My partner and I groggily rolled out of the driveway at 4:30AM, an hour normally reserved solely for roosters and insomniacs. Our 3-gallon coffee mugs were steaming and, each armed with a carton of Lucky Strikes and a peanut butter Pow-R-Bar, we backed out of the driveway wondering what the day would bring – glorious victory or humiliating defeat. My scruffy jeans still bore the marks of the previous day’s encounter with that stray alligator, and my buddy had painted “SCRAP OR DIE!” on his arm cast. The doctor said the bone would set, but claimed he’d never before seen such a compound break from a falling Manitowac ice-maker.
The Dodge’s V-8 rumbled as we backed out of our driveway and watched the gas gauge plummet toward zero. Oops. First stop – Pump-‘N’-Chomp. We scratched through the interior looking for loose change and found our first haul of the day – $3.86 in nickles and pennies! I must say, the clerk was a bit surly that morning …
Having put 0.947 gallons of gas in the cavernous tanks we were ready – at least for the next 8 miles. Luckily we knew exactly where we were going. We had stumbled upon the Mother Lode of Metal, the Shangri-La of Scrap, the Resting Place of Rust – THE LOST PIT OF RUSTOPIA!
Spoken of in children’s fairy tales and immortalized in song by long-deceased adventurers, the LPOR was thought by modern archeologists to be only a myth, a wild tale told by simple savages, but we knew better – we had SEEN it! The unearthly glow, the rainbow ending down in that deep, dank valley, the fact that nothing – animals, plants, viruses, NOTHING – would venture near it …
We Have SEEN It!
Parking the wrong way on the side of the freeway with the silly nine-to-fivers starting to roar down the lanes at 85mph we fell out of the truck, fell over the guardrail and fell about our mission. The 7-mile hike through the nettles, downed trees, and rocky path only whetted our appetite and provided us with a warm-up for the day’s sole activity – RAIDING THE LOST PIT OF RUSTOPIA! Our field packs bounced on our backs, the swinging chainsaws clapping happily against the SawzAlls and the portable plasma torches. We had thought of adding another 100′ or so of cable to our waist-winches, but at the last moment had decided that ease of movement held priority over the ability to haul a Toyota with our pelvises.
By mile #6 we had broken into a sweat. The primordial forest around us was quiet … TOO quiet. We slowed our pace, stepping carefully lest we trigger some huge rolling boulder or rain of poison-tipped arrows. The air crackled with static electricity and we smelled the distinct odor of ozone, with an odd side-note of decomposing matter. The hairs on my neck raised up, I slowed my gait further and my senses became fully alive. I noted the lack of animals tracks, the lack of vegetation – indeed, I saw that we were now standing in a veritable dead-zone. We must be close …
The trail tilted downward at this point, down, down into the mist. Low rumblings filled the still air now. We froze at every new sound, every snap of a dead twig. We were in a place from which no one had ever returned to tell the story. We began to see small pieces of rusted metal – a small propane cylinder filled with bullet holes here, a twisted, broken aluminum door frame there – but we didn’t bother to stop.
A Far Greater Goal
Minutes became hours as the sweat poured down our faces. An antique sewing machine, a Singer, appeared suddenly in front of us, its ornate treadle seemingly barring our way, daring us to pass. We gave it wide berth as we continued onward, having come too far to turn back now. Corpses of pre-war ice boxes stood silently, battered B&W console televisions mocked us and a forlorn water heater leaned against a dead tree, his rusted guts spilling out onto the ground. This had been the site of a horrible, bloody battle …
My partner suddenly stopped and held up his fist, the universal scrapper sign to “STOP!”. We froze in our tracks, noses sniffing the still air and eyes probing the cloud-like mists … and then we saw it – THE LOST PIT OF RUSTOPIA!!! It was a sight that mere words cannot describe, but I’ll try…
A 1947 Buick lay on its roof, fenders rusted but still attached and it’s fluids spilled over the damp ground. 55-gallon drums lined the East wall of this Valley while large appliances lay helter-skelter to the West. Ahead of us, to the North and as far as the eye could see, lay TONS of rusted, twisted metal! Angelic voices seemed to come from above and the sudden brightness of the Pit temporarily blinded us. Shaking off our amazement, we began cautiously stepping through this galvanized graveyard. It was impossible to plant a foot without crunching some rusty skeleton underneath. Old propane tanks, child’s swing-sets, roll upon roll of galvanized fencing, pieces of Mack trucks lay about us.
