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Red Badge of Courage…

It’s easy to see why James Taylor sang about North Carolina; there is nothing like a fine morning here. When I shoved off at 6:20 a.m. the sky was already in the early stages of the  blue that makes this state like no other.

The birds – cardinals notably – were also in full song. I wish I could recognize the tunes of the other species. As I walked my leisurely pace toward Colony Road, a deer silhouetted by a streetlight moseyed across Sharon View 100 yards or so ahead of me.

The water bottles caked in red clay on the left were the most aggravating part of today's walk. Why the hell do work crews just toss this aside?

The water bottles caked in red clay on the left were the most aggravating part of today’s walk. Why the hell do work crews just toss recyclables aside?

Then it all went to hell. My bubble burst when the first polystyrene cup (local restaurant Showmar’s) came into view, followed a few steps later by a Gatorade bottle blown to smithereens by a tire. It was back to business as usual.

If there is a routine to picking up other people’s trash, it is to expect the unexpected. Last week, before the snow arrived, crews from Time Warner Cable had dug a hole of some depth and perhaps 15 feet in length and 8 to 10 feet wide along Sharon Road. But their work came to a halt when rains and snow melt reduced the worksite to red clay mud. The hole was now filled with muddy water to perhaps 18 inches of the top.

But this is where things went sideways. Bobbing in the water was an Evian bottle and a plastic container of snuff. Sprinkled around the site were half a dozen other water bottles carelessly discarded by the Time Warner crews. Some were half buried in the mud. Since my shoes are already a mess, I stepped into the mud, retrieved the bottles above the water line and looked for something to scoop out the bottle and snuff can.

A lengthy piece of broken plastic pipe did the trick. I fished the snuff can out first by balancing it on the broken end of the pipe. A flip of the wrist brought the Evian bottle ashore. My white shoes were now caked in the red clay mud. A Red Badge of Courage.

And so it went. It is a depressing routine. Since my shoes were beyond immediate cleaning, it was the right time to tend to the stream out back once I got home. I’d seen several items of debris floating up against a small jam of sticks and logs. Another stick helped me steer the flotsam to the banks and into another bag.

The sky was now the blue Taylor sang about. My mood matched that shade.

A natural net of twigs and wood snared junk that might otherwise have headed downstream.

A natural net of twigs and wood snared junk that might otherwise have headed downstream.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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