Stratford, Texas, United States

The Great Pop-Bottle Heist

I was walking down this alley on way home from school when I made a discovery that I thought would help me realize the dreams of any 10 year old who had their sights set on acquiring a mini-bike. In this alley, next to a shed under the low hanging limbs of a tree, was a galvanized tub filled with soda-pop bottles. There must of been about a hundred bottles in that tub. At the time, the going rate for returnable bottles in Texas was $0.04 each. 100 x .04 = 4 bucks, divided 3 ways, because I was going to need some help carrying all those bottles. That was big money. That tub of bottles was treasure to be plundered and I knew two other scoundrels who could help me out.

Everyday for several weeks following, I walked past those bottles, just sitting there in that tub within spitting distance of the trash cans. I was convinced I would be doing someone a favor by getting rid of them. My two friends agreed. I don’t think we thought we were doing anything wrong. One afternoon we rode our bikes down the alley and picked up as many bottles as we could carry. We delivered them to a service station a few blocks away and kept returning until every bottle was gone.

Having succeeded, we treated ourselves to a bottle of soda-pop at the service station and then proceeded to ride our bikes home. By this time it was late afternoon and my mom would be home from work soon. When I got home she was already there— her car was in the driveway. I knew something was wrong without even going in the house.

She knew everything. She knew how many pop bottles we gathered and how much money we had been paid for them. It seems I had been branded a thief and not only that, the ring leader. We both agreed this was very uncharacteristic of me. I tried to explain that we were just trying to do our part to keep the alley ways of Stratford, Texas free of unnecessary debris , but this excuse didn’t clear me of any wrong doing.

So, being the ring leader, which I denied, I had to go collect all the money from my “gang”, and return it to the elderly lady whom we had just… robbed. I walked up to the front porch and the door opened before I could knock. I handed over the loot, and trying to put a positive spin on this, apologizing for cleaning up the alley behind her house.

I waited for her to say something, but she just counted the money. When she finished, she looked at me for what seemed like a long time. Then she said, “well, I reckon that’s about right.” Secretly, I had hoped she would recognize my good intentions and let me keep the money, but just as I was about to turn and walk away, she said “I've been saving up those bottles for my grandson. He want’s to buy a mini-bike”.

The Great Pop-Bottle Heist