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Tuesday, 20 September 2011


By Jeanne Waite Follett of Gullible's Travels

A dozen miles north of Seward, the highway crests a large hill and then sweeps downhill in a mile-long “S” curve to the floodplain of Snow River. There, it crosses a low boggy area and then rises again on a man-made overpass over the tracks of the Alaska Railroad.


Off to the right, the red steel girders of a picturesque railroad trestle span the river, the kind of trestle not seen much anymore. Downstream of it is a large open area, formerly a materials pit from which gravel for highway construction had been extracted.

At the apex of the overpass, the eye is drawn to this area, not to the mountains behind it that run parallel to the highway across the narrow valley. Instead, attention is focused on a mound of screened gravel, perhaps 15 feet high and three times that long. More specifically, attention is focused at the base of that mound.

That mound of gravel was my destination. A gray overcast that had brought rain for several days was surrendering to a late afternoon sun leaving remnants of clouds clinging to the lower parts of the mountains.

I turned off the highway onto a narrow road that led to the double arms of a locked gate.

The railroad had posted a No Trespassing sign on this gate. I parked, gathered my gear and ducked under the gate. I was pretty sure nobody would protest my trespassing.

Reaching the base of that pile, I surveyed the task ahead of me.

I pulled out a folded, yellow, litter bag from the pouch fastened around my waist and flapped it open. I began at one end of the mound and worked my way across its face picking up the detritus of sportsmen who littered.


For many years, this site has been used as an unofficial firing range and bore the evidence of such. Discarded ammo boxes, plastic cartridge holders, telephone books, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, pieces of plywood, a tire, a microwave oven and other impromptu targets were scattered around the area. All of it was pocked with multiple bullet holes. From the highway, it looked like a garbage dump.

After two hours in the still, hot afternoon, I’d filled eight bags with litter and stacked them out of the way so they too wouldn’t be used as targets. I was picking up more litter as I walked back to my truck when an errant breeze brought the mist of a soft summer shower to my skin.

I looked in the direction from where the moisture had come and there, against a low ridge, was a full arched rainbow.


I acknowledged the message.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


And they say one person can't accomplish anything! What a good steward of our earth you are. If everyone would just take one little area, what a difference it could make. Got to get me one of those sticks with a pointy end!

I live very near a big city that is forever having giant "Clean up the Block Days".

Some organization like the Boy Scouts or a large corporation with a "civic duty" department will set aside a Saturday and come and clean up the whole block of about 60 row houses.

You wouldn't believe the stuff they pile up and take away from these neighborhoods.
and just plain trash are taken away in giant city trash trucks.

I often wonder why each home renter or owner does not simply clean up in front of their own home and then the block would be clean and nice all year,not just the one day that some civic minded group comes along to do it.

Good for you,Jeanne.I admire you for caring what your area looks like and for taking action to do something about it.

You are a gem beyond compare. Kudos for being such a good citizen. If only there were more like you.

I think I'll invite you to visit my granddaughter's bedroom with your plastic bag. ;-)

Five years ago, I expanded my litter-picking range from my general vicinity to include about fifty miles of the Seward highway, over two mountain passes. It's all national forest land. It keeps me in shape and I love being out in the mountains with the wildflowers. I do a mile a day--that's one mile up and one mile back. Sometimes more. Then, I maintain that all summer long. I'm not bragging here, just saying that one person can accomplish a lot if the desire is there.

Feels good to share your moment with nature and the universe.

A great piece!! Brings back memories of living in the country in Michigan and taking a walk down the gravel road with my granddaughter, then about 4 or 5 years old. We each carried a garbage bag to use as we picked trash up on the edge of the tree lined road between her house and mine. We did it in the spring and the fall. Even today, she will stop and pick up something on the edge of the sidewalk here in our town. Today she is 17. If I am with her she asks, "Do you remember the walks when we used to do this on our walks to your house when we lived in the country?
Michigan Grandma

You earned your Brownie points, that's for sure. Now it's up to each of us to do the same. Thanks for the gentle but silent push which we all need once in awhile.

You story reminded me of the book "One Man's Wilderness", about Richard Proenneke who moved alone to Alaska's Twin Lakes area in 1968 where he lived for the next thirty years.

In a few of his stories (based on his journals) he tells about cleaning up after the tourist hunters.

It is disheartening that this littering still occurs, but it gives us hope that there are still people who go out there and clean up.

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