Thursday, July 8, 2010


My husbandTheTruckDriver is a scapper. True, he has been known to do his share of bickering, but it is scapping of a different persuasion to which I refer here. In short, he's a junk collector. Metal of all kinds, steel, aluminum, wire, copper, anything he can disassemble and transport to the recycling plant in exchange for a few bucks. In better days, the pile of debris behind our house between the shed and the woods was no more than an eyesore to me; in today's economy and state of rapid global deterioration, it is his little contribution to saving our pennies and saving the planet. He's not big time. You won't see him in a dilapidated pick-up bursting at the seams with mangled steel and rusty old water heaters. Just whatever he can fit in the back of the van, and whatever he has had time to deconstruct during his short lay-overs at home.

I took a trip to the recycling plant with him this week, and it was quite interesting, albeit rugged and dirty. There was a huge 3' high pile of what looked like aluminum shavings in one corner. Stacks of wheel rims and hubs in one area, radiators and other car parts in another, and a shelf full of metalware retrieved from the recycling bins - statues, bells, a goblet, perhaps for their collectible value. There was a huge, flat in-ground scale in the center of the warehouse, and beyond the doors in the gravel yard, numerous industrial dumpsters. First, the aluminum cans. 100 pounds worth, being pushed up and over the scale on a conveyor belt and into a crusher. Net: $4.00. But imagine all those cans in a landfill or strewn along the highways and riverbanks-500 years from now, they will still be discarded aluminum cans! That is money and energy wasted, not to mention the contamination of the landscape and the pollution of the waterways. It is a sad fact that Americans today recycle only about 50% of the 80,000,000,000 aluminum soda cans they use every year. It takes 95% less energy to make new cans from old ones than to produce new cans using virgin ore. Recycling only one can save enough energy to burn a 100 watt light bulb for about 4 hours or to run your television for three, and is equivalent to about 1/2 gallon of gasoline.

All the rest of the metal was just tossed on the in-ground scale by category, weighed, and calculated. To the cans, we added some sheet aluminum left over from a remodeling project and some pieces out of an old radiator MyHusbandTheTruckDriver stripped down in his spare time. Then some large rings of wire that he unfortunately hadn't had the time to strip. He would have found copper inside which would have been worth more than the unstripped wire; nevertheless, the scrap yard still took the wire and will undoubtedly strip it themseleves or send it off to yet another yard that will process it further. Then various parts from the old engine from our son's car. I don't know if they were steel, aluminum, or what, but the experts knew. Finally, some broken copper fittings and pieces of pipe. All weighed, totalled, and sorted into their respective bins. All the net of the rest of our recycled metals was $42. A nice chunk for our piggy bank, but it had a much broader impact on our world. In the US, recycling steel saves enough energy to heat and light 18,000,000 homes. Recycling copper uses only about 15% of the energy it would take to mine and extract new copper, and since mining and refining any metal produces gases and dust and requires enormous amounts of energy, recycling helps to conserve the world's supply of fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

So, the next time you throw an aluminum can on the ground or even in the trash, or toss out that piece of wire or metal you pulled off the house or the car, why not think to recycle instead; not big business, but everyone doing their own part.

Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chatty Cathy and Her BFF's

The Knoxville News Sentinel had an article last weekend about a doll collectors' meeting in the Knoxville area. It featured one woman's 400 piece collection of original restored Chatty Cathy dolls, one of the most popular favorite dolls of little girls in the 1960's. First produced by Mattel in 1959, she was the first "talking" toy and could repeat phrases such as "I want a cookie," and "Let's have a party" by pulling a string at the base of her neck. And "she's cute," quoted the article.

I remember my Chatty Cathy, and my older sister's, as we were always apt to get the same toys for Christmas, even though we were three years apart in age. She took much better care of hers than did I, as she was a much girlier girl than I. I seem to recall coloring Cathy's eyelids black and perhaps cutting off all of her hair. Maybe that's why I stopped getting dolls for Christmas. It led to much jealousy the year my sister got a lifesize (for an 8-year-old) bride doll, and I got some floppy stuffed baby doll that didn't do anything.

I'm pretty sure we both had a pre-Cathy Betsy Wetsy doll as well. Betsy ... you guessed it: she peed. Well, thankfully it was simulated pee, water from a miniature plastic baby bottle squeezed into a little hole in her mouth and coming out a little hole you know where. Of course, and also thankfully, they weren't allowed to make anatomically correct dolls when we were children. Nor would the baby dolls of our childhoods hardly be considered politically correct today: mostly fair-skinned with rarely an ethnic variety among them, and appropriate for teaching little girls how to become above all else dutiful and doting mothers, feeding, bathing, and changing their babies, and if the girl were lucky, pushing them along in little baby buggies (think Margaret of Dennis the Menace fame).

Could be part of the uproar over the newly emerging Barbie doll was that it threatened this idyllic role training of little girls in an era when women were beginning to have louder voices in the world. Inspired by Marilyn Monore with her curvacious figure pared down to more respectable proportions, the Barbie doll opened the eyes of young girls everywhere to the world of fashion, travel, and careers. I remember having had three Barbie dolls in my life (all given up by the age of 10): Barbie, her bff Midge, and Barbie’s sister, Skipper, all of whom had clothes, shoes, and accessories galore. My sister had, I think, every Barbie-clan doll made from the time they first appeared in the stores in 1960 until late into her teenage years. She finally gave them away, perfectly preserved, to a younger neighbor girl. My Barbies, on the other hand, lost limbs, hair, and all their clothes before they finally disappeared into the night. Like I said, I wasn't a girly girl.

I hope that decades from now today's little girls will look back just as fondly on their Baby Alive and Bratz dolls of this era, even if they do color their eyelids and cut off all their hair.