Saturday, October 22, 2011

Midwestern Autumns

At dusk on Friday I had the unexpected pleasure of smelling the faint aroma of burning leaves in the air as I slowly approached the bunker with the windows and top down while driving my little Mazda roadster on a crisp autumn evening. How sweet it was. It caused me to smile and reflect on my many past autumn evenings.

It happens on occasion this time of year. Someone sneaks in burning a pile of leaves and they’re smart by doing it in the dark. Sad to think they are now considered lawbreakers.

In my youth we burned each and every fallen leaf and celebrated the change of seasons with popcorn balls, apples, pumpkins and footballs. We would wait until we had a huge pile of dry leaves well above my eyeballs before tossing in one little match. Then the tribal instincts took over. We hovered near the fire tossing in rake full after rake full of leaves on top to keep it going.

Well, I do admit there were some evenings when still, heavy air caused a gagging moment of thick smoke when each and every neighbor decided to burn a huge pile at the same time. It usually occurred on a late weekend afternoon.

Back then, leaf burning was a pleasant respite from the noxious acrid odors blowing south from the Northwest Indiana steel mills before the BOP Shops and particle scrubbers came to be back in the early 70’s.

Each year, I still manage to burn a small pile of leaves out back near the shed, just for old times. It has to be a quick fire after dusk so the local busybody old ladies don’t have a chance to stop by and gripe or, as they sometime do - call the police.

In some communities far west of here near Chicago, residents must now bag their leaves. We were required to purchase these eco-friendly bags while living in Homewood IL twenty years ago. Each bag cost 50¢ and a special tax sticker to place on each bag cost 50¢. That’s $1 per bag. Each year we were good for over three-dozen bags. Wonder how much that costs them now?

Here in the Lesser Valparaiso Metro Area they send out large, covered dump trucks that pull trailers equipped with motorized leaf vacuum and mulch devices.

In Valpo there is no extra charge for the leaf sucker crews. Considering our local taxes are much less than what we paid while living in Illinois, it’s just an example between living in a free state and one run by elected cleptocrats to the west.

All we need to do here is blow them into piles along the street and the municipal leaf vacuum truck comes by each Tuesday to suck them up. No complaints. Some claim this saves the environment. My, how far we have come.

There are at least a dozen leaf suckers in town. Each truck is equipped with two large carbon-spewing gasoline engines, one for the truck and one for the sucker trailer. They are in operation six days per week for at least six weeks. They crawl along at a slow walking speed to perform their environmentally friendly suck.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the fuel economy must be one mile per gallon for each of twenty-four engines. Is this really a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of leaves compared to simply burning them? It’s not. All this is a way to conceal polluting the air since the engines produce an invisible amount of toxic airborne pollutants from that evil fossil fuel. It’s simply a trade-off to muzzle the whining ninnies who despise the aroma of burning leaves.

Most of my autumns are in my past and that’s just life. Looking back fondly, when freedom and liberty were still a way of life in America, there is something about the traditional change of seasons that will just not leave my system.

I will continue to, on occasion, experience and honor the leaf burning tradition until my final autumn, no matter how brief they may be in number. That one little law-breaking act is my simple reward for living free.

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