- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Roy Jones doesn’t like to sit still.

At 76, he has the lean build and muscular legs of a man 30 years younger, maintained by golf, bowling, hauling trash around the Coal Bank Hollow waste collection site and by working his garden - at the waste site. In the past two years, Jones has brightened the Montgomery County site considerably with his lush vegetable garden and his trash art display.

“I like growing a garden,” Jones says. “Nobody seems to mind. I give a lot of vegetables away.”

Although some waste and recycling site patrons say otherwise, Jones doesn’t call his collection of framed prints, garden statues, plaques and dolls an art display. It’s just stuff he likes to look at, stuff he’s pulled out from the trash stream, he says.

“I don’t call it art; I don’t call it nothing,” Jones says. “It’s just stuff folks throw away that I’ve picked out to set in my corner - just animals and holiday stuff and flowers and junk, no special order.”

Actually Jones has two display areas now: one in front of the garden and the other beside the attendant’s shed. A giant teddy bear looms from a tree over a patch of silk flowers. The fence enclosing the vegetable plot twinkles with seasonal decorations including wreathes, costumed animals, pumpkins, a goblin or two and a sign touting such Halloween delicacies as maggot stew and guts. Lawn statues of Disney characters, frogs, raccoons and sports mascots fan out from the garden gate, three and four deep in an inanimate riot. There’s an American flag flying with an Olympic torch on top this week. Plaques, pictures, even an oil landscape adorn the outside of the attendant’s shed, which sits over the headwaters of Tom’s Creek.

“The things he places around the center make it interesting and fun. It reminds me of folk art, the way he arranges things,” said artist Gerri Young. “He creates a bright spot of color in a place that could be rather dreary. I like his sense of fun. No one else has done this sort of thing at the site.”

“I see everything that comes in here and everything that goes out,” Jones said. “I can’t take it home with me or give it away; that’s against the rules. But nobody minds if I put some of it around as long as I keep the place clean.”

Jones’ garden, tucked away in a corner, could be considered another decoration, dotted with stuffed animals and lawn art. It grows so vigorously even Jones is astonished. Tomatoes weighing at least a pound each hang from plants taller than Jones. His summer squash vines look as though they belong in the jungle rather than the shale soil of Coal Bank Hollow. His lettuce, mostly harvested, was the size of ferns.

“It’s not good soil here,” he says, shaking his head. “I dumped in some manure last year, and this year all I did was give them some Miracle-Gro. They’re doing better than my vegetables at home on Norris Run.”

Jones does not make compost from anything in the home waste receptacle. He didn’t add soil. Perhaps his planting methods help, he says.

“If you plant your vegetables close together, there’s not much room for weeds. They just aren’t a problem,” he said.

Jones has been growing vegetables in Montgomery County for more than 60 years. He started his working career at the Virginia Tech laundry in 1959, spent 33 years doing concrete work for the town of Blacksburg before retiring, and took the county waste collection site job as “something to do” about two years ago.

The requirement that he occasionally lift up to 50 pounds didn’t bother him; he doesn’t have that many disabled people who need help and 50 pounds isn’t that much, Jones says. Mostly he helps people find the receptacles they need for their particular trash or recyclables and runs the compacter whenever the household trash builds up. Unlike one of his fellow attendants, Jones has not yet had to run a bear out of the trash bins.

“I enjoy it here,” Jones said. “I enjoy meeting people. I like the location. I have a great boss and good people to work with on this site.

“We all get along and help each other out. If somebody has something he needs to do and has to leave, well, one of us will come in early - no problem.”


Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com

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