Twenty-five years ago our family adopted a two mile stretch of State Highway 89 a mile north and south of where 89 intersects with County Road 8. The state put up a sign on either end of our stretch notifying the public of this fact. Some drivers threw less litter because of this sign and others threw more. The first year of cleaning was brutal. We were cleaning up fifty years of junk, but at least we had the three boys to help. The state gave us trash bags and florescent vests and when we were done, they sent a truck to pick up the harvest. There were several old tires and logs (which we kept for our stove), but most of the trash was beer cans and beer bottles and plastic pop bottles. It is illegal to have an open beer bottle in your car so I could understand all the empties in the ditch. The state of Mississippi allows drivers to drink and I wondered if their ditches were cleaner than ours.
A few years after we started cleaning, the gas stations in Roseau opened mini fast food shops. Our ditches are about 15 minutes south of town, just the amount of time it takes to consume a pizza or a taco, and we started seeing Taco John and Pizza Hut packaging in the ditch. I could kind of empathize with the beer drinkers, but there is no open burrito law in Minnesota. I began to have hateful thoughts about the southbound "pigs" who thought it was ok to let fly their garbage in my ditch. I calmed myself by imagining the trash being sucked out of the car when the driver opened his window to dispel the smell of refried beans. He wanted to stop, but there was a probably a semi on his tail. The perpetrator would mentally chastise himself and vow to adopt a highway of his own, once he got out of treatment.
Anyway, the boys grew up and moved away and now, once a year, Teresa and I (mostly Teresa) walk the ditches. The beer cans and beer bottles are still our greatest challenge. Why can't we be more like Mississippi?