Convention established that trash was placed in the ditch and burned on a regular basis. Trash fires happened on a daily basis. We got used to smelling incendiary garbage. At first, we were not used to this custom and gathered our trash and hauled it away. It was burdensome and we also discovered the site where we hauled it also burned it. It just burned larger quantities. It seemed no matter what, our trash would be burned. We gave in and piled it in our ditch. About once a week we lit the pile and tended the fire. It pretty efficiently got rid of the bulk. To our advantage, we could dispose of all our work related garbage too. This added wood and other building materials to the pile.
Neighbors did not seem to mind the smells created. Everyone seemed used to breathing the fumes from all the various materials being turned to smoke and ash. Later on we discovered another local solution to solid waste management. When a rain occurred, the ditches would be swept clean of all remnants of fire. Whatever had not been lifted away as smoke or fly ash was washed down to join the murk in the Mississippi Basin. Our collective sensibilities about despoiling nature collided with local custom. More deep seated than our philosophy was the reality of living in a area that for years had collected the sediment of anything poured into the vast Mid American drainage stream.
When the scope of that system was considered, the small amount that we added seemed insignificant. We lived near the edge of a catch basin that gathered water from a wide ranging area. Rivers that flowed into the Mississippi sprang from places as far as Colorado, Montana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and traversed all the states in between. What ever was washed into the streams along the way, settled in our neighborhood. All along the coast and out in the swamp platforms were drilling deep into the earth to remove sedimentary ooze that had no doubt gathered and settled eons ago. Today’s workers were just as happy adding to that sedimentary collection that may provide future fuel. It appeared the mindset of this area condoned open burning. This area also is home base to the vast worldwide oil exploration empire, which make allowances for bringing fossil fuels from the bowels of the earth and burning them on the surface.
We did not stay long in this area. The boom tapered off and eventually our crew headed back to other parts of the country. I became more sensitive to the effects of burning. To help my process of coming to terms with the element of fire, I approached the native outlook of taking responsibilities for our actions and acknowledging our connection with our mother--the earth. To help ease the feelings of the harsh reality of how out of balance we were becoming with Mother Nature, I for a time turned to another type of fire that seemed to assuage these feelings. I began to consume large amounts of firewater.