The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

The orphaned mayonnaise jar of Fort Sanders

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What stories could the lonely Fort Sanders Hellmann’s jar share about its weekend excesses?

Whites addition 1886 tn1The early Fort Sanders neighborhood is shown here in the late 1800s. Many, but not all, of the architectural period homes have been demolished.  Wikipedia

(Note from the author: This piece is about my neighborhood — Fort Sanders in Knoxville near the University of Tennessee. I wrote this for my environmental journalism class with Dr. Mark Littmann. We were tasked with writing a sketch about the world around us. I wanted to paint a picture of what I see outside every day when I walk around Fort Sanders.) 


There’s a half-full jar of mayonnaise in the front yard.

Its lid is gone, nowhere to be found. Next to it are a trio of Bud Light Premium glass bottles, lounging in the mud.

Up the street are two smashed cans, three Styrofoam to-go containers, and a smattering of cardboard, all left out in the cold to weather the harsh judgement of Sunday morning.

Every few feet more treasures appear. Cans, bottles, broken glass, clothes, needles, and old furniture. None of it looks out of place here. The green crab grass grows through the pull tabs and gray squirrels play with leftover food on the sidewalk.

Nothing is where it should be, but it all feels right; it’s an extra blanket of junk tucking the earth in for bed.

Except for the mayonnaise jar in the yard.

Collecting these treasures off the street feels hopeless. The moment a piece of garbage makes it into the trash bag, two more pieces appear.

Memories of Saturday night are left out in the gutter, no one to share them with. It happens every week. Stories of a fun night with friends cast aside into the storm drain. A nice meal left out in the rain. Cigarette butts from a moment alone.

What story does the mayonnaise in the yard have to tell?

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