Get Creative: Take Your Kids to a Landfill


Confession: In high school I took my dates to the county dump.

Not every date.  There was the occasional movie outing (Purple Rain was awkard) or dinner at the strip mall pizza joint (with a Tron game!), but neither could compare to the gargantuan machinery in the cathedral-like five story open air trash compactor (two deep, three high) that was the county dump.

The girls were nice about it, never commenting on the smell, but I could tell it wasn’t their thing.  And I can only imagine what their parents might have said upon their daughter’s return.

It will come as no surprise that I have lost contact with those girls.  I did however partner with a woman who, early on in our courtship, dressed like Princess Leia for Halloween.  Now there is a woman who can appreciate a trash dump.

As an adult, there are two landfills that I frequent in Austin.  Notice I did not say dump.   Rather than being like the trash compactor of my youth, they are big mountains of dirt-covered trash. They don’t smell, at least not as bad as the dump when I was a kid, and both make for a fascinating day trip with your kids.  Bear with me.

One allows you to actually drive onto the pile.  Snaking up a two lane dirt road, you are greeted at the top by bull dozers and dump trucks with tires bigger than your own car.   Throw your junk on the ground and get out of the way; a load of dirt is about to cover your past.   While the trembling ground can be a little scary, the giant vehicles, up close and personal, put big-rig-board books and sandbox toys to shame.

The other landfill keeps cars off of  trash mountain.  Instead you pull up to a cement cliff, beneath which is a giant dumpster.  There are no guard rails, and the sense of danger of falling into one is palpable to kids and adults.  Kids love it.

This landfill also has a resale area full of things others were ready to bury for good.   And that is where my story ends.

Beyond all the flashy machinery and adrenalin rushes, a resale area and its attached landfill are great ops for talking to your kids about consumption and recycling.  It’s a lot more real than the blue paper bin in the elementary classroom.  But best of all, there is some good junk there:  Playground parts, lumber, golf balls, milk crates that you did not steal, putters,  and other materials great for the kid wanting to create sculpture, a castle, or a Halloween costume.

Post Blog Note:  After inspiring many Austinites with its post modern beauty, the Cathedral of Junk has been ordered to close.  My kids and I will miss you.


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