Driving the twisting, turning Creek Road west of Greencastle, along the banks of the Big Walnut, you never know what you might see.
Camo-clad hunters carrying rifles. Stray dogs, of course. A herd of deer. Occasionally a coyote or even a sly old fox. Sometimes summertime sunbathers.
But most of the time way, way too much trash. You might even say a river of trash runs through it.
Junk is unceremoniously dumped along the road and in the creek by thoughtless, inconsiderate local residents. Trash that ultimately pollutes the landscape and the water and turns what could be a beautiful rural setting into a defacto dump.
Earlier this fall it looked as though someone had tossed an entire household out there. Furniture, clothes, appliances, housewares, even kittens.
Hundreds of people drive through the area daily. Maybe they shake their heads and complain to the guy or gal sitting next to them, but seldom does anyone stop and do anything about such eyesores.
Enter the Greencastle High School's environmental science class and Environmental Science Club and GHS science teacher John Garner.
"We covered an area from West Walnut Street all the way to the beach just past Oakalla Covered Bridge," Garner said. "This is a quiet area where trash is often dumped."
Part of what they collected has been displayed on the traffic island at the south end of the GHS student parking lot. They dragged in four couches (three in stylish plaid), an oak coffee table minus its glass surface, a computer keyboard from the Reagan administration, an old whitewall tire and even the top of an artificial Christmas tree.
"We brought in couches and other items that would not blow away," Garner said, noting the clean-up also produced about 50 large bags of trash.
"Several of the couches could have found homes but not after sitting out several months," he assessed. "There was a large amount of clothing which could have been taken to Goodwill. The strong stream in late spring and early summer also washed some trash downstream."
The group even removed some discarded toys, an old toilet and a fossilized washer that took hours to dig out.
Garner and his GHS students were inspired four years ago while reading "From The Bottom Up" by Chad Pregracke. The author, who was in his early 20s when he decided to clean up a portion of the Mississippi River, visited and spoke at GHS as well as at DePauw University.
Later that same year Garner and company started policing the banks of the Big Walnut.
"The first few years we had a lot more trash," the veteran GHS science teacher recalled.
And the group has certainly grown tired of old tires, picking up more than 100 over the four years, Garner says.
"Many of those tires were buried deep in the creek," he lamented. "Last year someone had dumped about 20 tires out there but this year we only found a couple."
The students also got a firsthand look at just how inconsiderate the public at large can be, watching one of their clean-up efforts essentially go for naught.
"Last fall my class was at the beach by Oakalla Bridge (west of West Walnut Street Road in Madison Township) the Wednesday after our clean-up," Garner recalled, "and someone had already dumped a truckload with golf clubs and a playpen."
The latest clean-up effort on Oct. 29 paired Garner and GHS biology teacher Brad Kingma with just two GHS students, Dylan Linton and Anthony Hyde.
"In the past we've had up to 30 students," Garner said, "but we put off the date and there were a lot of school activities. When we brought the trash to the school to display, students Nathan Peck, Cassidy Crawford, Fred Soster and Stephanie Penturf all helped."
Nonetheless, the effort left big impressions on GHS students.
"Dumping is a continuous problem," said senior Hyde, who has been involved in all the GHS clean-up efforts thus far. "It would be nice if people stopped."
Linton, who was also creekside during the latest effort, was shocked to see all the discarded apparel thrown into the weeds.
"It is amazing," he said, "how much usable clothing people just throw away."
Crawford, meanwhile, came closest to hitting the nail on the head.
"I am disappointed," she said, "by these individuals' lack of respect for the environment."
There was an old commercial targeting such dumping. It ended with the tagline: "Every litter bit hurts."
Along Big Walnut Creek, it's nice to know GHS students care. After all, it is also true that every little bit helps.