Cool cowboy: Longtime Tahoe trash service provider to retire soon
October 20, 2016
For many of us here in Incline Village, Martin Gwerder of Truckee has been our local trash removal service provider for the past near 10 years. But in a couple of months that will change, because he will be retiring.
In his position as a full-time employee of Waste Management for almost 20 years, he spent the first 10 years with the company in Reno.
"Working in Reno was good," he told me, "but as soon as I transferred to the Incline station, I knew I wanted to stay here. I love the trees."
He is affectionately known throughout our village as "Martin, the man with the cowboy hat," and he has had numerous encounters with bears in the morning hours.
"I had really good experiences with bears within five feet of me," he said. "They would be ripping the cans open just as I showed up, and they would just look at me with a 'Hey, this is my stuff!' look."
Martin is a true cowboy, but not in our Wild West sense. He was born in 1951 and raised in the Swiss Alps of Switzerland. As a young man he spent many of his summers completely alone in the Alps leading cows to grazing pastures.
"I grew up cowboy style," he said, "and the Swiss people milk cows on farms. There was no electricity or running water in our homes. There was no TV, not even a radio."
But his life as a high-mountain Swiss Cowboy changed the day a young woman arrived from the United States.
"She was 22 years old," Martin said. "She was 100 percent Swiss born and raised in the U.S., and she was a very nice looking lady. Her name was Margaret. Two years later, in 1980, I came to America, with Margaret."
According to Margaret, Martin became a U.S. citizen right away.
"He loves America," she told me. "He's always busy, and he has quite a green thumb. And he helps many people in Incline, especially the elderly and disabled, and even carries their trash cans from their house to the truck and back. People leave cookies for him, and Martin is concerned how they will be when he retires."
"I loved the United States as soon as I arrived," Martin said. "I came directly to Truckee from Switzerland. Except for one year when I worked at a dairy farm in Salinas milking 150-200 cows a day six days a week, for the first 16 years I worked in construction, and I got my truck driver license in 1987. I then worked eight years for Tahoe Truckee Disposal and then Reno Disposal, which became Waste Management."
Martin added, "This is a 100 percent different life from Switzerland. I totally love working in Incline and really like a lot of the people, all very nice, and I made lots of friends. I would like to be 10-15 years younger and keep doing the same thing in the same community here in Incline Village."
Regarding retirement, Martin said, "I look forward to spending my summers working for people in Incline as maybe a handyman or caring for their properties and doing cleanup work, small jobs, some things like that, if people are interested."
I will miss seeing Martin's smiling face in the mornings. I think he's a great guy.
His wife, Margaret thinks so, too.
"We have two wonderful sons and one granddaughter," she said, "and our happy home looks like a Swiss chalet. Do you know the real reason why IVGID spent all that money on new trash cans for Incline Village?" she asked me. "Because they found out that Martin is retiring."
Bill Casey is an Incline Village resident.