A thousand words beyond the Hill

Thomas Cordy

Sometimes the metallic rhythm of sidewalk seams is broken by the fuzzy rattle of the shopping cart crossing the street.

Crushed aluminum bounces against itself in the impossibly big cloth bag producing the cymbal taps to accompany the shopping cart snare.

This is Lonnie Wayne Whitney’s music for his daily two-mile march around the alley ways and side streets near Western’s campus.

Whitney, a 43-year-old from Bowling Green, said he has pushed or pulled his shopping cart for more years than he can remember. Like a metal detector, he salvages left behinds and plucks loose change from parking lots, green spaces and secret treasure chests. Treasure chests like furniture left outside following the annual Delta Tau Delta fraternity’s goldfish party the night before.

“Gotta shake it from the bottom, gotta shake it from the bottom, gotta shake it from the bottom,” Whitney said, his voice carrying childish excitement while listening to muffled quarters and pennies bounce around the innards of sofas and love seats.

“He’s been coming up here for years,” said Nashville junior Tim Lingley, a Delt. “Every time we have a party, he comes and cleans up.”

Lingley has has known Whitney for three years.

“He’s a nice guy,” Lingley said. “Hard to understand but a nice guy.”

Sunday morning, Whitney started with a dime in his pocket when he left his house on Chestnut Street that he shares with his mother.

Every hour throughout the day was marked by a money count. As hours ticked away the total grew. By 5 p.m., Whitney had plucked more than $10 in change from cushions, crevices, nooks and crannies.

“I’ll take $2 and get me some cigarettes,” Whitney said. “And the rest will go in my piggy bank, will go in my piggy bank, will go in my piggy bank.”

Before Whitney headed home for the night, he bought the pack of cigarettes he had been working the better part of the day for.

After nearly finishing a second USA Gold Light 100 menthol outside the gas station, Whitney broke his silence.

“Just trying to make a dime,” he said. “Just trying to make a dime.”

With that, Whitney left.

Ke-Klane-Klank … Ke-Klane-Klank .. .Ke-Klane-Klank was the music of his journey home after a hard day’s work.

Thomas Cordy is a senior photojournalism major from Stevens Point, Wis. Reach him at [email protected]