“Hansel and Gretel”

Hansel and Gretel

I walked through the LaVista Park woods yesterday. It was easy to get distracted, by birds, strange animal sounds coming from the trees, the people walking their dogs. And new this year, the disc golf course, where convivial players, even when the temperature is below freezing, walk the 18 holes and toss Frisbees at cages.

I was comforted on my walk by the fact that I would not get lost. Cigarette butts thrown on the side of the trail led one to Clifton Park and back. There were other markers: bubble wrap, Styrofoam containers, bottlecaps, used tissues, crushed Bud Light cans. Bud is the favored trail marker of beer drinkers. (Does Budweiser bear responsibility? Of course not! Capitalism is unfettered; that’s how money is made, stupid.)

The village park district is always looking for outdoor activities for its residents. This is often to the detriment of the trees, something the world needs more of, but my town disagrees. It views trees as statues surrounded by open space. The park district both plants trees incorrectly—for example oak trees are planted too closely to each other, meaning certain rot for some of the crowded, mature trees—and cuts down other trees (in the name of progress?) with abandon.

There are already “scalped” parks galore including the very ugly and uninspiring Glazebrook Park with its acres of sterile, open land. Sure, you can walk it. Heck, you can walk Godfrey Road, same openness, and pavement. Perhaps the village’s vision is to cut down every tree and pave the entire village.

Once the park attractions are built, there is no monitoring of same. The result is discarded beer cans and cigarette butts, even though the parks do not allow smoking or drinking on the premises. The village believes in individual responsibility, that old Republican trope, and it has no money for park rangers. The trouble is individuals who equate disc golf and other fun, accompanied by beer and cigarettes, don’t give a rat’s behind about rules.

But good news: all of these are superior markers to the stones and breadcrumbs of the classic fairy-tale “Hansel and Gretel,” where a brother and sister are fighting cannibal witches and parents who intend to kill them. Stones may roll away. Breadcrumbs may be eaten by crows. But cigarette butts have just enough heft to be there for centuries of hikers. Because humans are so generous, one imagines altruistic cigarette manufacturers designing filters to not degrade for a thousand years—for the betterment of mankind!

The Great River Road and its paths are similarly marked with trash of all kinds. It’s as though McDonalds et al plotted together to create unrecyclable materials—plastic cups because they’re cheaper, for example—to help walkers not get lost. Plus, drivers pitch in by pitching—their trash. Once again, the principal of personal responsibility is at play.

Humans. Do not tell a human to put unwanted trash in a refuse can or follow environmental regulations—it’s Mel Gibson yelling “Freedom!” don’t you know. “Braveheart,” that’s us, kilted out Libertarian Celts ready to war with… environmental regulations! Never mind prying a gun from one’s hand, try prying a patriotic plastic cup.

Capitalists seem not to have noticed that Earth is a round ball. There will be no expansion. “Growth,” in the business vernacular, is an oxymoron. Humans are filling up every nook and cranny. Mountains have stood as classic obstacles—until recently, as states like West Virginia cut off mountaintops for coal, killing the mountains. Soon enough, we will drain every river, and then we’ll use up at the vast seas until they are salty puddles.

Then, there will be cigarette butts and plastic cups to eat. Imagine a future Thanksgiving: plastic cranberries, a plastic turkey to poke at with plastic sporks, some plastic stuffing, plastic pie, plasma donated by Grandma to drink, and we hold hands around the table dressed in our finest plastic clothing.

Until there are no trees and tons of sickly children, let the national song ring out: God mess America/Land that I trash/Stand beside her/empty cans Budweiser/and foul it ’till my grandson gets a rash!


About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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