Iron Eyes Cody

Today is the birthday in 1904 of the film and TV actor Iron Eyes Cody.

He he has a lengthy list of feature film appearances on the Internet Movie Database , but was famous to most Americans as the “crying indian” in this landmark anti-pollution Public Service Announcement from 1971.

Iron Eyes Cody was an American, but not a Native American. He was born in Louisiana to Italian parents. His given name was Espera de Corti. He shortened his last name to “Corti” and when he went to Hollywood it became the much more marketable “Cody”.

He appeared on screen with luminaries like John Wayne and Richard Harris. And also with lesser lights like Jim Varney and Mr. T. But perhaps the most fascinating character in any of his films was Cody himself. He maintained throughout his life that he was of Cherokee and Cree ancestry, and stuck to that story even after researchers uncovered his true background.

He married a Native American woman, donated to Native causes, adopted Native children and seems to have lived an exemplary life of devotion to those who were his people in every sense except through a direct blood connection. But how important is that?

Thanks to that ubiquitous PSA, in the minds of millions of people “of a certain age”, Iron Eyes is an iconic Indian, and a constant reminder that we should pick up after ourselves.

Forty years ago, keeping America clean was an important part of the national conversation. That’s not so true today, though I don’t sense that we’ve come anywhere close to winning the war against litter.

I’d like to think that no one would throw a full bag of trash at the feet of an indigenous American standing by the highway in 2012 – not that that would have happened in 1971 either. What’s more likely today is that someone would call the police because some suspicious guy was standing too close to the road, crying.

What do you do to Keep America Clean?

About these ads

84 thoughts on “Iron Eyes Cody”

  1. First, an OT announcement. I’m leaving soon for a trip to Washington DC. Two old college buddies are paying my way to fly out for a visit, which I find flattering and intimidating. We’ll have a party one night with two of the women I should have dated in college if I hadn’t been so damned shy. I expect I’ll be off TB for a week.

    Actually, Dale, the “war” against littering has been mostly successful. When I was a kid you could walk into a roadside ditch at any random location, jam your hand down in the weeds and come up with a beer can without needing to feel around much. Even nice people chucked trash out the car windows. My family was “nice people,” and we sure chucked our share. It just isn’t the same now.

    I’ve always believed that the campaign to “keep America clean” was a subtle conspiracy run by polluters who wanted to pretend that “cleanliness” (an aesthetic term) was the issue. They wanted to be free to go on poisoning our streams and air for profit while pretending to care about trash in the ditches. And we haven’t won that more important war. Recently we have received evidence that butterflies and honey bees are poisoned by modern pesticides. And after all these years, the polluters have gelded the environmental agencies set up to control them. The MN PCA just was publicly humiliated by a finding that it was looking the other way while miners are destroying the air quality over the BWCAW.

    See you guys again in a week. Be good to each other, dear Baboons!

    Like this

    1. I ain’t never been to Washington before, so this is exciting. I’m such a parochial little country mouse. I told my friends I’d like to see “the Smithsonian,” and they told me it is something like six buildings.

      Like this

    2. I was surprised to learn the smithsonian was a big deal too, they had the flag from the star Spengler banner inside the front door when I went in, I wandered around for a whirl then hooked up with a group who seemed to be looking at interesting stuff, turnd out they We’re the big time donors and we got to go look at real neat old stuff in the back rooms in storage boxes, the docent told me everyone in the group was a million dollar donor and she thought it was nice that they let me join in their tour
      Enjoy dc there is some other stuff to see too, Strasberg pitches the opener on thursday

      Like this

        1. My daughter, in art school in Philly, had a school outing to DC two/three weeks ago and the cherry blossoms were at their peak.

          Happy trails, Steve.

          Like this

    3. Have a wonderful trip, Steve. Washington DC also has lots of vibrant neighborhoods and a huge variety of “ethnic” restaurants. And the Smithsonian is wonderful – although you should decide ahead which of the museums you want to see. All of them takes about a week!

