“Who's making you lick the floor buddy?” said the figure.
His voice came hard and gravely and had probably been damaged by years of alcohol and cigarettes.Suddenly it came to me. “This is a bum, an urban outdoorsman, a homeless person sleeping in the garbage, and I had just 'stolen his plastic roof,” I told myself. Without thinking I said, “Nobody ... nobody is making me lick the floor,” and slowly I moved away back toward the river. “Did he recognize me? will he run and tell?” I thought to myself. I didn't know what to think, but I had to discontinue my foraging and head back to the river crossing. Not bothering with the waders, I made my way quickly back across, sloshing through the cold water, and climbing up the bank on the other side, my half soaked body was beginning to feel the cold. As the cold started to take hold, I fumbled with my binoculars trying to get a look back across the river. There he was,standing on the top of the trash pile - he hadn't moved. It looked good so far, but was he just waiting to catch his breath before leaving. Then after several tense moments, he lit up a cigarette, and every few drags on his smoke, he would let out a few gut wrenching coughs. After finishing his cigarette he lifted the lid on his box, climbed back in, and laid back down to sleep.
As the tension lifted, the cold started to take effect on my half soaked body. Looking like I had just emerged from a fire and was still smoldering, steam billowed off me into the cool mountain air. Off in the distance, coming down the interstate, I could hear the roar of truck tires on asphalt. It was the Mayfield Milk truck. I had been without a watch for some time, so I used manmade and natural signs to determine the time. The sun, moon, birds singing, katydids buzzing, and trucks, cars and people moving -- all acted as my timepiece. And the Mayfield Milk truck told me the morning rush was an hour away. Finally, after struggling to get back up the mountain, stripping off my clothes and climbing into my leaf bed, I quickly fell asleep as dawn began to break. I would have to wait a week before crossing over the river again, but needless to say I began to approach garbage a little differently.