Monday, March 30, 2009

Gravel Roads (August 11th, 2007) Minneapolis Star-Tribune

I live on a gravel road. Now as with anything, there are both benefits and detriments associated with such an arrangement. I could prattle on about the poetic life of not only taking the road less traveled, but actually living on it. On Sunday mornings I can walk across the road to grab the newspaper, scan the front page, look at the comics, and not worry about being in the obituaries on Monday because I was hit by a truck on Sunday. Kids – don’t try this at home - let your parents do it.

But, alas there is also the matter of dust. Every August when the drought warnings are at their highest, even the lightest rural traffic on the road in front of our farm can raise a dust cloud reminiscent of the 1930’s. In addition to the dust, the uneven rhythm of the road surface can prematurely age an otherwise sound vehicle. This bone rattling country road has even caused me to part with a classic car just to preserve the car and my sanity. At least I won’t have to keep it clean anymore – which is nearly impossible out here in the hinterlands.

I can tolerate the dust, and the loss of a great car – but what I cannot stomach is selfish, short-sighted stupidity. When did our rural roadways and ditches become the dumping ground for the great unwashed and unwanted? When I was a kid (here we go again) we had a national campaign against littering. Back then the fast-food throw away wrapper had just entered the scene, and apparently people saw nothing wrong with tossing them from their windows at 70 mph. I believe this attitude was turned around when a Native American was shown in a commercial shedding a tear over the litter strewn across the fruited plain. Now perhaps the moment has passed for using that symbol in an ad campaign – but the emotion still exists. We can not use our rural landscapes as the dumping ground for discarded debris. I can lend a tear for the ending of that horrible habit.

Along the quiet rural roads I have discovered among other household items, a toilet (without the furry seat cover), an aquarium with the fish long flushed down (see previous item), and a couch that had been worn out by too many mind-numbing hours watching the latest realty TV show - Trading Trash.

It wasn’t that long ago that when you needed a new washer and dryer you plopped down the $499.89 – if the price is right (Bob Barker – we’re going to miss you) and they hauled your old stuff away as part of the deal. Nowadays the people who sell appliances may have to charge for such a luxury. I understand that – they have to pay to get rid of them too. So instead of digging a little deeper in their pockets, some folks would rather dump their dishwasher in the ditch along with their dirty dishes.

There are alternatives: local municipalities have clean-up days where you can dispose of your unwanted items (large or small), and some enterprising folks will even accept used appliances for the scrap metal.

Maybe if the price of gas keeps rising it will become too expensive to load up the truck for a trip to the country. Or maybe once we get done rounding up all the criminal smokers in our state we can pass one more law. A $10,000 dollar fine (or tax, or user-fee if you’d rather) for the first offense of illegal dumping, and for the second offense their yard gets turned into the city dump for a month.

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