ANDERSON, Texas - Five days a week, a 52-year-old woman in rural Grimes County climbs aboard her work truck and drives as much as 140 miles - making more than 100 stops on a route that takes her from Anderson to Navasota to College Station.
The only thing unusual about that is her truck of choice, a garbage truck, is painted white and pink.
“I thought it would be real pretty. So that’s what I came up with,” said Margie Powell of the Cowgirl Collection Company logo painted in pink on the side of her garbage truck.
Five years ago Powell, a transplant from Bellingham, Wash. near Seattle, decided her new adopted home town of Anderson didn’t have enough rural garbage collection services. So she rounded up 12 customers and used a horse trailer to haul away their curbside, or more accurately rural gravel road-side garbage, and deliver it to a landfill in College Station.
As business grew she bought her first garbage truck. She stenciled the name “Buttermilk” on the hood, naming it after the horse ridden by country music and movie legend Dale Evans. This past month, with business booming to more than 500 customers, she bought a new, bigger and more powerful truck. This one she nicknamed “Trigger” after the horse ridden by Roy Rogers.
“I’m thrilled. I’m very blessed,” she said of her entrepreneurial success. “And I believe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
But why would she decide that becoming a garbage lady in rural Grimes County was her calling?
“I needed a job,” she responded.
Powell needed that job after a divorce. Just as the business idea was getting off the ground she became a breast cancer survivor, too. And since she felt that rural Grimes County didn’t have enough trash collection services, she figured her adopted county needed her.
“I noticed in the beginning for a long time my customers were all women. But now probably half of them are men and have accepted that I can do it.”
“Well she’s one of a kind,” agreed Lester Underwood a friend and owner of the Plantersville Shell Station on State Highway 105 West in Plantersville. “She’s real special. That she is.”
“I guess I’m starting to have a presence of a real garbage person,” said Powell dressed in her garbage collection clothing of choice that includes a pink shirt.
She admits, however, that there are still problems sometimes with the “Cowgirl Collection Company” name. Some people have confused her with a debt collection business. Others assumed, in a rural county, that she was involved in cattle breeding and reproduction.
“When they see that they think I’m collecting semen or cattle,” she said with a laugh. “And I’m like no, it’s just garbage and they’re like really? But that’s all it is!”
“They thought you were in the cattle reproduction business,” I asked her.
“Right. Which I was (in a previous line of work) but there’s no money in that so I’m gonna try this one instead,” she laughed.
Back in Anderson, she lives on several acres she calls the Cowgirl Ranch and does have three head of cattle: Longhorns including her personal pet named Rosie and a newborn calf named Harold. And it’s a ranch she can keep, because she’s found her calling.
“I’m very grateful. God works in mysterious ways. He’s sure taken good care of me,” she said.
And now an entrepreneur, a cowgirl, on a white and pink steel horse, takes care of Grimes County one dusty country road at a time.
And yes, she does recycling too.