Crvnetters may be interested in the following article, forwarded to
me by a friend, which appeared in the 4/17/98 issue of the _Miami
------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Published Friday, April 17, 1998, in the Miami Herald
In Vermont hamlet, trash pickup's done with horse, buggy
By LOIS R. SHEA
The Boston Globe
BRISTOL, Vt.-- Patrick Palmer's day begins at 4:30 a.m., under a
crescent moon, his breath billowing before him as he goes about his
The horses, Luke and Zack, are fed and watered, harnessed, and decked
out with sleigh bells. Palmer, lunch packed, leads the animals into a
trailer and heads straight for the landfill, where his wagon is
Patrick Palmer is the local garbage man.
With an 18-foot horse-drawn wagon, he will collect the detritus and
debris of this small sawmill village, his pair of Percheron work
horses clomping merrily before him, bells jingling. Onto his trailer
will go egg cartons, beer bottles, a busted electric griddle, a dozen
boxes of musty books. At 4:30 p.m., after two trips back to the
landfill, his day will be done.
Since last May, Palmer has been handling this most distasteful of
chores in the most picturesque manner. This could only be Vermont.
``It just adds such a nice touch to a nice community,'' says town
administrator Bob Hall.
Palmer is a real estate agent the other four days of the week, but
Tuesday is trash day. Palmer's face is ruddy, and he wears a frayed
oxford shirt. On the side of the wagon is a picture of Palmer in a
Century 21 ad, sporting a suit and tie. In Carhartt vest and dirty
blue jeans, he looks like his own twin brother.
By 11:30 a.m., the horses have worked themselves into a respectable
lather. Steam rises from their backs as a spring snow drifts through
town. Cathy Palmer, his wife, is at the reins, suited up in a sweater,
blue watch cap, mirrored sunglasses, and black rubber boots.
Horses delight kids
The Palmers wind along their route. With a ``gee'' and a ``haw,''
Patrick can turn this team on a dime. The horse-drawn garbage buggy
creates a ripple of excitement as it passes a day-care center and tots
tumble onto the porch to wave. Throughout the village, people leave
carrots and apples out for Luke and Zack.
Bristol is a town of nearly 4,000 people that overlooks the New Haven
River. The village proper, where trash is collected, is home to about
1,700. A pair of sawmills employ many here; downtown boasts the
Moovies, etc. video store and the Sip-n-Suds coffee shop and coin
laundry. This is not a tourist mecca.
But in some small measure, the trash man has put Bristol on the map.
``The publicity we've gotten out of it has been worth the $600,''
says Hall of the money the town agreed to pay Palmer to haul its
trash. Palmer's picture has gone out on news wires nationwide; the
British Broadcasting Corp. even called. Along the route, an onlooker
snaps the lithe 51-year-old's picture.
The route is just eight miles long, but with the doubling-back, the
wagon covers at least 14. It costs money to have your garbage
collected here -- $2.50 a bag -- and a third of the houses have
stacked flotsam on their front lawns.
The demographics of a small Vermont town are laid bare in its trash.
In front of a weather-worn trailer are empty marshmallow Fluff
containers and crushed generic cola bottles. Before a tonily restored
Colonial is an empty case box of microbrewed beer -- filled with
recyclable mail-order catalogs.
``We know a lot of people by their trash,'' Patrick Palmer says,
You can tell things about folks by what they throw out -- and the way
they throw it. Very heavy bags mean wet diapers and a baby in the
house. Neatly stacked recyclables reveal a tidy nature.
Sometimes, people throw out perfectly good stuff. Snowshoes, just
slightly cracked. A brand-new baby doll.
Palmer is paid $15,600 for the year's work. Cathy Palmer, who is a
home crafter and actress when it's not garbage day, says it's a
cost-effective proposition. The Palmers get help from 21-year-old
Jaime Tibbits of Burlington. She started working on the trash wagon
for credit during a ``Living Self-Sufficiently'' class at the
University of Vermont, and stayed.
Like in the old days
George Smith, who at 72 still runs the dump, says Palmer's operation
reminds people of the way things used to be in Bristol. When he was a
boy, his father and uncle ran the grocery -- E.M. and R.B. Smith's.
They'd travel around in a horse and buggy in the morning, collecting
grocery orders, then make the afternoon rounds delivering goods.
Palmer figures that with all the stop-and-go, he can do the route as
fast as a pickup truck could. One selectman voted against the
horse-and-buggy method of trash collection, citing fears that the
animals could get loose and run roughshod down Main Street. That
Hall says most people have received the new old-fashioned trash man
with enthusiasm. Palmer's contract expires in May. He's hoping for a
Palmer and Tibbits empty the wagon at the landfill, and Palmer
removes the bits from the horses' mouths. Now they can have the
carrots and apples people left out -- they don't eat while working.
Later, the horses will quaff a couple of bales of hay, 10 pounds of
alfalfa pellets, four pounds of grain mixed with molasses, and a quart
of canola oil.
Palmer pats the horses happily. Their work is done.
``It's good exercise for 'em, and it's good for 'em mentally, too.
Zack gets cranky if he can't work,'' Palmer says. ``I think a horse is
proud to do a good job just like a human is.''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald