ATHENS, Ala. – Several weeks before we started practicing social distancing because of the COVID-19 virus, some kids got together for a party in Athens. And they were talking trash.
When it comes to garbage, Samuel Miller knows what he’s talking about. Sitting on the front porch swing at their home recently, Samuel’s mom asked him about the different colors for trash cans in the neighborhood. He knows blue cans are for recyclables and green cans are for trash.
The five-year-old loves trash trucks. “It started really before he was walking,” Lindsey Miller said, “He just became fascinated with throwing trash away in a trash can for myself and his daddy.”
And along the way, Samuel’s made a new friend. “Mr. Jerry,” Samuel said with a smile. Jerry Long is the sanitation worker who runs the route picking up recyclables every other Monday. “And he comes every Friday,” Samuel told me. That’s when Mr. Jerry picks up the garbage.
Samuel listens for Jerry’s truck and you know what’s happening next. “I run to the window and watch it,” Samuel said with excitement. “I watch the claw going up and then down, up and then down,” he added.
But some days, that’s not enough. “When the weather’s good then we’ll follow it,” Samuel said. That’s right. Samuel and his mom jump in the family golf cart and follow Jerry’s garbage truck. “At first, I thought, did I forget a can or something?” Jerry said with a smile. “But then when I realized what they were doing, it was cool.”
But wait. This is even cooler. “This is his third year where he’s had a trash truck party,” Lindsey said looking at her son. “I contacted the sanitation department director and told him I had an unusual request and thought it would be a really cool idea if they could bring a trash truck to his party,” she said laughing.
They did. And there was a surprise guest. “The trashman came,” Samuel told me. Mr. Jerry was there. “And he was real, excited about it when he saw the truck,” Jerry said with a laugh. Samuel got to climb up into the cab. “Yeah, I sat him up in the seat,” Jerry said. And of course, mom got a picture. It may have been Samuel’s favorite gift that day.
“I think all the kids enjoyed it,” Jerry said, “And we took the garbage can and raised it up and down a few times to show them how it dumps, blew the horn for them, just made them happy.”
In fact, it was hard to tell who was happier, Samuel and his friends or Mr. Jerry and the sanitation crew. “I felt proud that they asked us to come,” Jerry told us. It was a birthday to remember.
And it probably comes as no surprise what Samuel wants to be when he grows up. “A trashman,” Samuel said proudly. “I don’t know if he’ll be a garbage man when he grows up but right now, he is,” Jerry said. Last fall, Jerry gave Samuel a toy side loader like the one he drives. “He’s got his own truck, his own garbage cans, and everything,” Jerry said with a smile.
In fact, he could start his own sanitation department. Samuel loves toy garbage trucks too. “He probably has close to 50,” Lindsey said. Just enough to fill the closet in his bedroom.