      Like this

    4. Have a fabulous trip, Steve! DC can be exhausting (I did it prior to a hip replacement). FDR Memorial (little known) and Korean are wonderful. Take one of those bus/trolley tours to the monuments.
      Just see what you can see and enjoy your friends. (and come back with stories)

      Like this

  2. For years as a kid, I had the ditty from the “Pitch In” PSA running through my head as part of my internal radio. If this link works, you can listen to one version of it here, but skip the commercials after the PSA…unless you really need to know about Cascade’s sheeting action:

    Mostly what I remember from about that same era was saving newspapers for paper drives – either for school or my brother’s boy scout troop (you were rewarded at the school drive based on the total height of the stacks you brought in). And my mom loading up the car with cans and bottles to bring to a recycling site off highway 100 somewhere. Recycling now is curbside, so more folks do it as a matter of course – though I get teased sometimes at work for rinsing my yogurt containers to bring home for recycling (I have admonished co-workers for putting paper in their regular trash when they have a perfectly good recycling bin right next to their waste basket). Reduce-reuse-recycle is a message that stuck with me (after the initial prompt to “Pitch In and Clean Up America”….though maybe that was just about figuring if I picked up litter I could go on a swell picnic with a nice looking guy in a park).

    Like this

  3. Good Morning!
    I try to recycle, though it isn’t always easy. Every time I move, I have to find out if the area has a curbside pickup or if I have to bring it somewhere special. There’s no curbside recycling in Michigan, so I mostly only recycled my pop cans (10 cents a can!). Here in Wisconsin, there’s curbside, but not at my apartment building. Luckily, I have a co-worker who’s willing to let me through my recycling in her bin :). Also, while Geocaching, I follow “Cache In, Trash Out.” It just means you pick up any garbage along your way. It’s simple, and helps clean up those areas that don’t see many people.

    Like this

    1. For a while St. Paul took different stuff in their curbside recycling than Mpls – I had a co-worker in St. Paul, so we would swap recycling once a month or so. As I recall, I got her office paper and junk mail and she got my plastics.

      Like this

      1. The trend is toward mixed recycling, so you just put the stuff out on the curb and don’t separate it. I guess this really encourages recycling while not adding significantly to costs.

        Like this

        1. On this side of the river we are not co-mingling our recyclables yet… boo hoo. But they have added some more items to our “can be recycled” list this year. Finally something to do w/ our milk cartons besides just dump them. But now we’re recycling enough items that I had to get a second recycling bin from the city. Yeah!!!

          Like this

        2. I was excited about the expansions in what we can put out for recycling – of course the key is to close the loop where and when you can and purchase stuff made from recycled material. Plastics are tough to find on the consumer market (at least called out as recycled plastics), but they are here and there…

          Like this

  4. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I recycle everything possible; I try to refuse plastic bags, those scourges of the planet, and those I do collect I recycle; and I pick up the dogs’ poo in plastic bags that I reuse if possible. Then there is the gardening thing. I am trying to replace the world’s oxygen then balance out the carbon monoxide emissions of my car with my garden, especially tomatoes in the summertime. Do you think that is possible? And then I turn into the garbage lady at the park, gathering bottles and spare socks then depositing them in the garbage barrel.

    OT, yesterday I never got past lurking. Last Thursday we obtained a new puppy–a bisanji mix who is another rescue. Our new little whirlwind Lucky is 8 mos old. Did I mention energy? Maybe I am too old for this. She was born for the dog park, full of attitude and vinegar. On Sunday within 15 minutes of arriving at the dogpark, this little 17 pound spitfire had cowed a giant Burmese Mountain dog.

    Our morning routine is not quite the same, interfering in my TB world.

    Like this

    1. Sounds like Lucky will keep you on your toes. Hope the two pooches are getting on well – probably nice for them to have a playmate during the day when the Tall Dogs Who Walk on Two Legs and Have Thumbs are at work.

      Like this

  5. Good morning to all. I guess Steve is partly right about the success of the campaign againest littering. However, there still are plenty of people who litter. I think most of them are kids but, of course, there are some adults as well.

