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Partial to Home: A morning in Steens


Birney Imes



Ross, a kayaking buddy, likes to take a garbage bag on our river outings so we can police the take-out area after we've finished paddling. A launch fee of sorts. In principle, it's a good idea, but after two-plus hours of furious paddling, there's not a lot of juice left for picking up trash, at least as far as this boater is concerned. 


"So, how are you liking retirement?" folks ask.  


"Every day is Saturday" is how someone recently explained retirement to me. I love the discretionary time. Like, if you want to get up in the morning and go out to pick up trash, well, you just do it. 


On, a recent Thursday, I gathered gloves, safety glasses, utility radio and garbage bags and set out for Gunshoot Road, Steens. There, just south of the center of town where the road crosses the Luxapalila, is a choice launch site for paddlers. Too, it's a popular swimming hole and fishing perch for locals. There is also enough trash here to make a pig blush.  


The morning was warm and sunny and a soft breeze blew as I unfurled the first 55-gallon trash bag.  


As some point, as I was fighting with the privet, I thought about ole Sisyphus, the character from Greek mythology sentenced to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down. That is to say, you pick up trash today only to know there will be more tomorrow. 


My take on this day included beer bottles (Bud Light mostly), styrofoam containers for earthworms and a sprinkling of condom wrappers. Under the bridge I found a shredded red sleeping bag. Back in the woods are mounds of garbage bags filled with household trash. I just don't get it. This is a beautiful natural site on a beautiful river. Why not keep it that way? 


The radio, on the hood of the pickup, was tuned to Mississippi Public Radio's Creature Comforts, a call-in show where Veterinarian Dr. Troy Majure fields questions about pets. Sharon from Olive Branch wondered what steps she could take to keep her 15-year-old dog's mind sharp -- that's 105 in human years. 


I paused to listen. Dogs have similar aging problems people have, Majure said. "You may see a dog staring off in space or ending up in a corner unable to negotiate his way out. 


"Better get back to work," I thought. 


After filling two bags, I headed to the Steens Superette for a water and then drove north toward the post office and Tim Younger's goat house/petting zoo. It's an old farmhouse that serves as home for a menagerie of animals, goats, pigs, a few geese. "Please don't waste the food," said the sign over a small, empty plastic container. 


If you've got grandkids and are looking for a field trip, here's a good one. 


On the way back toward the center of town (the Superette) I passed master woodworker Jim and Sally MacLellan out for a morning walk. Jim, 73, finished his last paying job for a Tupelo banker and is now working down a long list of personal projects in their compound here on the banks of the Luxapalila. "You got time to look?" Jim asked. I did. 


On Gunshoot, I passed a fellow driving alongside the road on a riding lawnmower -- he was not cutting grass, but using the mower for transportation a la George Jones. On the back of the mower, an American flag about the size of an index card was attached to a tall aerial. The driver was wearing a bright tie-dyed t-shirt sporting an Arkansas Razorback, a big smile and brandished what looked to be a BB gun. 


Meet William Swedenburg. "Hey, can you run me up to the Superette so I can get a pack of cigarettes and bring me back?" he said by way of introduction. I looked at all the clutter on my front seat and made an excuse. Then I thought, "what the heck, I'm retired." 


"Yeah, get in," I said. "Put the BB gun in the back of the truck." 


"Them women in there will give me coffee," Swedenburg said as he got out. He was back in less than a minute sans coffee but with cigarettes. 


Heading home, I stopped by the Lowndes County Co-op, and got a $6.95 bag of sweet feed. There are some goats, donkeys and a pig in Steens that would enjoy such. A project for another day. 


Birney Imes' email address is [email protected] 



Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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