His Hogs Were Still Dead

Posted: November 15, 2011 in addiction
Tags: , , , ,

Note: I wrote this in the spring of this year and posted it on another site. We no longer visit the dumpster I mention in the article. Still, I hope readers enjoy the gist of the essay.

When I was trying to quit drinking and stay stopped, a man told me a helpful story.

“I had a friend once, lived in Tennessee. And he was a hog farmer. He had maybe four hundred head of hogs. One day, he opened his door and looked outside…and his hogs were all dead.”

“So, my friend went back inside and he shut the door and he got drunk.”

“Next morning, he got up and opened the door and looked outside.”

“And, you know what? His hogs were still dead!”

This story reminds me that when my hogs are dead I need to get more creative. And that brings me to the power company dumpster. With the storms, other dumpsters were lean, and in our ten-minute half life of poverty, we were cut off from the phone and the internet for about a month. Without TV, we relied on air raid sirens and radio to issue tornado warnings.

Our hogs were dead.

But, I reasoned, the storms may also bring a good deal of infrastructure to the dumpsters. Several visits to the power company dumpster later, we were back on line.

The power company has two boxes. One is off-limits to divers. It contains aluminum wire. The larger box is diver friendly as long as we are polite and well-intentioned (we are, of course). It contains cast and clean aluminum freeway lamps, complete with scrap posts, wire and breakage. Today, we were especially blessed with about five hundred pounds of this stuff, which we loaded and drove to recycle, where we parked and spent a couple of hours disassembling what looked like a robbed utility company.

We had this stuff all in the parking lot and in pulls a truck. Out comes an enormous man, about the size of Mount Everest if it were a fire hydrant. He scanned our load and identified us as fellow divers, I guess, and he says, “Man, I was diving this dumpster today and I noticed a bag, and it was moving.”

I stop unscrewing screws and listen.

“And, I opened the bag. Turns out this business owner had stuffed three baby robins into a bag and thrown them into the dumpster. So I rescued the birds and I walked up to the man and told him that if he had the energy to stuff the birds into the bag, at least he could have had the common decency to release them to the street and give them a fifty-fifty chance at survival.”

“What did he say?”

“He told me to calm down. So I took my shirt off and picked up a two-by-four and said, I am a grown man and I have been to the penitentiary and I will kick your ass for this. And also, I will dive your dumpster until I am good and done.”

We simultaneously decide that we love this man. We engage in street level dumpster etiquette. I give him brass in exchange for diving tips. He gives us hats in exchange for diving tips. His character is too good to be true, more stylized than anything Joel and Ethan Coen could ever script.

As our huge bird lover leaves he says, “You guys are blessed today. You just don’t know how much yet.”

After he leaves I say, “We need this guy. We need him everywhere. Where everything is wrong, we need people with this kind of passion.”

Our hogs may be dead but we are not.

Edited to the first person, with some changes.

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