Littering of the roadside really gets my goat — though I don’t necessarily dislike people who litter. It’s hard to have anything but pity for those whose lives are so empty as to make them capable of such apathy. An appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us and a desire to preserve and maintain it are the products of a loving and generous mind. In contrast, the kind of mind that would trash its surroundings is more likened to a root vegetable.
Unlike a real root vegetable, though, such a mind has the option of improving its lot, achieving at least the enlightened consciousness of a cabbage. Until then, though, the human root vegetable remains so self-absorbed as to commit the crime of littering — not only trashing the surroundings of others but his own as well. A sad case — too bad.
One can only hope that something will happen in this person’s life that will cause him to be happy and not litter — something like winning the lottery. But no, so deep is his apathy and indifference that he might not even notice if he did. Such a theory was borne out recently when a volunteer picking up litter found a winning lottery ticket discarded by a passing motorist amongst the roadside trash.
The ticket wasn’t the “big winner” as I guess it would be called (I don’t play the lottery so am ignorant of lottery lingo) but was for a generous sum nonetheless. The finder says that despite his newfound fortune, he is barely breaking even after the expense of a decade’s worth of trash bags and landfill fees.
I am authorized to return the winnings to the actual ticket purchaser. To receive the winnings, the purchaser must, in writing, describe the ticket and accurately state where and when it was discarded, sign the paper, have it notarized then send it to me care of this newspaper. If the information is correct, I’ll send a money order for the winnings and, on the basis of this signed confession, the lucky winner will promptly be arrested for littering.
Even without the arrest, fine and court costs, that the litterer is out the money and the cleanup volunteer is that much richer is an example of instant justice. Years ago, near the same place, I witnessed another litter related example.
Around 1993, CountRy Magazine and the Reiman Media Group sought among contributors those who would like to become “field editors.” Eventually, 250 people were chosen across the United States and Canada with me as the sole field editor in West Virginia. I thought that having my name published in every issue of a magazine with a circulation of three million subscribers plus news stand sales would help me sell future writing. I still don’t know if it actually helped in this regard and probably never will.
Establishing a working relationship with the editors at Reiman certainly did help — and still does.
Field editors received a special quarterly newsletter in addition to a complimentary subscription to CountRy and one other Reiman publication of our choice. My choice was Farm and Ranch Living for which I am still a regular paid contributor. The newsletter contained specifics as to what the publisher was looking for: more winter photos, old barns converted for other purposes, small, local grassroots festivals and so forth.
Now and then, we were given assignments. A needle in a haystack theme was established in the magazine by there being a tiny picture of a needle hidden somewhere in the text and photos.
Anyone finding this needle became eligible for a modest little prize — a trivet, a book, a tea cozy (whatever that is).
The “needle in a haystack” theme was continued in the “Great CountRy Cleanup.” This new program involved field editors hiding small packets. Each packet contained a plastic needle and a certificate redeemable for $100. One of these packets — no one but CountRy knew which one — was redeemable for $4,000. These packets were to be hidden amongst roadside trash to be found by volunteer cleanup crews and individuals. There were eight packets assigned to each state and Canadian province.
Being the only field editor in West Virginia at the time, I had my work cut out for me. I wondered how the field editor in the Yukon Territory was getting along with the entire province to herself. My eight packets were distributed as evenly as I could in West Virginia’s Hampshire, Hardy and Mineral counties. I eventually made a deal with a field editor in southern Virginia where we would cross each other’s borders and hide a packet.
The best year was when the public stepped in to help. Mayhew Chevrolet in Romney donated the use of a small, fuel efficient car and another donor helped with fuel, food and lodging. My wife, Stephanie and I then took an eight hundred mile tour of West Virginia distributing the packets more or less evenly across the state.
After a few years, CountRy made some adjustments leading to there being more field editors in West Virginia. I now had only two packets to place annually. Our road was certainly littered adequately to qualify so I placed one of the packets under a piece of trash there. One day as I left for work a little late in the day, I chanced to see a notorious skinflint neighbor picking up discarded aluminum cans to supplement his already publicly assisted coffers.
As I passed, he regarded me with a mocking sneer that served to remind me of how foolish I was to be going to work when I could follow his example and live off the fat of the land. As I watched him reach for another can, I saw him step over the piece of trash that hid the $100 prize. No one wound up finding this particular prize packet before the expiration date, so I retrieved it and keep it as a souvenir of The Great CountRy Cleanup.
I understand that the last $4,000 winning packet was never found so there’s every chance that this was it. If my neighbor had been more civic minded and picked up trash as he went along, he could have really “cleaned up.”