Back in the good old days, when you could actually salvage at the dump and tour around, one would often come across some rather interesting things. That is an aspect of the dump people don’t appreciate, going to the dump can be an incredible learning experience.

One day at the dump, there was this big cement mass. It looked like a building of some strange sort and it did have some short round holes in it. I was trying to sort out what it was. Then it dawned on me, it was a manhole. It was the big cement room they put down in certain places so that workers can go down and access the water and sewer lines for inspections and repairs.

NNSL file photo
With much to discover, observe and salvage at the Yellowknife dump, columnist Walt Humphries writes that it’s almost high time to let Yellowknifers back in to salvage.

So, we make these big cement rooms, bury them and eventually throw they into the dump. I’m not sure why we do that, but the thing should be put on display because how many people have actually seen a manhole sitting on the surface? It’s one of those images that sticks in your mind, a cement building the size of a small house just going into the dump.

Another poignant or memorable image was two boxes of books I came upon one sunny day. They were full of expensive hardcover books which looked in incredible shape. As good as brand new. If they had been read, it had been a very light and quick read. These sure were not bush books looking worn, stained, well used and read. No dead mosquitoes between the pages or crease stains. Nor did they smell of wood smoke.

They were all books about or by current and past political leaders in Canada with a few about Canadian sports celebrities. Politics and sports were obviously this person’s main interests when it came to reading. Some were written by the main character and other written about them, usually in a rather flattering way.

No pages marked for rereading or reference. No notes written in the margin. No nothing. Just thrown away in the garbage dump. How’s that for a political metaphor. Here today and buried in the garbage heap of history tomorrow.

Another time I came across an old home-made doll’s house. It looked like it had been well made and had probably looked quite spiffy when it was new. But it was well worn from a lot of play, probable by several generations of kids and a few pets. It had served its purpose and then some.

That’s another thing about the dump you get a glimpse into time and people’s lives. That old wooden doll house got a lot of play as opposed to some of the plastic ones you see which seem to get broken and fall apart before their time. 

Certain things show up at the dump so often one can only shake your head in wonder and amazement and not necessarily in a good way. Most of the times I went to the dump I would see an artificial Christmas tree. I have often thought about saving them all and planting an artificial forest somewhere. Some people seem to throw their artificial tree out every year or two. Mining all the metal and hydrocarbons for the plastic probably has more impact on the environment, then Christmas tree farms which by comparison are organic. 

I know it may come as a shock to some but artificial Christmas trees are non-organic, so they are going to sit in the dump for a very long time. A thousand years from now some archaeologists will be having a dig at the dump and pull out your tree and say, what were those people thinking way back in 2020? Was this some sort of crazy consumerism cult or what?

Yes, I do miss those trips to the dump. There is so much to observe and learn there. I hope when the city does reopen the dump to visitors and salvagers, that every school in town sends there kids to the dump at least once, as a field trip and learning experience. Also every resident of the city should have a tour of the dump so they can appreciate just where the garbage goes and what happens to it. 

It might wake people up to the reality that things have to change. And that would be a good thing. Live and learn.


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