Celebrating a fine eco-Samaritan, and others like him
I spied the little red Ford pickup, pulled off along the country road near home, and saw a man walking slowly along the ditch. Thinking he might need help, I toddled on down to check.
It was Ken, and he had a plastic grocery bag that he was stuffing full of spent beer cans that he was gleaning from the ditches. Huh, I thought. Someone else does what I have been doing for more than 30 years – ditchpigging. That is a term I conjured for those among us who root around and scarf up other people’s litter.
When I pressed him for the rest of his name, he just said, “Ken, that’s good enough.” Kind of shy, not a showman. A doer, not a bragger. It turns out he’s a factory worker at the sprawling Whirlpool complex in Clyde, maybe 10 miles east of my rural western Sandusky County home.
Ken lives a couple of miles away in a rural development to the southwest of my Froggy Bottom. He has made it a habit to stop on rural roadsides after work and collect cans. And boy does he collect cans. Beer-swilling meatheads that toss their empties out the window keep him well-supplied.
“I get about a thousand cans a month,” said Ken. “I stop on different roads on the way home.”
I am glad he decided to pick on one of the rural lanes near my place. It gets a mite harder every year for me to bend and reach, and my own ditchpigging has slowed.
Sometimes Ken collects so many cans he runs out of the disposable grocery bags he stashes in his little truck.
A few stray plastic bags are never far away in our piggish, careless society. Just look at almost any field of corn stubble or one of the rapidly disappearing fencerows or woodlots and you are sure to see at least a couple of them, hung up and flapping obscenely in the breeze. One of America’s proud petrocrops.
Imagine, 12,000 cans, one man, ditchpigging, in a year – in one little corner of one little county among the 3,007 counties in these lower 48 states. The trash-toll, extrapolated, is saggingly staggering, and Ken’s worthy work revolves around just aluminum cans. It does not include all the fast food garbage and packaging, spent lottery tickets (the fool’s retirement plan), toilets, tires, plastic containers, couches, appliances, and endless stream of what-not waste. We are so happy to virtually throw away hard-earned money on worthless nonsense.
Get out and take a walk, look for yourself. Do it soon, before the grass grows up and temporarily hides the trash before it is chewed and shredded to unrecognizable bits by bushhog runs by township, county, and state road crews in the seasonal exercise in government waste that is mindless roadside mowing. And pack a bag or two to collect some stuff and recycle what you can. There is plenty to go around, everywhere, not just rural lanes but in town as well.
Well, enough of the dark side. The point is not to dwell on the ugly habits and folkways of our knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, lowlife brethren, but rather to celebrate a truly good and fine eco-Samaritan, Ken, and others like him.
One can only hope that more such folks are on the way and working the roadsides. The others, well … they are welcome to go extinct.