    I pick up trash that is an obvious eye sore and which I can deposite some place without too much trouble. However, I don’t go out of my way to do this. I make some efforts to reduce the amount of stuff I send to the land fill and would like to reduce that amount to nothing, but I still generate one or two bags of stuff every week that ends up there.

    Like this

    1. One thing that bothers me is that as soon as we get good at recycling a material, companies change to a different, less recyclable material to package their products in. If they have to sell water, why can’t they just put it in aluminum cans? Aluminum actually has a value, creating financial incentive for someone to collect it.

      Occasionally I send off an e-mail to a company complaining about their packaging – for example soup companies that use those boxes instead of cans, in an attempt to make their product look more modern and trendy. Or I seek out products that are still packaged in glass jars and write a few words of praise to the manufacturer. I suppose it’s a waste of time but it makes me feel virtuous.

      Like this

      1. Ectopic post – meant this for Steve’s comment about the water bottles. I’ve had coffee, but it hasn’t helped so far.

        Like this

  6. We still litter we just do it in foreign countries china Mexico Honduras don’t eat the dirt it will kill you, I live off a street that is void of houseftonys for most of the mile back to the highway, it is where the kids go to throw their beer cans out while they are driving around so they aren’t caught red handed if they get pulled over. I get it but it’s too bad
    . Pretty street full of beer cans every Saturday and sunday
    Different computer today can’t stop the caps,aggggghh

    Like this

  7. The biggest eyesore in litter these days, I think, is the little plastic bottle used to sell water. These are ubiquitous and seemingly harmless, but they easily get dropped or blown away. When it rains heavily, the rushing water washes these bottles into the storm sewers and then on to the Mississippi. While walking my dog I have seen the Mississippi so cluttered with empty water bottles that it looked like you could walk on them from one side to the other. There may be other fights more important to fight from an ecological health perspective, but we have to win the battle against these symbolic pollutants, too. We need to ban these things.

    Like this

    1. America the Great Consumer, thinks that all pollution lies at the disposal end when the real solution for much of the problem lies at the consumption end. Water in plastic bottles is the perfect example. For most folks most of the time an unneeded purchase.

      Like this

  8. One of the nastier aspects of our oil boom is the trash that is starting to accumulate on the roadways including, I shudder to say, jugs and bottles filled with trucker urine from guys who just couldn’t wait the 75 miles or so to the next bathroom. Why they have to pitch it in the ditches I don’t know. We plant flowers and try to keep our yard neat, and we don’t litter.

    Like this

  9. I didn’t know about Iron Eyes. That’s quite a story, Dale. It seems to me that he should have cleaned up his own act by telling the truth about his lineage.

    Like this

    1. It sounds as if Iron Eyes Cody might have been emulating Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney), who was born in England and, in Canada, reinvented himself as a Native American.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl
      The nineteenth and early twentieth century are filled with people who invented a fictional past for themselves and then lived out their lives as if it were true- people like Adah Isaacs Menken, Miriam Follin (Mrs. Frank Leslie), Pauline Cushman and Joachin Miller. Whether or not Cody should have told the truth about his origins, his fictional history seems to have been harmless enough and certainly made his life story more interesting.

      Like this

  10. If all goes as planned, I’ll be starting my own compost heap this season! I’m ridiculously excited. I should have been saving food scraps all winter, but we have a very small freezer, so I’m sad to say they went into the trash. No more! Of course we recycle, but I’m trying to figure out ways to reduce trash in the first place (and to get the roommate on board). Speaking of which…most of my reading in the last couple months has been environmental, and I happened to finish a book two weeks ago called “The Story of Stuff” by Anne Leonard (a followup to the movie of the same name). I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the book was very readable and informative. I recommend it–Hennepin County library has copies, so anyone can get it on Interlibrary Loan.

    Like this

    1. I have contemplated starting an indoor compost operation with the composting worms. I have a basement, and I could do it, but I worry it would be one of those things to which I fail to pay adequate attention, and I don’t like to think about what it might turn into.

