Aah, childhood memories: long summer days, romps in the woods, softball games with friends, putrid open dumps.
Several of us middle-aged guys in the newsroom got to swapping small town-dumpsite stories recently and it was clear they all drew the same kind of fond recollections as a first kiss.
The old rural Nicollet dump was located, as many were, in a swampy area — land unsuited for building or plowing under.
The dumps weren’t the double-lined, intensely monitored, fenced and covered “landfills” of today.
They were an environmentalist’s nightmare. People simply drove in, anytime, dumping anything and everything. Occasionally a city worker would push things around and light piles, letting fire consume and melt what it could.
They were a buffet of delights for boys, fulfilling virtually every desire.
There was the treasure hunt aspect — digging through piles to find everything from pocket knives and suitcases to discarded toys and kitchen appliances.
And there was always the chance to uncover some adult reading material. It made no difference that Miss November might be stained with coffee grounds, Heinz ketchup and swamp scum.
The tinge of danger — broken glass, acrid smoke, jagged metal — made the outings perfect.
And then there were the big rats — an unending supply of targets for pellet guns and .22 rifles.
I suppose today’s protective parents wouldn’t go for it, but it’s an experience every kid should have.
Maybe we could build simulated dumpsite playgrounds.
It could have a fake refrigerator — door attached — that kids could crawl into. There could be a station where they could hurl rocks at pieces of window panes, shattering them into little splinters.
Large, mechanical, snarling, rubber rats would randomly leap out at kids and they could try to whack them with a stick.
We can skip the erotic magazine playground station — kids have the Internet.
At the end of the playground course could be a big pile of broken toys they could dig through until they find a keepsake to bring home.
In a nod to current sensibilities, there would be safety glasses provided.
But even that might not go over today. In Upper North Mankato they’re debating the merits of putting in plastic or wood playground sets in Benson Park. Some like the natural look of wood, others worry about splinters getting in the fingers of the young ones.
We never worried about splinters in the dump. It was the rusty nails that got you.
Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer. He can be contacted at 344-6383 or email@example.com.