Saturday, January 25, 2014
PICKING UP ROADSIDE RUBBISH IN THE JANUARY COLD
This past week has continued to have the bitter cold of this January in Alabama. In fact, the entire month has had below normal cold, as night temperatures have dipped into single digits in some locations. In contrast, the sun and the bright blue sky have been extremely brilliant during these frigid conditions, resulting in sunny, clear days. The wind from the north has truly made the temperatures feel unbearably, cold — colder than the actual readings. On such a day, Thursday, January 23, 2014, I choose to be outside. I was appropriately dressed for the weather—layered clothing, gloves, and a skull cap which we used to call a toboggan. I was exposed to the outdoor weather conditions from 12:30 pm until 5:30 pm. That is why I’m writing this article to tell you about my leisurely, but surprising, day.
My wife, Pat, and I were visiting my mother in Winston County, Alabama. One of my objectives during the visit was to pick up trash off both sides of Winston County Road 21 (Poplar Springs Road) from my mother’s driveway entrance, past all the Kilgore old home place land, past the state of Alabama land, and stopping at the Winston/Walker County line.
While visiting Mother these past few months, it was obvious that the road litter was becoming worse by the day. The country road has become a major thoroughfare of sorts, connecting Alabama Highway 195 to Alabama Highway 5, used by various travelers in the area. It has also become a commercial route for trucking interests. With all the coal strip mining in the area, the paved highway has become progressively dangerous. The heavy traffic has resulted in a severely damaged road surface, with very poor and unsafe shoulders. It is difficult to safely meet oncoming traffic because the road is too narrow for huge eighteen wheelers when meeting oncoming traffic. The ubiquitous pot holes are a result of the abuse. In fact, on this day, a special truck filled with asphalt was creeping along County. Road 21, filling the numerous potholes. Another by-product of all this road traffic and abuse is constant litter appearing on the roadside.
Picking up litter was a project that my father, Cecil Kilgore, carried out until his death in April 2012. He never walked as far as the county line picking up trash, but he did go past the property he owned. I never heard him complain about the people or the trash. He just silently went about the task of keeping his property clean. I was able to share time with him, helping him to pick up trash on the side of the road. Daddy is my inspiration to continue the ritual.
This week I choose to start at the county line and work back to Mother’s driveway. I took Daddy’s truck and parked it at the county line. I used the truck bed as my retaining and holding station for all the bags I accumulated that day. The amount of trash I picked up amazed me.
Right at the county line, someone had used the location as an actual garbage dump, resulting in six bags of trash just from that one site. Then there were four bags of trash acquired from the state land going toward the old Kilgore home place. On the roadside dividing the old home place property, I got two bags of garbage, one which was filled with construction and flooring debris left on the side of the road in front of Granny Kilgore’s house. There was also some wood, two wooden pallets, and a five gallon bucket used for mixing grout, all of which I could not place in a garbage bag. I filled twelve garbage bags with trash during my sunny, but cold afternoon, plus all the construction items found.
Among the items found were the usual glass soda and beer bottles, multiple plastic drink bottles, paper cups, carry-out styrofoam containers, plastic bags, cigarette boxes, snuff cans, pillows, paper plates, and candy wrappers. All along the roadside and in the grass ditches there were small pieces of coal which had fallen from the coal trucks. These I left untouched for obvious reasons. The amount of liter I picked up certainly points to the fact that we are a careless and trashy people. I just don’t understand it! Why can’t people take their trash home with them and place it in their garbage cans? We have garbage pickup in the most remote areas of the state, and it would make for a much more beautiful country side if there was no trash left on the side of the roads. Enough preaching!
I would like to share about a most unusual and puzzling item I found while collecting the roadside trash. It was a yellow and white shoe box with the name, YELLOWBOX on it. On the side of the box were the words: Style—Kylie, Color—Black, Size—7. When I picked the box up to place it in a garbage bag, I felt the weight of the box to be heavier than expected. It wasn't an empty shoe box, so I decided to open it.
What I thought I saw at first were two small stuffed animals. On top was a stuffed, miniature pink monkey or gorilla. Below it looked like a small stuffed puppy—black in color with touches of brown on the end of its mouth and legs. The little dog was lying on its side with legs extended in a natural side pose. The animal looked like a replica of a Miniature Pinscher puppy. Next to the mouth of the puppy was a miniature chewable dog bone. The fur on the beautiful little puppy was smooth and shiny.
But on second look, I realized that it was not a stuffed toy at all. It was the body of a real puppy.. This became obvious when I looked at the dog’s opened eye, and saw that the eyeball was sunken in with a colorless, cloudy, dark look. I couldn’t believe someone took the time to carefully place the dog into a nice shoebox, gave it a stuff animal as a burial companion, and a bone next to its mouth, and then discarded it on the side of the road. What I saw made no sense to me. It still doesn’t. Someone showed some thought and loving interest to go to the trouble of creating such a thoughtful final scene for this little dog. Then, the box was left on the side of the road with the rest of the trash, discarded in a very non- caring way. I took the box and placed it in the bed of the truck.
After filling most of my bags, at 4:00 pm I had a cell phone call from Mother, wanting to know how I was doing, and how much longer I would be out. She was wondering how I was making it in the cold weather. I assured her that I was making it fine, and that I had been comfortable all day because of the multiple layers of clothes I was wearing, and because I was moving about, walking all the miles I had. I told her I estimated I would be back home around 5:30 pm because I still had both sides of Granny Kilgore’s place to pick up. I knew it would not take me as long there because the liter wasn’t as prevalent. My estimation was correct, and I was back to Mother’s right at 5:30 pm. I immediately told them about the YELLOWBOX, and what I had found in it. I asked them if they wanted to see what I described, but they declined.
The box remained in the back of the truck overnight. During the entire evening, my mind could not turn loose of what I had seen in the box, and the fact that i needed to do something about it.
After waking up early on Friday morning, it finally came to my mind how I could take care of the yellow and white box. After breakfast, I went to the tool shed and got some tools so I could dig a grave for the little puppy. I selected a special place that i only know, that is protected by a marker, preventing any wild animals from getting to the box’s contents.
I’m still trying to play out all scenarios that would explain the mystery of the YELLOWBOX and its special contents. Reflecting on all this, I’ve come to believe that the little pink primate was a dog toy. The puppy was not a newborn pup because its head was too defined and its coat was not that of a newborn. If you have any thoughts about the entire situation, please make comments in the box below. I will sign off now as the roadside trash picker-upper of Poplar Springs Road—at least for two miles of it.