Chick-fil-A trash can on our property caused a litter threat

My parents, growing up in the poverty of the Appalachians, were always careful to save things they could reuse.

Like money.

And milk jugs that could be used to carry water (or store it in case of an ice storm or snowstorm). Sometimes Mom would cut off the top of the jug, fill it with soil and root cuttings.

In their days to come, they had little waste because everything was used again. The Mason jars were washed and set aside for the next summer garden; the flour arrived in “flowery” cotton bags which were used to make dresses and the snuff pots became goblets. The scraps of paper they had, including the weekly, were stored and used to start a fire in the woodstove.

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When I was young, we had little waste. The newspaper had become a daily and we also received the voluminous Sunday newspaper from Atlanta. We used cloth towels and dish towels to wipe and wash the dishes. I was about 14 years old before mom started frivolously using paper napkins.

But she was wise.

She mainly used them to dry a pot or wipe down a counter. Then, thoroughly, she rinsed it off and laid it out to dry and be reused. Coffee tins were used to store things like spools of thread or nails. In one of my kitchen cupboards is the last can of coffee Mom saved. She wrapped the bottom in duct tape so she could place it on her freezer and it wouldn’t create rings of rust.

We had so little trash that one of us picked up a paper grocery bag with two weeks of pieces thrown to the pasture and burned it. The fire ended in less than five minutes.

One of the many commandments from my childhood was that I should NEVER throw gum wrap or any other paper out of the car window.

“It’s one of the most disrespectful things in the world,” dad lectured. He smoked and he didn’t even throw out a cigarette butt. “Keep the side of the road clean with respect for others. “

For years, people have practiced this small but important gesture of courtesy. This was underscored by a massive television ad campaign in the 1970s that showed what garbage was doing to our streams and rivers. The ad ended with an elderly Native American man weeping over the garbage he found in a stream.

About fifteen years ago, our road and its ditches became a repository for school papers, bags of fast food, beer cans and water bottles. One day, someone threw a broken bag of 30 plastic containers at the end of our driveway. I had to collect everything and transport everything.

Last summer, I pulled into mom’s aisle to see that someone had strewn bags of food all over the front. I was crazy. I had just cut the grass and she looked very pristine until someone threw away her family’s Chick-fil-A. Seven pieces. I rushed over to grab it and got an unexpected surprise when I picked up the bag.

I read the receipt stapled on it. The order was placed with an app, so it contained the man’s name, phone number, and the color and brand of his vehicle. I ripped off the receipt, threw the bag away, and walked over to the phone.

To his voicemail I said, “You threw Chick-fil-A in the front of our property yesterday. I have your name, your phone number, and you drive a blue Lincoln Navigator. It is 10:55 a.m. I’ll give you until 12:30 p.m. to come here and pick up your trash, or I’ll call the sheriff and file a complaint. I have everything I need.

He was there in 20 minutes. Then he came to the door to apologize.

Perhaps it was a unique victory. Maybe not.

Especially if the wrongdoer throws out Chick-fil-A.

Ronda Rich is the bestselling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin ‘”. Visit to sign up for its free weekly newsletter.

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