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Volume 16, Issue 9 - February 28 - March 5, 2008


Beer Cans and Back Roads

I’m not a country song writer, but that’s my lament

My beer-can target recycling can was stolen 24 hours after I put it out.

by Mick Blackistone

Beer Cans and Back Roads is not the title of a hit country song. Nor is it the title of my next book. No, unfortunately, this time around the title describes the shoulders of our rural roads.

My southern Anne Arundel County back roads can either be Franklin Gibson or Fairhaven because I drive them daily, walk them regularly and admire them frequently. The woods, ravines, derelict barns, busted fences, turkey, deer, fox and more are beautiful, peaceful complements to the place where I am lucky enough to live.

Each of us has a back road that we can call our own. It could be Bell Branch in Gambrills, Governors Bridge in Davidsonville or any one of hundreds from Severn to Pasadena, Severna Park to Arnold, down through the Bay Ridge peninsula and most anywhere in Calvert County. The one blemish on my, and perhaps your, back road is the litter, primarily beer cans, that I pick up routinely. Perhaps you do the same on your back road. Hard to keep ahead of it, isn’t it?

I don’t know the litterers, nor do I understand them. I have a hard time understanding the mentality, or lack thereof, of the people who continue to trash the environment like this.

But I know their beverages of choice. Bud Light, Coors Light, Busch Light and Natural Light to be sure. One person enjoys a cigar a couple times a week as he’s cruising my back roads. The cigars come in a blue or red plastic tube that join the beer cans that litter the shoulder of the roads.

A few weeks ago my wife, Cindy, and sister-in-law, Pam, joined me for a cleanup of Fairhaven Road from the Fairhaven community to Friendship Road. In this mile and a half stretch, we filled two large contractor bags with trash and cans. We didn’t get it all. Four days later, on my walk, the cans were back, and I picked up another 13-gallon trash bag full. Unbelievable.

There are several things I’m going to do about it; maybe you will consider doing the same.

First, if I see any of the lazy, insensitive few toss a can or trash out the window, I’m going to stop them and ask them where they live so that I can come and dump my recycling bin on their lawn. They might enjoy that because they apparently think the litter is very attractive on the side of my back road.

Second, I’m going to put a yellow 55-gallon recycling bin halfway up the back road with a sign on it that says Beer Can Target: Can You Hit It? A little challenge might be fun for them at their level; it might even make a point.

Third, I know teenagers and young adults drink in their cars and need to get rid of the evidence before they get home. I’m going to ask the ones in my circle to please discard their cans properly, even in someone else’s recycling bin or trash can, but not along the back roads.

Finally, I’m going to ask you to take ownership of your back road and pick up the litter you see. It’s good exercise, too.

Litter is like a malignant cancer: Somehow it just keeps spreading and coming back. When we pick up and promote roadside clean-ups, areas look great for a little while. Then the cans, bottles, paper wrappers and more come out of remission. I used to think winter was a slow time for littering, with the cancer in remission wrapped in freezing wind and shrouds of snow. I guess I was wrong.

Spring is just around the corner, so do whatever you can to help keep the beer cans and other litter from the back roads. It sure will help return them to their natural peace and appearance.

Mick Blackistone is the author of seven books of poetry, local history and fables for children, all about the Bay. He last contributed to Bay Weekly’s Christmas ’07 anthology of holiday memories:

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