Stray Kernels – Trashed

June 14, 2018

It was a shiny, silver, late-model luxury car. I was following it east on the edge of Sycamore, a respectable distance back. Suddenly, an object appeared out of the driver’s side window and shattered on the pavement ahead of me. I swerved to avoid glittering shards of heavy glass.


I was shocked and infuriated. “What kind of person DOES that?” Feeling spiteful, I pulled up closer than usual when the car stopped at a four-way intersection. For a few moments, the car was trapped by another stopped ahead of it at the stop sign. With exaggerated movements calculated to be noticeable from the luxury car’s rearview mirror, I peered intently at the license plate. As soon as the car ahead of him turned, my friend the litterer sped through the intersection and disappeared in the distance.

I spent the rest of my drive muttering to myself. Why would someone do that? What was running through his mind? (The back of the driver’s head looked male, for what that’s worth.) Is this habitual behavior?

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. If someone pulls out in front of me in traffic, I hope it’s because they just didn’t see me—we’ve all done that, right? If someone looks scowly and refuses to make eye contact, I remind myself they may be experiencing private turmoil of which I have no knowledge.

But litterers? I got nothin’. I can’t fathom why anyone would pitch trash out their car window. Why? Why not wait until you get home, or until you stop for gas? Most gas stations have trash receptacles right next to the fuel pumps. While you wait for your tank to fill, you can clear all those pop bottles and snack bags out of your door pockets and floorboards.

Standing at my husband’s desk in his upstairs office after work one day, I said jokingly, “Need a water heater? I just saw one go by in the bed of that pickup truck.” He chuckled and remarked that someone must have a weekend plumbing project ahead of them. An hour or so later, we headed into town to eat. What should we discover in the ditch about a quarter-mile west of our house? You got it. A water heater.

People who discard their unwanted stuff along roadsides make me crabby. All I can figure is that they have no respect for others, or the world around them. And I can’t understand that. I can’t imagine any of the people I know littering. But there’s stuff everywhere, and it can’t ALL be blowing out the back of garbage trucks (don’t get me started on THAT).

Ask any farmer about this issue and they’ll tell tales of the trash they’ve found in their ditches, fields, and waterways. Country roads seem to be particular magnets for people who have unwanted junk. Do they think if they go way out in the country, no one will see them dump their loads? I often wonder if they assume their garbage will go unnoticed until it’s magically swallowed by nature. Maybe they have never paid much attention to the rural landscape and assume no one else does, either.

Of course they’re wrong. We notice. Rural residents love the countryside, and care about it. We notice your water heaters, your yucky old mattresses, your landscape waste, the remnants of your fast food lunches, and your old tires. We may not know who you are, but when you heave your rubbish alongside the road, you trash our respect for you.

That brings me to Bobby M. My husband and daughter picked up your homework, strewn along our road north of Sycamore. Glancing through it, I noticed your grades weren’t perfect, but your written answers were neat and coherent. Your first and last name was on everything. I’m assuming it was you who threw all those papers out into the weeds—who else would have had them? I don’t know you, but you seem like a smart kid. I was angry with you at first, but I believe you can do better. I still think you could be someone I respect.

That goes for the rest of you litterers, too. Please don’t trash your opportunity for others to respect you.


Rhodora Collins – Ag Literacy Coordinator