"The Tonopah Angel" by Midge Baker
(c) 2008 (c) 2013 by John and Midge Baker
"There's no recycling center in Tonopah." the man had just said. Now that was going to be a problem...
Since January 1996, we'd been staying with my best friends, in Gold Hill, OR. We were homeless and living in our camper. They had an orchard, a truck garden, goats, geese, and chickens. In exchange for a safe place to park our camper and the use of electricity, John tended the orchard and worked part time for a drywaller. I cleaned house, picked fruit and vegetables, helped in their booth at the weekly Farmer's Market, and fed the animals. That included our own wee beasties.
Months earlier, we'd found two kittens abandoned in two different places we'd camped. One was Miss Skitty, the other was Buster. In March, Miss Skitty had had babies.
We stayed in Gold Hill until April '97 while looking for fulltime work, but the Oregon economy was at its lowest ebb. There were no real jobs to be had.
So we packed up camper, cats, and kittens, and headed to Nevada to look for work.
We traveled by doing the "change thing" with the last of our food stamps. They still used the real stamps then, not the debit cards they have now. You could use a dollar food stamp to buy a pack of gum or a 10-cent candy and get back real cash money in change. In Oregon then, you paid a nickel deposit on glass, aluminum, and glass soda pop and beer containers. Once empty, the containers could be returned to local merchants for a refund on the deposits.
As we drove, we would stop every mile or so in good areas and then walk back and collect any "nickel deposits" we'd spotted. We'd raid the dumpsters in campgrounds and rest areas. The change and nickel deposits paid for our food and gasoline.
Once we got out of Oregon, they didn't pay nickel deposits anymore, but most towns had a recycling yard that paid for aluminum cans by the pound. By the time we'd get to one town, we'd have just about enough aluminum cans to recycle to buy food and such, and buy enough gas to get to the next town.
This caught us out once.