The Cornucopia Ditch

Posted on January 7, 2013


DitchWe live on a well-traveled rural corner, or at least, as rural as one can get in busy Northern Virginia.  Okay, it’s more like an island of less-developed land amid the crush of pavement and strip malls everywhere else, and we do see the effects of the commuters passing through.

The traffic doesn’t bother me so much, but the trash!  Gone are the days of Woodsy Owl and “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” or the weeping Native American.  And it doesn’t help that cars don’t come with ashtrays these days.  Hint to smokers:  your “just a little cigarette butt” is not so little.

So, every so often when the trash gets to an annoyingly visible level, I will put on my gloves and walk the perimeter of our property and pick it all up.  It’s not like the county is going to do it for me; if you want the trash gone, you just have to be the Little Red Hen and do it yourself.  Most of the time it’s just trash, including a good bit of scary alcoholic-beverage-while-driving trash.  But now and again, thanks to careless loading and reckless speeding around the corner, there is a windfall.

Free prizes awarded by the ditch include a traffic cone (we used it to mark our driveway for several months, but it was eventually stolen), a nice jack-stand for my trailer, a perfectly good T-square, a pry bar and quite a bit of firewood (the firewood is a repeat occurrence).  I even found a $20 bill once while picking up trash.  And there are the times that bicyclists or neighbors will pass by and thank me for cleaning up.  That’s nice, too.

Most of the time, though, my trash-pickup detail just inspires a feeling of resignation.  It’s going to keep coming, and the only way to get rid of it is to pick it up.  The most annoying thing of all is that we also live across from a cemetery, and I just can’t imagine how crass people have to be to throw their beer bottles onto people’s graves, but they do.  I pick those up, too.

When you pick up other people’s garbage from your own property (and people’s graves) every few weeks, year after year, who wouldn’t start to dream of returning the trash to its owners?  If only one day, I might pick up a beer bottle and suddenly, the Trash-Teleportation Genie will appear, and my command will be to magically make the tobacco-spit-filled soda bottle appear in, say, someone’s bed, or the greasy bag of fast-food remains appear in, oh, I don’t know, their recliner, or the beer bottles in, say, their bathtub.  Now that would be a great superpower.

Alas, I am not a superhero, but I know someone who is.  Or was once, anyway.  He  also lives on a rural corner, and when the trash gets to an annoying level, he will go pick it up.  One day, he discovered an entire bag that someone had hurled onto their property.  Of course the bag had burst on impact, scattering the contents up and down the roadside.  But this trash included a lot of junk mail with the litterer’s address.  My friend conscientiously bagged it up and dutifully drove it back to the owner… and scattered it all over her front lawn.  As he told the story, his wife cringed.  I was amused, admiring, and… jealous.  “You have lived my dream!”   I suppose he could have gotten in trouble had he been caught at it, but he wasn’t caught.

My hero.