Let’s start with the dirt wash. Working on the ranch one day, my wizened father showed me how dirt can actually make you cleaner. It’s true, and oh so sustainable. What cleanser can be more natural than dirt? Anyway, we had just finished replacing spent rods in a windmill. It was my first time as the “monkey man” on the top of the mill (perched up on the top platform without safety gear in order to latch and unlatch the long wooden rods as they are pulled up and out of the ground). Everything you pull up out of a well is greasy and slick with mud, slime and, well… gook. After sloppin’ this stuff all over for a couple hours and taking in views of red-tailed hawks diving for twittering and cooing quail hiding in scrub oak thickets, the monkey man tries to climb down the metal rungs on either side of an angle iron windmill support without slipping off and dying. (Really mom, it’s not that dangerous.)
Confession: I was in college before I understood what recycling meant. I grew up in the country outside of Fort Worth, TX. People didn’t “recycle”. All trash bins were green, or whatever color the bed of your pickup truck was. Honest, I never threw trash on the ground. But somehow a lot of it managed to blow out of the truck bed along the roadside. After all, “Don’t Mess With Texas,” was more than just an abrasive, in your face slogan. I felt it in my heart.
I grew up a hick, I suppose. I changed the oil in my 1978 orange, full-body, Chevy Blazer myself. I didn’t know it could be bad for the earth to poor the used oil out in the gravel driveway. Oil comes from under the ground after all. Besides it had the practical use of keeping the dust from blowing around. When I was eighteen I set about to change my oil the first month of my freshman year in college. Mind you I was in Missoula, Montana now and drove a 1984 Volvo 244 DL. Hot stuff, I know.
Well right about the time I was pouring my oil down the curbside drain in the parking lot, two upperclassmen girls walked by and accosted me. I honestly didn’t know I was doing anything harmful to the earth. I knew that most people had their oil changed at Jiffy Lube, but I thought that was just because they were wastefully extravagant and never had parents who loved them enough to show them how easy it was to change it yourself. After a few slaps and teeth marks, I learned my lesson.
This was when I began my journey toward becoming what I now call a Redneck Granola. Feel free to use the term, but give me credit because I plan on getting rich off of the book I will write with the same title. For years the two opposing sides of me lived at odds with each other. The redneck enjoyed shooting turtles in a pond on a lazy afternoon. While the Granola insisted on installing low-flow toilets and only flushing them a couple times a day. The redneck enjoyed gun shows while the Granola refused to shower more than twice a week (unless working cattle). Horrible.
Now I am convinced that my two sides can live at peace with each other. Van Jones, “Green Collar Economy,” has made it his goal to bring environmentalism to the urban ghettos. Well, I have made it my goal to bring it to the sticks. To do this one must find areas of common ground. So, in what ways are rednecks already into sustainability and simply unaware of it? In memory of the legend, Paul Harvey… tune in next week, for the rest of the story.