WASTE NOT

Excerpt from the book PATHWAYS which will be released through Amazon in late November.

When did we become such a disposable society? I wish people would quit disposing in my front yard. When did planned obsolescence become…planned? I remember ranting to a science class about wasting resources before I even knew what planned obsolescence meant. Does that make me clairvoyant? No, it probably makes me Clarabelle the Clown. Just because we can throw away a plastic bottle should we? Why do we change fashions every season? Hems go down, go up, then go down again while ties get wide then narrow then wide again. How many of you actually wear something until it wears out? Blue jeans maybe. How many of you really drive a car until the wheels metaphorically fall off. I’ve tried often. Linda and I bought an ’86 T-Bird with sixteen miles on it. It was a beauty. Two hundred and sixteen thousand miles later, thinking we had “licked all of the red off the candy” we traded it for a Mustang. A local teenage boy bought it…and the now father of three is still driving it. Presently I am actually attempting to see who can hit a quarter million first – me or my ’97 Cherokee “Bessie Mae.” We just cracked one hundred and ninety thousand on the “Bessie Mae” but I may be slightly ahead. Am I the only one to name his cars?

My grandparent’s generation were the ultimate recyclers and repurposers. My grandmother was also huge on sayings, “Early to bed, early to rise”, “a fool and his money” and one that I heard maybe daily was “Waste not, want not.” She lived it. Old plastic Clorox bottles were carefully cleaned, holes punched in the bottom and a hole cut about a third of the way up from the bottom. Why? It would become a martin house that would join a colony of Clorox bottles suspended over the garden providing homes for birds that became part of Nannie’s insect control. Buttons were cutoff of unrepairable clothing that would be later repurposed into patchwork quilts with matching pillow covers. The buttons themselves were put into an old Quaker Oats container for future repurposing when I didn’t play with them. My first set of drums were old Quaker Oats boxes and a really magical “comeback” toy. Shoes were “half-soled” repeatedly, old overalls that had finally given up the ghost were cut into patches to extend the lives of this generation’s overalls and blue jeans.

Fall would herald another type of recycling. Dried corn and beans were gathered, the best put into burlap cloth sacks and suspended from the high rafters of the crib. There they would wait until the spring to be shelled out and replanted to provide the next year’s bounty. Potatoes were spread and separated from each other on old newspapers in the darkest corner of the crib waiting to be made into chowders, salads and mashed potatoes. Those that survived the winter were cut, dividing the eyes, and replanted in the spring to start the cycle of life all over again.

Late in the fall an odd-looking truck would show up. It was the miller’s truck, not to be confused with the Miller’s truck. This was cutting edge technology for the period. Instead of taking your grain to be ground up, the truck showed up to grind your grain. This would be preceded by a flurry of activity as corn was shelled from the cob, dang that really hurts your fingers. Corn was ground into cornmeal and grits and no I had never heard of polenta. Even the cobs were ground into a fine powder that was mixed with water to be fed to our hogs. None of this could be done until my grandmother had chosen her feed sacks. This was the ultimate repurposing. She would use the emptied feed sacks to make “sack” dresses that she sewed on her foot-operated Singer treadle sewing machine. Rarely, until later in life, did my grandmother wear anything other than homemade dresses, many made from old feed sacks. Later they would be repurposed into cleaning rags or tie ups for the tomatoes. If they were a particular favorite they would be put into her scrap bag to become a part of a quilt. I am lucky to have several.

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