Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Burning Leaves, Burning Trash

Sometimes my father would say "It's time to burn the trash." I liked to help him. We took bags full of old papers out to a wire trash burner that stood behind the garage. We crumpled up some of the paper, and stacked it up so that it could catch fire easily, set a match to it, and then watched until we were sure that all the fire was out. We were careful to do this on a day without too much wind, or burning papers and ashes would blow around in a dangerous way. Sometimes the flames went very high as the papers burned.

As we drove around in the countryside yesterday, we saw piles of burning autumn leaves. After raking their yards, country people still pile up leaves and set them on fire. In the city, we also pile up the leaves, but then big trucks and street sweepers come by and pick them up. In the city no one wants all the smoke and ash that come from burning leaves or burning trash.

A long time ago, people didn't use as much paper as we do now. Paper and other trash seemed to be less of a problem, so we could just burn it all up. Our small garbage can was big enough for old apple peels, old cans, and other garbage. Most bottles were used again. Our milk man came to our house every few days to deliver milk and butter. He took the empty glass bottles from our milk, brought them back to the dairy, and they were cleaned and filled up with milk again. Coke bottles went back to the store where the coke delivery man picked them to be refilled at the bottling plant. Even the egg man who brought eggs to our house also picked up egg cartons to reuse them, I think.

Now we collect the paper in a bag and put it in the recycle bin, and collect the bottles and cans and plastic. We hope that most of this trash will be taken to a recycling plant and made into other things. For example, old computer paper can be made into new paper. Old magazines can be made into roofing material. Other paper can be shredded and used as packaging material. Old plastic can make a nice surface for park walkways. We try to do the right thing with our trash.

I used to love raking leaves into a big pile and setting them on fire in the gutter. The smoke smelled good. I probably got a good dose of second hand smoke but that was then and nobody really cared. Neither my parents or grandparents worried about me being or becoming a pyromaniac. Neighbor kids brought more leaves. We all tried to keep the fire going as long as we could. Now it's unlawful to burn your leaves here where we live.

Your cousin
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