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My retirement fund, on the side of the road

Editor's note: We're introducing a new Pioneer Journal columnist starting today.

Alan Linda, better known as "Lindy," is a Vietnam veteran, the father of three grown-up daughters, grew up on a farm in Iowa, lives on a farm by New York Mills, believes in St. Urho, talking appliances (some of whom are apparently gay), talking apple trees (of which he has many), and old tractors. He has written a local column now for 20 years, and after operating a plumbing, heating and refrigeration business out of a hardware store in Mills, now teaches HVAC at the tech school in Wadena.

Since daily walks down the blacktop road are something I do quite frequently, if I'm home on holiday or vacation or weekends from school, it occurred to me that there is a lot to be learned about humans by what they throw from their cars and trucks.

Were I an extraterrestrial who had just arrived on Earth from outer space, there would be several observations that he or she too could make, based on what humans throw from their wheeled space ships as they rocket along the grid lines of America.

Spaceperson 1, as he peers out the open door of his craft at the shoulder of the road: "These are a very clean people, judging from how they eject flotsam and jetsam from their vehicles."

Spaceperson 2, as he too examines the shoulder and sees all the empty beer cans: "Yes, Bob, and thirsty, too."

Spaceperson 1: "OMG! Aren't those cans alumiflumen? We're saved. There's enough fuel here to get us all the way back home."

Perhaps there will come a day when the energy needs are solved by discovering that what we needed was right here in front of us already. You know what? No one will really be surprised, either. Regardless of what that energy solution turns out to be, I've already lived long enough to realize that the answers to most of our problems are pretty close to us, but for reasons involving old habits, conventions, accepted practices, custom, inherited preferences -- we just won't find them.

Back to the beer cans along the road. Back 20 years, when The Young Girls (three of them) and the Old Girl (just one, more than enough) and I began drinking soda, there was an old house still here on the farm. I began to stuff it with plastic bags of aluminum pop cans.

I called it my 401PC retirement fund, and on the off chance that extraterrestrials would discover our aluminum and drive the price of aluminum past the price of gold, figured I might retire on it.

Alas, such a discovery, you might know, won't happen until I sell all of them, and I finally couldn't wait for the little green people any longer and began to load those cans up and sell them. Still, there was close to 500 bucks worth in that house. I had to sell too soon, because the house was falling down, threatening to take my retirement fund down with it.

Now, doesn't that sound familiar, in light of the recent collapse of everyone's retirement fund?

Aluminum doubled in price shortly after I cashed out, which reminded me of dad's favorite saying regarding selling grain: "When you've got it to sell, the price is low; when you need to buy it, it's too high." Like most farmers, he was convinced there was a plot afoot to make sure they'd sell too soon and buy too late.

Anyway, I've begun once again to build up my 401PC fund, although this time around, since there aren't that many pop cans to pick up along the road, it's more aptly named a 401BC fund.

There are some pretty good observations that could be made about the people who throw beer cans out the windows of their cars and trucks, it seems to me.

One is that some of them are pretty considerate of me, probably are aware that I walk along that stretch of road frequently, probably even know me, or know of me, and hence crush their cans before they throw them out.

Obviously these are the more considerate of the beer drinkers, as they are aware that I have a bit of arthritis in my hands, and crushing those cans isn't as easy for me as it used to be.

Pretty nice guys, all in all. It goes without saying that these are guys, right? I don't know that I've ever believed that women would drink Schlitz, much less throw the cans out the window of their car. Somehow that seems pretty obvious, but upon closer examination, should it be?

I wonder why the world isn't full of carloads of women driving down the road yakking about this, that, and the other, moseying along, driving very carefully and not too fast, having a good time.

Of course we know this isn't happening, but one wonders really why? In this world, it would seem logical that there would be carloads of men throwing beer cans out the windows, and carloads of women throwing white wine bottles into the ditches.

It is just one more clue, I guess, that in fact, women may well be the extraterrestrials here.

I don't know about you, but it answers a lot of questions for me.