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Mountains of trouble

On a dirt road, garbage trucks leave behind a shifting landscape.

Published February 12, 2007



Two women stared at a patch of dirt. It looked like the Himalayas rendered in miniature, with sharp ridges and high peaks and deep valleys. A tabby cat towered over Mount Everest.

The women stood in a driveway at the unpaved end of Penrose Court. One had curlers in her hair and the other wore powder-blue slippers. The Himalayas stood in the middle of their cul-de-sac.

The woman with the slippers laughed, a low sound from down in her throat. Her name was Jean Musgrave. “It’s getting bigger,” she said, eyeing the mountain range.


The Himalayas of Penrose Court were not formed by crashing tectonic plates. They were churned from the earth by a 60,000-pound garbage truck.

The truck picks up trash for the woman with the curlers, who lives next door to the woman with the slippers a few miles east of New Port Richey. The truck used to back down the cul-de-sac but now it comes headfirst and turns around. Hence the churning.

The woman with the slippers has a husband with diabetes and prostate cancer and congestive heart failure. Sometimes he needs an ambulance. One time she called for one and it had to park on the far side of the Himalayas and the rescuers had to walk around them, from the Tibetan plateau through Myanmar and Bangladesh to India and back.

The woman with the curlers has a husband who keeps six trophy bass on the wall above the chair where he sits and watches the A&E network. They are Eve and Gary Denk. They are tired of driving around the edges of the cul-de-sac. They want to level the Himalayas.


The woman with the curlers walked outside the other morning and saw the garbage truck stuck somewhere between Kula Kangri and Jongsong Peak. When she complained, she said, one of the Himalayas’ creators asked how she’d like it if they stopped coming at all.

The Himalayas’ creators work for a giant corporation called Waste Management. A senior district manager named Rick Kania said the company had no plans to resume its practice of backing into Penrose Court. He said 77 percent of all garbage-truck accidents occur while the truck is in reverse.

The man with the trophy bass leveled the Himalayas a few weeks ago. He had a crew out to work on his pond and he asked them to flatten the mountains and they did. The garbage truck came back a few days later and churned them up again.

The woman with the curlers called Waste Management and gave a piece of her mind to a man named Herb. The churning stopped. It appeared the Himalayas’ creators had resumed their practice of backing into Penrose Court.

But they did not do the other thing she asked. They did not bury the Himalayas in gravel.

The Himalayas wore down beneath driving rain and howling wind. Someone crushed Mount Everest with an all-terrain vehicle. By Monday the mountains had softened to hills. But the earth was still disturbed.

The woman with the slippers stood on her porch and looked at the Himalayas and worried about her husband. She thought the hills could still snare a fire truck.

Thomas Lake can be reached at or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

[Last modified February 12, 2007, 21:34:46]

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