Recently, I had the good fortune of unfettered free time. A full day or two of nothing specifically planned to do. No agenda. No deadlines. No particular place to go. And that’s exactly where I went. Nowhere in particular...at least that was the plan. Unbeknownst to me, circumstances and surroundings had been charted for me.
I spent time exploring our fine county of Saline. The only goal I had was to find places to photograph interesting scenes, objects or people.
The scenes and people were interesting, but it was the objects that caught my imagination.
I walked along the roadside looking at my surroundings. I looked for interesting colors and angles, shadows and light. As I walked, I saw a variety of items scattered across the landscape. Cigarette butts were in abundance. Paper bags from fast food drive-throughs and various beverage cans were easy to spot. Then, amongst all the clutter and filth, were treasures - or at least they were to me.
I found railroad spikes, blocks of wood, a thick piece of glass and an old bottle. The biggest find was an old bank vault.
On the surface, these items seem about as diverse as they can be. However, to me they were kindred souls.
Each had a specific purpose. Each had a particular need not filled by anything else. Each helped guard and protect. But mostly, they shared the common fate of being left behind after their usefulness to the owner had been determined.
Without railroad spikes holding the train tracks in place, cargo wouldn’t be delivered and passengers would be in danger
The block of wood was from a support beam. Judging by the shape and size, I imagined the beam to be from a flat bed trailer hauling heavy equipment down the highway. The oil stains and cut marks along the edges gave the impression of significant wear. The cracks down the length of the block made the wood too weak to do the job it had been designed to do.
An old bottle once held nourishment but once that particular need had been quenched by the user, the bottle took its placed along side fast food bags and cigarette wrappers.
The bank vault and the old piece of glass had one more thing in common that the others did not. Both were part of a bank long since torn down and abandoned. The vault stood by itself, surrounded by trees that had grown up around it. It’s door was rusted. It’s handles broken off. Holes had been cut through the door which no longer would open. In its day, this vault held the money of many people. It held the dreams of the future. Dreams of a new home, a college education or a comfortable retirement.
The big piece of glass was pulled from an old drive-through window at the very same bank. The window that once connected customer to banker now rests in a pile of trash and bricks. The conversations and greetings passed from one person to the other are long forgotten yet this piece of glass was witness to pleasant conversations, to meetings between old friends and to family announcements. But now, this two-inch thick piece of glass is broken and discarded.
But the most interesting fact to me is that I had passed by these relics everyday and had no idea they were there. I never took the time to look.
These items, except for the bank vault, will become part of my collection of ‘things’. Each has a particular meaning to me.
So my ‘unfettered’ time turned into a lesson in and of itself. I take the time to look around, see the value in all things and put those back into circulation in whatever form is possible.
Can we do this as a county? As a group? As a people?
I sure hope so.
Brent Davis is the managing editor of the Saline Courier. His column appears each Friday exclusively in the Saline Courier.View more articles in: