Please Litter Here

Untitled“Who do we know who drives a Prius?” I asked as a car pulled into our driveway.

My wife dove behind the couch.

“It’s Fiona!” she hissed, “get down!”

Fiona is our township’s most fervent crusader and notorious busybody.

“Too late,” I said, “she spotted us.”

Within minutes, Fiona had us both backed against a wall waving a petition under our noses.

Rather than debate the issue, my wife snatched the petition out of Fiona’s hand; scribbled across it and hustled her out the door. A moment later, the Prius whirled onto the gravel and kicked up dust toward the neighbors.

“What was that about?” I asked.

“The litter along Drunk Creek Road” my wife said.


“And Fiona wants to put a stop to it.”

Admitted, our little trail across the prairie is a mess.  The kids use it for weekend cruising and who can blame them?  It is the only stretch of gravel in the county that can boast both a curve AND a hill.  All other roads run straight and level between featurless fields of corn and beans.  Therefore Drunk Creek Road is not only considered exceptionally scenic but extraordinarily romantic – and who can object to romance? Certainly not I  But like Fiona, I object to the rooster-tails of aluminum cans that accompany our youth on their romantic outings.

“So what does she propose?” I asked.

“She wants the township to put up a NO LITTERING sign.”

“That’ll solve the problem,” I said with absolute confidence.

“And she demands the sheriff enforce it.”

Groan… It’s the problem I have with people like Fiona, they confuse the talent to spot a problem with the wisdom to spot the solution.

“I’m glad I didn’t sign it,” I said.

“No you’re not,” my wife said.


“Because I signed it for you.”


My wife looked at me like I was the world’s biggest idiot. “Everybody signs Fiona’s petitions and everyone knows that everyone does, so no one takes them seriously.”

“I don’t work that way,” I told her.  So I got on the phone to Gil, our township board chairman and explained about the petition.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “everybody signs Fiona’s petitions and everyone knows that everyone does, so no one takes her petitions seriously.”

“Oh..” I said.

We chatted a while.  Gil knows I worked for the Minneapolis Police [not as a cop] and he was as wary as I was about using the law enforcement to solve public nuisance problems.

“So how did you guys handle these situations,” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “one time we weaponized opera.”


“We received a lot of complaints from shopkeepers about skate-boarders.  Normally, they are good kids but their antics scared older customers away.  So we looked around for a passive solution and found that piping classical music into the area acted like a bug repellent on the skateboarders.  The kids hated it, the older shoppers loved it, problem solved. A decade later we used opera to clear out the warehouse district after bar closing.  We blasted Wagner’s Ring Cycle from sound trucks. Something there is about young people that does not appreciate Wagner…”

“Social engineering, huh?,” said Gil, “Geez, you just gave me a great idea.”

A month later, a crew planted a sign post at the curve on Drunk Creek Road.

Normally, road signs are yellow and contain graphics and lettering but this one was different. Centered on the sign was a large red target on a white background.

Within a week, a pile of cans and bottles materialized at the base of the sign as the kids leaned out car windows while roaring by and took careful aim at the big red bulls-eye that rose like a morning sun over the only hill on Drunk Creek Road.

Author: Almost Iowa

43 thoughts on “Please Litter Here”

  1. My last dentist used weaponized opera on his patients. I left. And I’ve not been a teen for many decades….

  2. I just managed to add this to Stumbled Upon. It’s the first thing I’ve posted there, so I’m not sure it’ll be particularly visible, but it’s worth a try.

      1. It is, so they say, worth figuring out–which I’m trying to do. I have no idea if “they” know what they’re talking about, however.

  3. That’s a clever, local solution to a big problem. What I have to know is — has the sign been shot up yet? That’s an open invitation to a different kind of target practice.

    It does surprise me to hear hunting stories from places around the country where people clearly don’t know — or don’t care – what they’re doing. For whatever reason, bad behavior by hunters is the exception down here. The biggest problem for hunters and fishermen are the thieves who’ve started showing up and stripping their trucks or stealing their trailers while they’re off doing their thing.

