We Found Independence With a Small Town Garbage Service

A reader shares the story of her family's successful effort to establish a small town garbage service in rural Nebraska.

| September/October 1978

Three years ago my husband Larry, our two sons (then six and four), and I moved to a small town in central Nebraska with a clear idea of exactly what we were going to do once we got there: live a back-to-basics life while we supported ourselves by operating an established garbage service that we had made arrangements to take over.

Imagine our distress, then, when—with the family transplanted, winter setting in, and our bank account reading absolute zero—we learned the other party was calling off our business deal! To say that our life looked like a nightmare at that point would be a gross understatement.

Fortunately for us, however, Larry is no quitter. He's a strong man with a head of curly red hair, a full red beard, and a mind that is just as filled with fiery determination. "Well," he said, "if our first opportunity has flown the coop, another one is just as surely waiting for us to find it. As a matter of fact, I believe we'll all be happier if we just buckle down and build our own garbage route from scratch by ourselves anyway."

The next day, armed with a paper full of figures, my husband visited the local banker and persuaded him to loan us enough money ($800) to see our proposed new business through its first few months. Then, with the grubstake and an old Chevy farm truck that we borrowed from Larry's parents, we set out to make that business a reality.

The Rules of Our Success

From the very first, we've operated our little enterprise strictly according to four guiding principles that we've never changed and never broken:

[1] We take on only as many accounts as Larry and I, together, can handle. We both have always felt that hired help would just be an unnecessary bother, complication, and drain on an operation that we prefer to run as a small family business. We are both bona fide MOTHER EARTH NEWS types. Our venture was never intended to earn "big" money. Instead, my husband and I want only enough cash coming in to give us financial security, support us comfortably (not elaborately), give us a maximum amount of time with each other and our boys, and guarantee us freedom from anyone else's time clock.

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