The Junkman


Every so often I see a dude pedaling around town. He’s a tall man, probably in his sixties, sporting a bandana, long grey hair and a beard to match. I know that makes him sound like a Duck Dynasty, wanker douche bag but he’s not, he’s the Junkman.

He’s not a “cyclist” but he rides a bike. In fact, I’ve never seen him NOT on his bike. OK, that’s a lie, I’ve seen him off his bike, and when I have he’s usually been waist deep in a dumpster picking out cans and bottles to return for cash money (10¢ a piece here in Michiganderburgh) or pieces of scrap metal. In fact that’s what he’s doing in the photo above, although be it out of sight.

Because of his constant pedaling and fearless dumpster diving in the pursuit of cash I find myself admiring the Junkman. Now I could be wrong, I could be real wrong about the Junkman, but for some reason when I see him I don’t see the stereotypical, life has gone to shit, homeless drunkard trying to scrape enough cash together for another bottle of cheap wine (not judging here, if I were homeless–which may happen yet in my life– I would probably be doing just that). In my opinion he’s just more together than that (despite his avoidance of barbers).

When I see the Junkman I tend to see someone who doesn’t have much, is a little eccentric and figures that if a bunch of dumb ass people are going to essentially throw cash away, he’s going to help himself to that cash one dime deposit at a time, even if he has to ride his ass all over town and jump in a few dumpsters along the way.

I also admire the Junkman’s setup. Yeah, in my life I’ve seen plenty of cyclists pedaling around with B.O.B. Trailers full of everything from camping gear to beer kegs, but those dudes are pulling $300+ trailers–often attached to custom, multi-thousand dollar bikes–and the Junkman is pulling four wheels of “it’s not ghetto, it’s custom” junk carrying bad assness, hitched to a cheap ass bike with a basket.

I’m in NO WAY taking the piss out on the Junkman, but aside from him entering dumpsters I don’t feel all that bad for him either. He doesn’t seem to be crazy or dangerous. I’ve never seen him screaming expletives at the sky with fists clenched, piss drunk or hassling people (unlike some of the frat boys I’ve seen on occasion). Other than when I’ve seen him on the busy four lane drag though town, he rides on the road, with traffic and obeys the traffic laws (don’t get me started adults who ride on town sidewalks, what are you, an eight-year-old girl?). I do wish he would wear a helmet but I’m not sure how high that is on his priority list.

As I said, I could be way wrong on the Junkman and why he works gathering bottles and cans. For all I know the dude uses the money to gas up a kidnap van full of wayward teens he’s “borrowed” from bus stations all over the midwest. I’m also not judging folks with sweet B.O.B. trailer or expensive bikes. God knows I spend enough on bikes and parts and own way more bikes than one ever fattening, aging, slow, pretty much never races anymore, douche with a bike blog should.

I of course hope my life never comes to me needing to enter a dumpster in search of cans and scrap to sell. I just find myself admiring the Junkman for rolling his rig all over town and doing what he needs to do. In fact when I looked out the window and saw him and his bike in the school parking lot next door doing his thing, I nearly took him the bag of bottles and cans that we have bagged, ready for deposit on the next grocery run. Sadly, I can be a bit too wishy-washy when it comes to speaking up to strangers. Plus, like I said, I’m unsure about the existence of that van and I didn’t want my naive, youthful mid-forties appearance to give him any ideas.

All kidding and ghetto-mod trailer admiration aside, if you must know the real reason I dig the Junkman it’s this… Last fall I was driving home from a ride with my bike on top the car. I turned onto our street and the Junkman was coming towards me with his trailer filled to the brim. As I passed he gave me a wave, that same sort of “you have a bike, I have a bike, you’re one of my kind” type of waves that we cyclists so often give each other. The wave that is very similar to the nod normal people instinctively exchange as they pass each other in an aisle full of whack jobs shopping at Walmart. I admired the Junkman for that. Hell that’s more than I get from many roadies when out riding! And for that he’ll alway be the Junkman and not “that long-haired guy that pulls that jank trailer around town picking up garbage.”

I just hope I’m wrong about that van…

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