One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” so an old saying goes. Or is it “another’s treasure becomes our trash”?

Not sure, but as Ray Bradbury observed more than a half century ago — “Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich…..” in both.

I am just recuperating from several days of trash collection. From our streams and lakes, our rivers and our roadways. A few moments, as well as items, stand out.

The industrial tire “donated” by a construction company paid millions to build our latest state park. Another large agricultural tire by the Powder Mill Cave streamside, walked around by government employees and visitors alike for at least eight years until the other evening.  

The set of bed springs that required at least two hours of digging to remove. The family from Tennessee that actually threw trash out of their vehicle as they drove to Alley where we volunteers were preparing to celebrate our efforts.

The conversation I had with a friend from Dent County, who had joined with neighbors to collect trash from their county road only to be told by their elected commissioners they could NOT put the trash in the county dumpsters.

The dilapidated backpack I retrieved from a drift. Curious by nature; inquisitive by profession — I opened it up. A letter no longer legible. Perhaps a note from home to a college student feeling abandoned and adrift in a sea of change almost unbelievable to those from her conservative home? A letter from a friend to encourage her?

There were two marbles. A “cat’s eye” and a caramel colored “aggie.” The prizes from a game of “ringers” during a fondly recalled childhood? Perhaps gifts from a younger sibling? Keepsakes passed down from an older generation; a time when children more frequently “knuckled down” to shoot marbles in the dust and dirt of an Ozark playground?

There was a rock. Washed in during the canvas conveyance’s passage downstream; or deposited by the owner as part of their chosen collection? A missile chosen for its accuracy for future squirrel hunts? A remnant from a makeshift game of hopscotch?

A brass buckle with a bit of leather still attached. A slip of harness? A part of a shoe; awaiting a cobbler’s hands to reattach it to some favored piece of footwear? A trifle perhaps found during a stroll; kept simply until it could be deposited in some proper receptacle for refuse itself?

It was all trash now, except for the two marbles which have been added to my collection. It joined several bottles and cans in one of several large green mesh bags that joined a few tires and a set of bed springs already in my boat.

A boat that has already hauled a ton of trash from Missouri lakes and streams in 2017. Pulled by a truck that has pulled a sixteen-foot trailer that has hauled another ton of trash from Missouri roads — again, already in 2017.

We live in an area of almost unimaginable beauty. We enjoy its splendor as well as rely on it for a reasonable amount of tourism trade. Yet, we continue to allow it to be trashed and too often contribute to that trash ourselves.

A soda can thoughtlessly discarded; feed sacks left unsecured in the bed of trucks and allowed to fly out along the road.

The quality of our lives as well as a significant part of our economic industry are at risk because of our apathy.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at


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