Litter in the Badlands — really?I witnessed the highest form of stupidity this weekend, right there on Highway 22, 22 miles north of Killdeer, where the highway meets the Badlands, or “the Breaks” as locals refer to it, at the site of what is called the Lost Bridge.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I witnessed the highest form of stupidity this weekend, right there on Highway 22, 22 miles north of Killdeer, where the highway meets the Badlands, or “the Breaks” as locals refer to it, at the site of what is called the Lost Bridge.
Now you may not know this but the 530-foot Lost Bridge was built in the early 1930s and, oddly enough, no road was built to it for more than 20 years, hence the name.
You see, it was constructed to help local ranchers move cattle across the Little Missouri River. Then it was dismantled in 1994 and a plaque and a piece of the old bridge were installed near the site of a new bridge, just for people to stop by and read while they stretched their legs, sipped on sodas, bit into some beef jerky, dug into a bag of chips and perhaps, perish the thought, relieved themselves when no one was looking.
Of course, this also happens to be a route that possesses one of the most scenic drives in the state of North Dakota, the nation, the world and the galaxy, with the ever-shifting Little Missouri River and the Lost Bridge marking the southern border of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
I was there on horseback, helping to round up some horses and move them to another location, plus enjoy hours of riding pleasure in the surrounding Badlands, so full of beauty, wildlife, serenity and history. A paradise on Earth, but don’t tell anyone, especially not golfers, bikers, dope-smoking concertgoers, meth heads and anyone who spends their weekends languishing in a mall.
At one point, my girlfriend and I rode to the bridge along the ditch as tanker trucks, pickups and sedans whizzed by at dizzying speeds, their driver’s too busy to enjoy the utopia, and when we got there, we were greeted by the remnants of an apparently careless, intellectually challenged and obnoxious society.
Never mind that glass beer bottles, plastic soda bottles and every other kind of container littered the ditches along the way. The grounds near the Lost Bridge plaque looked like five New York City garbage trucks and a fast-food-feeding family of five had deposited a month’s worth of refuse immediately within viewing range.
Which begs the question: What are they thinking? Littering — really? Didn’t that go out with leisure suites, turtle necks, shag carpeting, Camel filterless cigarettes, record albums, reel-to-reel recording tape, Milton Berle, “Laugh In,” hi-fi radio, cheap gas, The Big Valley, fondue and troll dolls, so long ago?
I especially remember one large, over-filled, ripped, repulsive garbage bag of trash, deposited there by some shameful loser, with its contents (forgive the analogy) oozing out like the intestines of a gut shot deer; an eye-opening clash of decadence and harsh reality meeting Eden and innocence.
Why and for what reason? Is it just because someone was too lazy to put their garbage in a can at the next stop? Oh, please. Why do they have that much trash in their car in the first place? Are they involved in some sort of frenzied food festival where they eat a burger, gulp one soda and down three bags of chips per mile for a prize? And do they expect state and local officials to stop by and pick up their trash for them, like a hotel maid, because, after all, they pay taxes?
It’s disgusting, but did you know that 75 percent of Americans admit that they have littered in the last five years. Plus, if you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 34, a smoker, eat fast food more than two times a week, drive more than 50 miles a day and go out for entertainment at least one time per week, you are probably a consistent “litterer,” a term which really should be forever changed to “illiterer,” because any illiterer has to be a little dense.
Or maybe American author, Alvin Toffler, best captured this deplorable concept way back in the early part of the 20th century when he said, “The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”
Our “illiterers’ have still not yet learned how to place used receptacles into garbage cans; it’s just too difficult, apparently.
Plus, it might be worth noting that, in North Dakota, littering is a Class B misdemeanor that can put you in jail for 30 days and cost you $1,000, just for being lazy and stupid enough to toss out empty bottles between burps.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.