Starting OffI rejoined the BCCA in March 2000 after a 14 or 15 year absence in large part to go dumping! I had originally joined in early 1977 when I turned 18 (I don't think my folks felt I should be a member of a beer can collecting group when I was still too young to legally drink a beer.) I dropped out in 1984-85 while in graduate school due to a simple lack of time. I kept most of my collection though. In 1990 I made my biggest trade. In exchange for transporting my collection from Ohio to Virginia in his truck, I traded a friend tickets to a Red's baseball game, gas and a hotel room for he and his wife. My friend couldn't fit my traders in the truck (argh!) so they got sold when my folks moved later that year. Oh well, I had my collection, and I kept it, even displaying many of my favorites on a few shelves in my office at home-mostly cones and assorted flats I had dumped or traded for at the Miami Valley show in the 70s.
Flash forward to 2000. I had finally finished grad school and had some free time. Surfing the net I found the BCCA site. Cool! I remembered my old BCCA number so I emailed them and asked if anybody still went dumping! (DOH!) I remembered how rusty cans were in the late 1970s, surely by now, I naively thought, most of them had rusted away completely. I was assured by the BCCA that people still went dumping and they offered to send me a copy of the BCCA Magazine so I could read the Beer Can Archeology column. I did, I read, and I was hooked. For my 41st birthday in March I rejoined the BCCA and dug my collection out of storage. But, (Doh! again) I had no traders! Bidding on a few collections on Ebay got me a little bit of trading stock, but I wanted more. I wanted RUST! I had to have rust! Rust withdrawal had reared its brown, pocked head after a many-yeared absence!
Posting a note on the Rusty Bunch board begging for dumping partners got me a few leads. Gary A. emailed me. He lived in Northern Virginia and knew good places to dump. Steve G. in Maryland also emailed me and we began planning our first trip, my first dumping trip since 1983 when "dumping" was walking along an old lover's lane in the county picking up flat tops and cones. I was ready and eager. My wife meanwhile was amused but supportive. Restarting a beer can collection at 40 is cheaper than a red convertible.
Steve couldn't make the first trip so Gary and I met out in Haymarket Virginia. Since Summer is a lousy time to find new dumps, Gary offered to take me to several places he had found in the past but had never finished cleaning out. We met at a gas station about halfway between our respective houses, piled our stuff into the back of his SUV, and took off. A few miles away Gary turned down an old road in a wooded area. We pulled up near an old abandoned house surrounded by weeds about 6 feet tall. The land was not posted and there was no sign anybody had been here in years. He had found a lot of Gunthers (Bible 1210) and Valley Forge's (Bible 2908) in the woods behind the house. We crawled under the fence (easier done at 21 than at 40 I found) and fought our way through the weeds behind the house. There it was, the first can dump I've seen in years! It looked great! We quickly pulled out some Gunthers and a Valley Forge plus some mystery cans. I hadn't been at this 10 minutes and I already had 2 shelvers. Unfortunately there was a ton of poison ivy around so we headed down the road about ½ mile to a dump where Gary had gotten another neighbor's permission to dig.
Gary warned me that a large black dog might come visit us. He was right, "Thor," obviously a cross between a wolf and a draft horse, came sauntering over to say hi, plopping down right in the area where I was digging and leaning against me as if to say, "pet me!" After a minute or so he would wander off a few feet to watch what we were doing, coming back every now and then to get another hug or pat.
As for the cans, well, the Budweiser corollary to Murphy's law came into play-"the most common cans will be the ones in the best shape." Budweiser and Black Labels (Bible 234) were popping out of the ground often at grade 3 with a possible grade 2+ once cleaned. National Bohs and others I actually needed for my shelf were crumbling into dust when they were picked up. No cones appeared at all. The dump was obviously from about 1960 and at first seemed to be from a bar, maybe one in DC that drove out into the boonies to ditch its trash. Besides the cans, almost all from beer, there were whiskey and other liquor bottles, olive jars, oyster cans, a few juice cans, etc., plus an occasional pair of pantyhose (?!?) (proof of the old adage, "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker??) Pretty dull stuff compared to the OI and IRTP's other Rusty Bunchers dig up, but since this was my first dumping trip in over a decade I was pretty happy.
After about an hour with nothing exciting being uncovered, Gary and I headed out to find another site. Driving up and down back roads we saw a few possible sites to check out in the winter when the undergrowth was gone. We decided instead to hit another known dump just outside Warrenton, Virginia where Gary had good luck in the past.
The dump was well behind an abandoned house along a state highway. The house itself looked stripped out so there were no inside cans to be found. But behind the house and over a hill was a huge pile of rust. Again, it was an early 60's dump with flattops mixed with early pulltabs. We dug through the broken glass and trash to find a few National Bohemians for my shelf and a conetop that remained a mystery can even after two soakings. Gary did find an Iron City early pull tab, the only one that showed up.
Leaving the site Gary's SUV had a flat so we pulled over at a combination home and convenience store. Our appearance--I had dirt caked all the way to the skin--apparently frightened the residents. They nervously eyed us as they backed their way from their front door to their car and left. Gary got the tire fixed while having to lay on black asphalt well-heated by the summer sun!
Two weeks later I headed out again, this time with Steve. Gary had been assigned night shift and actually chose to get some sleep between two 12 hour shifts rather than go dumping!!! Steve brought his 10 year old son. We avoided the first dump, not wanting to run into any police, and hit the "bar dump." Thor showed up and kept us company. Steve's son kept himself amused playing with a box turtle we found. Steve and I dug into the pile of trash, and this time began to hit paydirt. Lot of Black Labels continued to show up, but that included a number of nice 16 oz versions, along with some 10 oz Millers, a number of Gunthers (Bible 1211) and one wild card, an Old India! Nice can! I would have done the dumper dance except I was sitting down with a 100 lb. wolf-horse (Thor) sitting on my lap while I dug!
The Old India was the only really scarce can that I ended up with. Some of the mystery cans turned out to be Rams Head Ales (Bible 2362) and Gretz's (Bible 1170). I ended up with an even dozen cans for my self along with enough Black Label flats to last a lifetime of trading. I also learned I may be immune to poison ivy. Gary, Steve and his son each got it while I didn't, even though I was the one digging through it with my hands. Even my wife got it, from doing the laundry with my muddy clothes, but I escaped. I guess that's a useful trait for a dumper! My wife warned me though, not to take it for granted, so I won't be wadding into the ivy anytime soon, unless I see a really rare on-grade conetop laying under the foliage.
At any rate as you read this I am itching to go out dumping again. I have a 16 lb. bucket of citric acid just waiting for rust to dissolve, and my trading stock is still wayyyy to thin for the Blue and Gray in February.
Mark B. BCCA 13056.