While hiking the scenic Couchville Lake trail at Long Hunter State Park awhile back, my wife and I came upon a young couple with a baby in a stroller and a tyke in tow.
We remarked about how good it was to see a young family out enjoying nature on an idyllic spring day.
Then the dad guzzled the last gulp from a plastic water bottle and casually tossed it into the bushes beside the path.
I picked up the discarded bottle and carried it to a trash can that sat a short way down the path. I made sure the tin lid clanged when I dropped the plastic bottle inside and slammed the lid shut.
If Slob Daddy heard -- or cared -- he didn't let on.
What a shameful lesson to teach his kids.
During the remainder of the hike, I took notice of other trash that had been dumped along the trail -- candy wrappers, kids' cardboard drink containers, plastic straws, cigarette butts, chewing-gum tinfoil, paper tissues, and of course the ubiquitous plastic water bottles and bottle caps.
How lazy does someone have to be to take a bottle of water into a park, then throw the empty down instead of dropping it into one of the numerous trash cans that are provided?
I'm not picking on Long Hunter State Park; other parks also have litterbug infestations. Last week we visited Natchez Trace State Park, noted for its seclusion and natural beauty.
A sign at the entrance warned: "Fine for littering: up to $1,500."
Such a huge fine is fine with me. Make the slobs pay.
Maybe it was coincidence, but I didn't see a lot litter in Natchez Trace Park. Perhaps other parks and public areas should follow suit and start squashing the litterbugs with hefty fines.
As a fisherman, one of my pet peeves has long been the coils of discarded monofilament line found on riverbanks and lake shores. Along Stones River, immediately below Percy Priest Dam, there's so much discarded line that it's hard to walk without getting tangled in it.
Last year I discovered a river heron whose legs and a wing were snarled in a tangle of monofilament. When I approached to try to free it, it went flopping off, probably destined to die a slow, painful death.
Monofilament line, like plastic water bottles, won't disintegrate for centuries. Our great-grandkids will be wading through our litter.
Back in the 1970's my country-music pal, Ed Bruce, recorded a series of "Tennessee Trash" TV spots. They were amusing and effective, drawing attention to the problem of littering.
It might be time to resurrect a similar anti-litter ad campaign. (The money would be better spent than squandered on those inane "watershed" signs posted along interstates.)
An anti-litter campaign could take a two-pronged approach:
Remind the public about how disgraceful it is to litter, and try to shame slobs and litterbugs into picking up after themselves.
Then, if they persist in littering, give them a good smack in the wallet. Or, better still, assign them to a cleanup detail. If they spend a weekend picking up trash, they might think twice before throwing it down.