Trash talk

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There’s a lot of litter out there along Minnesota’s roadways. The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates 26,000 tons (!) a year collected by Adopt-a-Highway volunteers.

And that’s just along the 12,000 miles of roads managed by the state. There are more than a 130,000 miles of roadway in the state.

Norman Teigen had his picture taken September 20th by MPR’s Jeff Thompson along a stretch of 169 in the southwest suburbs. Norman, who turns 70 this week, has been picking up trash along roadways for six years.

Listen Tuesday afternoon during All Things Considered for a Minnesota Sounds and Voices moment which profiles Norman’s volunteer roadside work.

He had some buddies helping him, but one by one over the years with hips, knees and hearts giving out, they’ve fallen by the wayside.

Norman jokes he’s had training picking up trash. It was part of his military duty in Vietnam when the war was on. He was an english teacher, got his draft notice, served his hitch, returned to the U. S. of A. and became a liability claims adjuster, a job from which he retired eight years ago.

A trash picking trip with Norman doesn’t reveal very many surprises. We’re really a bunch of litterers. You name it, it’s out there. He has brand new computer equipment still in its store wrapping, hats, mats, tools, money – not a lot – scads of cans and bottles.

Norman doesn’t let a lot of grass grow under his feet. He’s a serial volunteer. He’s an interpreter at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Mill City Museum, a playground greeter at the Fort Snelling historic site and an inveterate researcher. Get him talking about one of his Teigen forbearers who was a Gopher football player way back and you’ll also hear a lot interesting Gopher football lore.

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