A Little on the Trashy Side

When I was growing up in Nashville, there was an iconic anti-littering commercial featuring an unsavory motorist chucking garbage out of a jalopy and a song about “Tennessee Trash” playing in the background.

In today’s inclusive world, I don’t suspect you could air a public service announcement equating a human to trash–even as double-entendre. Even in Tennessee. But I gotta say, that ad made a lasting impression on 1976 me. Whenever I see litter, I think, “Lawd, there ain’t no lower class than Tennessee trash.”

That’s what I was humming this weekend as we picked up trash along the Richland Creek Greenway for my youngest son’s bar mitzvah project.

My son and a half-dozen classmates teamed up with Cumberland River Compact and Friends of South Africa to clean a stream along the Richland Creek Greenway. The South African club adopted the stretch of waterway along the driveway of Nashville State Community College and my alma mater, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, several years ago, and they regularly clean the banks and bed throughout the year.

Cumberland River Compact makes the task easy, supplying bright-orange vests, grabber tools, heavy-duty trash bags, and souvenir T-shirts, not to mention the all-important trash pick-up when the job is done.

My son provided manpower in the form of a generous and tireless band of seventh-graders.

Roughly speaking, we gleaned three giant sacks of cigarettes, beer cans, newspaper and grocery bags, and Styrofoam cups from a delicious, if controversial, fast-food chicken chain. In addition to paper and plastic debris, we excavated some cable cord, telephone pole cables, re-bar, and other heavy-metal detritus, along with a handful of Legos and toy cars.

Cleaning a stream is a very cheerful chore with very visible results.

The discovery of the day was a literal message in a bottle, which we saved until we had completed our garbage-grabbing rounds. As we ate popsicles and cookies (provided by thoughtful friends who joined us after a morning of planting trees with Nashville Tree Foundation), we uncorked the mysterious bottle. The message read, “UR cursed if UR reading this!”

Standing in the spring sunshine, beside a freshly cleaned greenway stream, with seven delightful young community volunteers, I begged to differ.


To adopt a stream in Metro Nashville, visit Cumberland River Compact.

2 thoughts on “A Little on the Trashy Side

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