I went dumpster wading again today at the recycling center. In the mixed paper bin I spied half a dozen like-new comic books sitting atop magazines and flattened cereal boxes.
Although melting snow was dripping down from the top of the bin, these books were dry and clean. Of course I took them, and gave them to my nephew.
He doesn’t care where I got them. In fact, he’s still stoked about the 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle I found earlier this week in the same bin.
Guess where I’m doing my Christmas shopping? (Kidding! Maybe.)
Whenever I go to the recycling center I’m on the lookout for My Coke Rewards codes. But the mixed paper bin also regularly yields magazines and books. I’d never seen a puzzle before now. In fact, there were three jigsaws but two had “pieces missing” written on their lids. Those I left behind to be pulped.
My biggest find ever happened a few weeks back: an encyclopedia-like book called “The Bush Pilots.” People still use the phrase “Bush pilot” in casual conversation here, so I couldn’t resist pulling it out. Bound in blue leatherette, it was part of a Time-Life series called “The Epic of Flight.”
I showed it to DF, whose eyes lit up. As a kid in Bush Alaska, he knew his planes, and even his pilots: When a plane took off from or landed in the village, he and the other children knew who was flying it. Sometimes DF’s family entertained themselves by listening to the aviators’ radio chatter. (You had to make your own fun in those days.)
“There’s more books in there,” I said.
“Let’s get ’em,” he replied.
Reading material, recycled
We pulled out as many as we could see – titles like “The First Aviators,” “Women Aloft” and “The Giant Airships.” Later we found we’d gotten 16 of the 23 volumes in the set. They’d been dropped in along with a bunch of other books, but we couldn’t rescue everything.
I did grab one other title with an Alaskan theme, and we discovered an inscription inside the cover. Intrigued, DF did an online search for the guy and found he’d died some months ago. He’d led quite an interesting life, according to the obituary. It made me sad to think of his library being tossed into the recycling bin.
Perhaps some of his books were kept by family members or friends, or at least sold in an estate sale. I suppose I should also be glad that the castoffs were at least recycled, vs. being tossed in a landfill.
Still, I can’t help feeling glum at the sight of books in a dumpster. When I was a kid I would have killed for the chance to get at so many titles. Although our parents sometimes took us to the library and the Bookmobile came through our rural area every other week in the summer, I was always hungry for reading material. I probably would have crawled into that mixed paper bin and read my way to the bottom.
Given the popularity of e-readers, books are probably going the way of the dodo. Eventually I’ll probably give in and download more reading material. As I grow older I’ll likely appreciate the ability to change the size of the type.
But I expect I’ll miss real books. The way they smell. The way they feel in my hands. The whisper of the pages as I move forward through the story. No wonder I felt sad looking into that graveyard of reading. Someone once loved those volumes. No one ever will again.