the trash being unloaded by Juan Gonzales at the Bena Landfill in this 2003 file photo. A trip to the dump can be an adventure for friends or for a grandfather and grandchild, writes columnist Herb Benham.

Suddenly, everybody is going to the dump. It’s in the air, water and trucks, which are starting up themselves and honking their horns for their owners to get in.

“What are you going to do with your grandson today?” I asked a friend, who had him for three hours on Saturday.

“We’re going to the dump,” he said.

Perfect. The boy was 2. Time for a boy to go to the dump, and what could be better for a 2-year-old boy than the dump?

Two-year-old boy? Two-year-old anybody. A dump is a combination of amusement park, fort and home for dump monsters, should a small child imagine it to be so.

Our new neighbor dump-shamed me. She didn’t say a word because she didn’t have to. All she did was buy the house, gut the house, paint the house and repair the leaky windows outside of the house. She did everything but put a helipad on top of the house.

Her slovenly neighbor stores his old bricks, stepping stones, pavers, metal and wooden stakes and large decorative rocks, which decorate no more, on the north side that fronts her property. He also has a mound of dirt 20-feet long and two feet high that is festive with weeds.

Time to get busy. I moved the rocks, bricks and pavers to the curb, tore off the top of a wine box on which I wrote “Free, and I mean free” with a massive Sharpie. Then I tucked one edge of the cardboard under the stack of pavers.

I hosed off the rocks, bricks and pavers so they might be eye-poppingly attractive from the curb. I didn’t think they’d last until morning. Free bricks and pavers — no one turns that down.

No one, just everyone. No one was interested. No one went for the eye-poppingly-attractive-from-the curb trick.

After a week, I backed up the truck and started tossing the curb treasures into the back thinking somebody might pull over, stop me and say, “I’ll take them all,” but they didn’t.

It was time to go to the dump, which is what I had wanted to do anyway. It had been too long. I was due for the spiritual refreshment that only the dump can offer.


There is a dump underground and when friends hear you’re going, they want a piece of you, specifically an unfilled corner of your truck.

“I’ve got a couple of dressers,” a friend said. “Do you think you have room? I’ll go with you too.”

“Go with you too”? That cinched it. If I didn’t have room, I’d make room.

I asked him if he owned any dump clothes. He said he did. When I showed up at his house, he was wearing shorts. Shorts? We’re not teeing off or going to the church picnic.

His dressers were made of light pine. They were nice. I was tempted but that’s a rookie mistake. Don’t come back with anything in the truck, even pine dressers.

“You know I’ve never been to this dump,” he said as we headed east on Panorama to Fairfax, then to 178, Comanche, Bena Road and then the dump.

“You’ve never been? You are in for a treat.”

A cool, beautiful spring day. The dump is set like a jewel in the foothills above Caliente with a straight-on view of Bear Mountain, the Tehachapis and the San Emigdios. You could even see some snow on the top of the mountains above the Grapevine.

The man at the gate directed us to the metal, wood and stone piles. He was friendly. Everybody is friendly at the dump.

We went to the wood pile first. At first, you’re trying to be respectful and leave an organized stack but by the time we parked at the rock pile, we were heaving bricks, pavers and decorative rocks-no-more with joyous abandon.

I looked over at my shorts-wearing friend. He was smiling and as happy as I’d seen him in awhile. That made two of us.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.