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Trash, treasure or spare

The greatest development in American life during the 20th Century was the sanitary landfill -- while the garage sale came in a close second.

You might not realize it, but garbage and trash are mankind's greatest problems. Hence city dumps once caught most of our throw-aways before that duty was taken over by the sanitary landfill, which is, well, it's more sanitary.

Why, you might ask, am I bringing up the history of garbage? Simple. My family recently helped me move from a large house to an apartment. For several weeks, this serious question was asked: "Why did we save this?" Usually, there was no reasonable answer except we thought we "might need it." I and most of my family were revealed to be inveterate pack rats. We weren't satisfied until every attic, closet and garage was filled to running over.

Here's a sample of our thinking. "Why did we keep this coffee maker?" "Well, it has a perfectly good canister and we might break the new one." "How many of these do we already have?" "Well, probably two or three." Thus we stand convicted before the entire world as hopeless savers of junk.

Years ago, great-grandpa rode a saddle horse and pulled his buggy with a team of horses. It's a simple fact every place you find a horse you will find a barn ... and a pile of horse manure. Can you imagine how the old home town smelled then? It wasn't pretty, and it certainly wasn't sanitary.

In modern times, we sometimes hear barges filled with garbage have been denied the use of any municipal landfill. This quickly becomes a hot issue with everyone unwilling to use their landfill for the unwanted trash and no possibility of dumping it into the ocean.

But, like the man said when he was caught in the chicken house, "everything's gotta be somewhere."

Thus, we build city landfills to furnish homes for our garbage, and we even install waste disposals in our home's sewer system so we can grind part of our garbage and flush it onto the Mississippi Delta or even into the Atlantic Ocean.

And that brings us to garage sales and public auctions, which furnish semi-permanent homes for millions of garage sale bargains and keeps them suspended in a state of constant recycling.

Right here, we ought to breathe a thankful prayer to the millions of public sales which find homes for those items that are "too good to throw away." Every attic, garage and closet is stuffed to the gills with articles we think someone might use -- but only at a public auction will people pay good money for the privilege of hauling your trash away.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural

Osborne County and is a retired weekly

newspaper editor.