Monday, July 26, 2010

Take a Little and Leave a Little

My grandfather Bernard (Pa) used to say, "Take a little and leave a little." It was expected that if we took enjoyment from camping in the woods, we needed to leave the campsite even better than we found it. Sometimes we would rake pine needles from a trail, or line the path with rocks. It always meant taking more trash out than we brought in. My parents took that to heart and always taught their children to take a little and leave a little.

Pa built a cabin in a beautiful narrow mountain canyon for his children and grandchildren on property that he leased from the power company where he retired. Originally, the property had a beautiful meadow that extended clear to the Carson River. Unfortunatley, a year after he built the cabin, the highway was cut right through the middle of the meadow. Since he was leasing the land from the power company, there were no clear boundary lines for years. After the highway was built, Pa ignored the land between the highway and the river because he didn't want his grandchildren getting hit crossing the highway, and after he passed away, it was assumed the forest service was in charge. Unfortunately, the forest service wasn't taking care of the land, and campers were staying there to fish and camp and leaving their garbage. It became an unsightly garbage dump very quickly because the campers did not "take a little and leave a little."

Do you want to have some fun? We never learned to run when Dad said that -- I'm not sure why -- but it would have been the smart thing to do. On this fateful day, fun meant cleaning up the campground dump across the highway. I'm not even sure Dad realized how much garbage was there! Every time we moved a can, a rat would go scurrying. I believe we hauled three pickup truck loads of garbage out of that little campground. It was a stinking mess!

After it was cleaned up, my siblings and I would go across the highway every weekend and monitor the campers. We would explain to them that it was "our property," and that they could stay there only if they cleaned up their mess because our mean father made us clean up the garbage from the campers. It worked pretty well for a number of years. Eventually, the lease was rewritten to give back that portion of land to the forest service, and they patrolled the area.

The lessons learned from Pa and my parents stuck with us. Danny and I decided to get married at the cabin. We had an outdoor wedding in the middle of December when it was 16 degrees. The cabin was only one room, a bathroom, and a closet -- just a place to get out of the rain. There was carpeting on the floor, however, that had come from my uncle's office -- take a little and leave a little. The decomposed granite that was tracked inside literally ate vacuums. Danny and I each had a vacuum when we were married, and we obviously only needed one. I knew that the cabin vacuum was on its last legs. So Danny and I took the worst of our vacuums to the cabin the day we were married. "Take a little and leave a little."

There was snow on the ground that day so we couldn't drive completely into the cabin. We had to park just off the highway and walk in. Danny, wearing his blue suit, carried the vacuum; and I, wearing my pink formal dress, threw the hose to the vacuum around my neck and proceeded to hike up the meadow towards the cabin. I'm not sure why that seemed strange to my aunt Billie, but she came unglued, ran down the hill, and rescued us from the likes of the vacuum cleaner. Hey, it was just family at my wedding plus my roommates and my husband's best man. I took the most perfect day of my life (outside of the day we were sealed in the temple 17 years later) -- it was not very much to ask that I leave an old vacuum cleaner.


  1. Laurie, I Pa had seen you "walking down the aisle" dragging a vacuum cleaner hose, he'd have taken it from you and "beaned" you with it!

  2. Cheri -- you're probably right, but he would have understood when I said, "Take a little and leave a little."