    As for litter, Texas took it on years ago with the “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign. They got the most popular country musicians to do promos, and it was wonderful. I still can’t decide which spot was my favorite, but this one comes close.

    1. You know it’s been shot at. Worrisome though, is how many rounds did not hit a bullseye that big. 🙂

      I’d say the worst hunters are road hunters. My in-laws farm and it is not unusual for a flock of pickups to gather at the end of a field while their combine is making the last pass. Deer will hide in the last rows and bolt out as the equipment approaches. It is disconcerting to have trespassers aiming their rifles in your direction.

      I caught wind of the “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign. Brilliant!! They nailed it.

      Kudos to Willy for recording the PSA.

  4. Many years ago, when I was young, I went tubing along the Apple River. That same bulls-eye target strategy is used there to keep beverage cans out of the water. Some study has probably been done to show its effectiveness. Smart folks you all are down there along Drunk Creek Road.

  5. Brilliant! Do you remember the old Twilight Zone episode which had some Hell’s Angels types in a granny-type living room with classical music playing in the background relentlessly. Turned out the identical room was in heaven, but this one was in hell. Littering is brutal along my country road. We pick up trash constantly – a disturbing assortment of beer cans/bottles and fast food packaging.

    1. Shudder My Harley riding buddies would definitely define that as hell. 🙂

      Yeah, trash is a problem. The worst thing I found in our ditch was the carcasses of a dozen deer. The slobs shot them and tossed them into a ditch. There ought to be a special place in hell for that. Of course, our coyotes were extremely pleased.

        1. With hunters, you get the good and the bad. My neighbor has turned several hundred acres into a wildlife area. It is a joy. We see sandhill cranes flapping overhead every day in the summer and snow geese visit our pond. When he and his friends hunt back there, it is a study in sobriety, respect and the honor of nature.

          On the other hand, I have to dress Scooter in orange when we walk on our road during deer hunting season and not a day goes by that a pickup load of drunks with guns sticking out the windows doesn’t roar by. They shoot at everything that moves and most everything that doesn’t. They are a plague.

          1. As with anything else. What I despise more than anything with the hunters here (and hunting is enormously popular in VA) is how they treat their dogs. If that “dog don’t hunt”, they pull their collars and abandon them to the fields. I tell you, Greg, I get homicidal when one of these poor dogs appears on our land loaded with ticks and so thirsty and hungry. But I agree wholeheartedly that there are many, many good hunters who treat their hounds well.

            1. Grrr..

              I took a beautiful German Shepherd to the shelter this winter. Originally, there was a pair of them. They broke into my neighbor’s sheep barn and he wanted me to help hunt them down and shoot them. I found one in our pasture sleeping in the snow at -15F. He was eating the food that Scooter left in his kennel when I took him in at night. It broke my heart to turn him in but having gone after sheep, I couldn’t risk keeping him. I found the bones of his mate this spring.

              What annoys me is people who do not get their dogs fixed then don’t care for the animals they raise. Our shelters are overcrowded as it is.

              1. That is a truly heartbreaking story, Greg. We volunteer through Pilots N Paws and the only thing that keeps me from total despair is to focus on the successes. You had no choice in this terrible situation but I know it must have been brutally hard.

    1. True in my own way. Minneapolis actually does use opera to clear the warehouse district at bar closing. It works a lot better than threats, clubs and tear gas. The object is that you want people to leave, then come back the next weekend. Opera satisfies both of those requirements.

      The target idea comes from the road from Nederland to Boulder Colorado. I don’t know if they use it anymore. The trans-Canada highway used a similar system in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The trash cans looked like space capsules and invited kids to “put their trash into orbit”.

  6. Every town has a Fiona you know…I once tried to get our version pissed on cider as an experiment of sorts. Failed of course what with her being teetotal…still I tried!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: