Another Man’s Trash

Another Man’s Trash

Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge, hosted by yours truly, to write a 200-word story based on a photo prompt. This week’s photo is courtesy of C.E. Ayr. I am sure there will be many interesting stories this week, so why not wander over there and read for few. Or better yet, write your own story and add to the collection.  You can find this week’s challenge  HERE

Photo Credit: C.E. Ayr

Now for this week’s story, inspired by my grandparents. 

Grady had one goal in life: to make his wife Emma happy.

It had not been easy. After the crash of ’29, times were tough, but Grady’s cotton farm provided a place to sleep and food to eat. But when the ‘black rollers’ brought billowing clouds of dust across the Texas panhandle, his farm eroded into nothing. Taking only what would fit in the back of the 1928 black Ford pickup, Grady and Emma headed for California, unsure what the future would bring.

Grady landed a job in Los Angeles as a trash man. Picking up garbage paid less than white men’s wages, but Grady was happy for the job. His partner was an older black man named Leroy.

“You won’t believe what these white folks throw away.” Leroy said. “Keep what you want and sell it.”

Leroy’s words rung true. Despite the Depression, the trash cans of wealthier families were full of useful items. At their last stop, Grady noticed an Oriental teapot sitting on top of the kitchen trash.

Emma would be thrilled. All her teapots had been left behind in Texas. This would be the start of a new collection.


When my grandparents moved from Texas to California in the early 1930s, my grandfather spend some time as a trash collector in an affluent neighborhood. Many of the things that my grandmother gave me came from his days as a trash collector. They had been poor cotton farmers before moving to California and the idea of throwing away perfectly good items perplexed her. Below is a photo of the teapot featured in the story.

photo credit: Susan Spaulding







24 thoughts on “Another Man’s Trash

  1. You many folks will quote the “trash to treasures” line, but in fact it is many times true. It sounds like your grandparents has a good life in spite of the challenges. Good for them!

    1. People who lived through the Depression were very resourceful. I can’t imagine what they would think of today’s wasteful consumerism. Thanks for reading my story Joe. Much appreciated.

  2. I well remember in the 1950s, if my mother had something of slight value, she would put it where it could be seen by the refuge collectors. Thank you for recalling that memory, Ps we where far from being wealthy

    1. You are very welcome Michael. I am sure many of us who are older (at least non-millennial) have memories like that. Thank you for reading the story. It is very much appreciated.

  3. Lovely story, Susan. I like Grady’s goal in life and Emma will be thrilled with the teapot. This story reminds me of an Ikea commercial of a little girl who finds a lamp thrown out and takes it home. She treats it like it’s a treasure and the most valuable thing she has ever owned. You’re so right, one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

  4. It is true that many a time people throw out a perfectly good item and buy a brand new one. This is the age where new things come out every year. Though the item collected from a rubbish pile may sound or seem bad, old item can be used by anyone.

  5. A touching story Susan, made all the more real by the link to your own family.

    When I was a child we lived next door to a bin man (aka trash man/refuse collector) and he invariably brought home something useful after a day’s work. His wife sometimes traded the finds for items the neighbours (inc including my mum) no longer needed. A pioneer of environmentalism!

    1. Where I live we have a monthly bulk trash pickup. These are generally picked over by people who drive by and see something they like. Which is much better than it ending up at the dump. Reuse is a good trend. Thanks for commenting JS. Much appreciated

  6. It is odd that folks toss good things. I have a box for things too good for the trash but that maybe a charity shop could sell. On trash day several folks will put things out with a ‘free’ sign – and usually by the end of the day the item is gone. Most of my furniture is not new. Two of my dining room pieces a hutch and a buffet/side table where bought from ad sales. I think the nicks add character 🙂

    Beautiful tea pot!

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