We broke out our salvage tools and fired them up, the whines and screeches of diamond blades cutting through dead metal filling the atmosphere. We hooked up the waist-winches to pull the abandoned car-corpses back up the trail, pausing occasionally to drag huge coils of copper wire out of the brambles. Aluminum window frames hung over our shoulders and gas tanks trailed behind us on sturdy nylon lines. Our hands were covered in mud and blood and our backs began to ache, but we were determined to make this trip one for the record books – we would be famous!
At first, it was more like an earth tremor than a noise. The ground vibrated but we passed it off as our over-heated imaginations. It was only when we stopped to wipe the sweat from our brows that we felt it again, stronger and longer. The vibration took on a sound – the sound of wailing, gnashing metal, metal that had slumbered for decades and had finally awakened, hungry and vicious. The 55-gallon drums began shifting on the cliffs as appliance doors began creaking and swinging on their rusty hinges. It was a symphony – a symphony of Death!
We dropped our Pow-R-Bars and began scrambling back up the trail, but the rusted hulks attached to our waist-winches slowed us down. We made the agonizing decision to hit the emergency release buttons and were rewarded with the satisfying clatter of dead vehicles falling back into that Pit of Hell, but we were far from safe. The 55-gallon drums had finally freed themselves from years of muck and mire, and were now rolling down the hill toward us, their rusty-but-still-lethally-sharp edges whirring out their violent songs. Crumpled gas tanks collapsed under our feet, trapping me momentarily at one point as a mud-streaked LawnBoy lawnmower barreled down at me. My partner managed to yank me to freedom at the very last moment as the mower shrieked by, vowing revenge on its return run.
We fought the good fight, don’t ever doubt it. Legions of microwaves, dorm fridges, and bed-springs rained down upon us, but we held our position in a narrow pass at the top of the trail, our diamond blades cutting a path through the unholy mass raging before us. As the overheated diamond blades sacrificed themselves, we took to slashing with our dead SawzAlls and, finally, thrusting with our Harbor Freight crowbars (part #48574-B, $4.99). The bodies piled up behind us yet more came over the top. This was nothing short of a suicide mission they were mounting – they were determined that these two intruders would not live to tell their tale.
Many Heroes Perished That Day
My partner tripped over a snake-hole and fell heavily on a broken treadmill, screaming out in his pain. I grabbed him by his equipment harness and dragged him up the hill, my heart almost exploding in my chest. The resident of said snake-hole came out to investigate the noise and, seeing us, decided to join the chase. Huge, hairy brown-recluse spiders clung to our overalls, injecting their venom into our rapidly-tiring bodies as we made a final effort to crawl to freedom. A bear came lumbering out of his cave, roaring and rising up to his full 9-foot height. As Fate would have it a 72” projection TV lodged above his cave entrance chose that moment to come crashing down on the beast, allowing us to finally escape.
The 7-mile trek back to our vehicle was the most painful thing either of us had ever done. Our broken bodies were throbbing and bleeding, we were delirious and coughing out random bits of mud and rust, but we somehow found the last bit of energy to crawl back into the truck. We gently placed the few pieces of priceless treasure into the back and drove agonizingly slowly to the scrap yard.
We got $11 for 97 pounds of rusted scrap iron, and my doctors and therapists all say I can go back to work in only 3 months. My partner retired and has plans to begin reclaiming gold in his bathtub.
I LOVE scrapping!