Apparently my family was green long before it became popular, let alone a noun. Recently I came across a blog entry that brought back a flood of memories. While that particular family was picking up cans in the ditches along a rural road and planning to sell them for scrap metal, my memory goes back to a time before soda pop came in cans. I vividly recall working the ditches along a rural highway in the 60’s with my older brother and younger sister. Our “work” was collecting bottles for the deposit money.
We collected bottles when we drove from our home in Omaha to my grandparent’s house, which was in a nearby town. As my mother slowly drove the car along the shoulder of the road, the three of us scouted the ditches for pop bottles. We shuttled our loot back and forth to the car, slowly working our way along the rural highway. As I remember, there were certain places in the road where people seemed to be more inclined to toss bottles out their car windows and into the ditches. These popular dumping areas became well known to us.
It was a task with built in rewards for success. I wonder how much money we made doing this? Certainly, it was good exercise, but I clearly remember being in it for the thrill of the hunt. I have no idea how the money was divided up. Did we keep track of the number of bottles we collected? Or did, as I suspect, my older brother get the majority of the money while my sister and I were recipients of a trickle down effect?
My mother remembers it being fun for us and an activity that we enjoyed. She knows we received the money for the bottles, but has no idea how it was divided up. (I still suspect my older brother was in charge and my sister and I were very likely short-changed.) Beyond our monetary motivation, my mother pointed out that our father traveled a lot. Collecting pop bottles kept us busy and away from the neighborhood kids for a day. Perhaps it was therapeutic for our mom to be away from the neighborhood kids for a day too, as that particular neighborhood was full of children.
One thing of which I am certain is that I recall it as being great fun. How collecting pop bottles from ditches along a rural road in the middle of the summer could be considered fun is an interesting idea to contemplate now. Certainly this would be viewed as work rather than fun today. Today this would be a community service project. Today we could have that stretch of the road named after my family, assuming, of course, that we would collect all the trash and not just the bottles. But back then it was a way for some kids to have fun and earn money at the same time.
I am thinking that I need to get Wonder Boy and Just Me out collecting cans from the ditches along some rural roads. Sure they are a little older now than we were then, but I think they could learn some valuable lessons collecting cans along side the road and selling those cans for scrape metal. They could keep the money they made, minus the cost of gas, of course.