Zeb Explains Trash

As I write this, I’m looking ahead to our Durr Road cleanup on Saturday (that would be tomorrow, as you see this). I’m wondering what – and how much – trash we will find out there this year. That wondering sent me back into the draft of “The Zeb Chronicles – Conversations with an Old Mountain Man,” a book I intend to publish three or four years ago.

The book chronicles interactions and conversations Zeb and I had over a couple decades starting in the 1970s. For a variety of past-life reasons which I won’t detail now, Zeb suddenly appeared at moments when I needed to understand something about myself. I was often a poor student. One of our conversations was about trash.

“Stop!  Now…look here,” Zeb said, “your life is not about getting more and more comfortable… It’s about knowing who you really are.”

Zeb had appeared as I stepped out of my truck. Looking back on it, I guess I really WAS sort of raving. I had driven into the hills on a deer and elk scouting trip, and came upon a small clearing along a jeep trail. The problem was the clearing wasn’t very clear – it was wall-to-wall cans, boxes, plastic, and broken glass. Hundreds of empty shells and cartridges littered the forest floor.

“Well, just look!  Look at…and that…and why would…and…” I couldn’t even get a sentence out.  “And what the hell has this got to do with me being comfortable and knowing who I really am, anyhow?”

Zeb put on his patient, almost-smiling, face. He looked at me with his head cocked a little to the left, shrugged almost imperceptibly, and started picking up trash. “Aw c’mon, Zeb, talk to me.”

It probably took us 45 minutes to get the worst of it. The bed of my pickup was about half filled when we took a last sweep through the clearing. We settled onto the trunk of an old downed pine, and Zeb looked real intently into my face. “You calmed down now, boy? You gotta quit getting so riled up over stuff…you won’t live to see our work through. And I will have wasted all my great teachings on you.”

“See?” With a wave of his hand, he was indicating the clearing and the trash in the back of my truck. “This is yours. You created it.”

“No, I don’t see,” I said. “You and I cleaned this mess UP… I didn’t make the mess. Look, Zeb, you get to see what I do – you’ve been around me most everywhere. You know that I pick cans and stuff up in the woods. And when I go shooting, I pick up my brass and shells and targets. Why would you say something like that?” This was at a time when I almost idolized Zeb. Truth was my feelings were hurt.

He smiled and shook his head. “I’m not out to hurt your feelings, boy. I’m wantin’ to open your eyes. The deal is, I help you understand your real relationship with the Earth world – the wildlife an’ plants an’ rocks an’ air an’ such – and you do somethin’ useful with it, once you figure it out. That so?” I nodded, but I still didn’t get how I created that trash in the woods, and Zeb knew it.

“Awright.  Let’s start here: To know your relationship with your mother, the Earth, you gotta know yourself; and to know yourself, you gotta look at every aspect of who you are – every aspect. See, boy, you’re a…what’s that word you used…litterbug – yeah, a litterbug! See, when ya get so mad, like here with all this trash, it might be ’cause you feel guilty about doin’ it yourself, and you’re trying to hide it – you don’t wanna look at a part of you that ain’t perfect.”

“No,” I protested, “it’s NOT the same. Maybe I left a cup or two in the park, or forgot a can or something, but that’s just a couple things…not like this. It’s NOT the same.” Zeb wasn’t buying it.

“Trash is trash,” he said. “And pretending that a little here is not the same as a lot over there is lyin’ to yourself about who you are. The people who left all this junk in this clearing just showed you who you are – an’ you didn’t like it one bit. See, you lie to yourself about how YOU don’t litter, and then you can be more comfortable with yourself.  Truth is, Jimmy, y’re a LITTERBUG! And when you and ever’body else owns that, then there’ll be no need for anybody to be leaving trash around, to remind you of who you really are. And bein’ reminded can be hard to take. See ya.” Zeb left me with a mindful.

Somehow, I’m reminded of this conversation with Zeb most every year we go out to clean up Durr Road. We’ll talk about shooting responsibly and picking up our trash. And we’ll again wonder why on earth people would do what they had done here.

“Life is not about getting more comfortable,” Zeb often said, “it’s about knowing who you really are.” Sometimes it’s still hard to look. Tomorrow is another opportunity.

Join the party. Watch your grandchildren’s eyes light up when you mention collecting trash alongside such icons of Paradise as Gordon “Keep That Road to Wild Places Open Forever” Blossom, Lee “Small Streams are the Answer to All Fishing Blues” Davis, Bill “Dances with Rattlers” and Deborah “Bird Whisperer of Paradise” Essman.

By the way, shooting range rules, locations and designs are about to change along Durr Road. Come to the Tuesday, April 26, discussion at Hal Holmes at 6 p.m. See for yourself how the DFW changes will help keep the whole area cleaner.

First, though, come play tomorrow. 9 a.m. on Durr Road – look for the signs.

Happy Earth Day, 2016…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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