When I was growing up, my family lived in a big old house that sat on a hillside, well back from the street. Our graveled driveway was cut into the eastern slope of our property. On one side of the narrow drive a steep bank covered with ivy and other aggressive flora rose toward the house, and on the other side the hill continued to tumble, unvexed, toward our neighbor below. It was like some preposterous mountain trail, capped by a tricky turn that led to a parking area at the kitchen door where, incidentally, the household garbage cans were kept.
There were two of them, as I recall, 55-gallon drums made of steel that my father had requisitioned from the mill where he worked. The thought of hauling them, filled with stinky refuse, to the street would have been laughable to us. Anyway, it would have been impossible. On collection days, a judicious driver would park the garbage truck at the foot of our driveway where two men would step off and ascend the grade on foot, toting a cotton basket between them. Do you know what I mean when I say “cotton basket?” It was a gigantic basket, woven by hand from indestructible strips of white oak. Seriously. If you could even find an artisan today capable of producing such a basket, it probably would cost you something in the neighborhood of $1,000. Together, they would lift our heavy garbage cans, dump the contents into their basket and trudge back down the hill where they would reverse the process, hoisting the basket and dumping our garbage into the back of their truck. That was the way it was done; those men performed a similar task at every house in town. However, I am certain our house enjoyed a singular notoriety within their fraternity.