Story and photos: Trina
It's just past lunch time. The sun no longer makes it all the way down into the bottom of the narrow granite gorge where the tiny town bustles with tourist traffic.
P.J., one of the town's 300 year-round residents, rumbles up the street in his garbage truck. His brown speckled coon hound sits proudly beside him on the bench seat where a girlfriend might otherwise perch - immediately at PJ's right elbow. As the garbage truck approaches the five-block stretch of downtown, two smiling labs, one black and one yellow, emerge from the shadows, dropping whatever mayoral business they were attending to previously in order to greet PJ.
Clearing the street of traffic, the canine escorts take their places, either in front of the truck or flanking both sides of it, and proudly, slowly, they lead the garbage truck up the main drag. They trot along, smiling with obvious knowledge that they aren't in a parade, they are the parade. They are the Friday afternoon garbage parade.
In this manner, they lead PJ slowly up Main Street, coming back around to the back of the truck at each stop to stand sentinel while P.J. dismounts, grabs a can, swings the contents into the back of the truck, and moves on to the next stop.
At one point, PJ barks a sharp "Hey!" at a tourist who fails to yield the right of way to the escort dogs. Other than that, the ritual is trouble-free. At the end of the street, after PJ's last stop, the two labs put their paws up onto the back deck of the truck, waiting for PJ to lift them up onto a ledge inside the back of the garbage truck where they will ride as PJ pulls out of town and heads on to the next neighborhood on his route.