Rather than sit in the cramped office space at H&H Motors for the estimated hour it would take my car to be repaired, I decided to walk to Main Street Margaretville, which is under a mile away and offers many more possibilities in the way of things to do—and also doesn’t smell like axel grease.

I crossed Route 28, which fortunately had rather light traffic that August morning, and I immediately came across a discarded aluminum can, so naturally, I picked it up. A few steps later, here was another piece of trash, and looking ahead, I could see some more, so I popped into the nearest establishment, the Country Cutting Gallery, to ask for a bag. The hairdresser was in the midst of sudsing up a client’s head, but she gladly donated a plastic shopping bag and said with a puzzled air that she’d seen me pick up a piece of trash. Sadly, that is rather unusual behavior, isn’t it? I thanked her for the bag and left the women to their beauty ritual. I had another kind of beautifying ritual in mind because I had decided to pick up all the trash I found between that point and the entrance to Margaretville.

Humans thrive when we feel a sense of purpose. My previous goal of simply “looking around Margaretville” was too vague. Now I felt focused and happy that my idle time would be spent on a meaningful task.: assembling the archaeological record of this patch of road.

Villages in the Catskills each have a distinct character, but that particular stretch of Route 28 is about as close to a clone town as you get, and the garbage was disappointingly generic, too. My single-use plastic bag was quickly filled with takeaway coffee cups, plastic water bottles, glass juice bottles, and random car parts.

No matter. I came upon a tall garbage bag and then another. Now I was able to sort garbage into recyclables and non-recyclables. Someone had thrown out an entire box of tri-colored foot-long fruit wraps, each in their individual plastic wrappers. The stuff was clearly junk food, but why was it thrown from the car window? Beer cans had a more obvious explanation, since drivers wouldn’t want to be pulled over with open containers in their car.

About the time my two trash bags were full, I discovered two heavy duty bags, which had once contained de-icing salts. They were perfect for holding broken glass and shredded aluminum cans, of which there was plenty.

The only find with any real character was the piece of plastic pictured above that had created a mini terrarium, allowing moisture to accumulate and moss to grow (life finds a way.) I returned the plastic to its place since it was serving a purpose, allowing greenery to thrive in the midst of hardpan and gravel. Also it was only fair to leave something of interest for future students of the archaeological record.

As I approached the turnoff to the Centre Ville, my cell phone rang with the news that my car was fixed. I piled the bags by the side of the road so that I could retrieve them, fairly certain that no one would disturb them for the next half hour. And I was right.

Here’s my haul for that half-mile stretch of the north side of Route 28.