      I’ll look for Anne Leonard.

      Like this

      1. I’ve thought about worm composting, too, because I hate the walk out to the compost bin when it’s really cold, plus the compost freezes solid and doesn’t really rot during the cold months (this winter was an exception). But I’m afraid I will not pay enough attention to feeding the worms daily…and then what? will they escape their bin and be all over the house?

        Like this

        1. Alas, no, they die. You have to keep them moist enough but not so wet they drown, feed them enough but not too much, and provide them with bedding. Much harder than cats; at least the cats will tell you what they want and start knocking things off shelves when they don’t get it!

          Like this

  11. A friend in Vancouver, BC just emailed me that there’s a mountain of tsunami debris as big as the state of Texas floating from Japan towards Canada. What will the Canadians do with it?

    Husband and I recycle containers and shred paper at home and at work, shop second hand stores, buy in bulk at coop using recycled jars for storage, try to eat local and seasonally as much as possible to minimize packaging, mostly in the summer because of Farmers’ Markets. Guilty of throwing the occasional peanut butter jar in the trash because it was too much trouble to wash out the sticky stuff (shame on me). Instead of dumping everything in the trash, we drive to various dumping and donation sites, using gas and polluting the air even more, so maybe it’s a wash. I don’t know. It IS much easier to recycle when you don’t have to sort it ahead of time – we’ve had it both ways.

    I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember when and where I would have internalized the “pick
    up after yourself” mantra. My family never had a TV till I’d left home and we didn’t live in the US so
    it wasn’t American marketing or PSA’s. Growing up in Japan, there was always a sense of the public commons. We’d turn in coins we found on the street at the neighborhood police kiosk. I don’t recall seeing trash on the streets. Neighborhood women would come out early in the morning, sweep the dirt street in front of their homes, and sprinkle water to settle the dust. We children would clean our classrooms (it only took 15 minutes at the end of the day), stoke the charcoal stoves in each classroom, serve the lunches. We would exchange “outside” and “inside” shoes when going in and out of the building for recess (also our homes). Maybe it was a sensibility that evolved over centuries in a country where many people shared a very small space. Customs like multi-purpose rooms – we slept on the floor and stashed our futon in the closet during the days. In the 50’s and early 60’s I don’t recall there being as much packaging material either – cans, paper, plastic. We carried shopping baskets to and from market. I don’t know what it’s like there now, but judging by the Japanese products at United Noodle, I’m thinking that packaging is as much an issue there as it is here, trending in the wrong direction! Also my parents were very conscious of not being the “ugly American” – living in a place where you look different from the general populace and your every move is scrutinized and observed it became second nature to censor yourself and be on your good behavior.

    It’s my experience that in neighborhoods where people know each other and take care of their homes and property, they feel a stake in keeping the area tidy. Inside our houses, our own consumer habits take over and I’m really really really trying to have a place for everything or else it goes. But my family “collecting” gene is constantly at battle with theJapanese aesthetic.

    Like this

    1. I am thinking that Japan has such a nice culture on this theme and then you come to the land of bachelor farmers where snow hides the piles of crap 6 months a year. In Georgia they have cars in the back yard that go back three generations . Ugly Americans seem to get lax when space opens up as in Renee and roadside lemonade. Cigarette butts are everywhere you look.metalic paper to wrap mini candy bars and granola corn fructose snacks roll across the playgrounds to wherever they end up for the next twenty years until they decompose. A little Japan is good

      Like this

  12. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Pleasant and Martin is a great source of information on composting. So far, I do not have a compost pile that works well for composting kitchen scrapes. When the ground is not frozen, I follow a suggestion from the book I mentioned and bury kitchen scarpes in my garden where they break down and improve the soil. My compost piles are used to break down leaves and other plant material that does not attract flies. With additional work I could start a compost pile that is managed to heat up quickly and break down kitchen scrapes before they start attracting flies and become breeding spots for them.

    I don’t know if I could keep a compost pile going in the winter that would stay hot enough to break down kitchen scrapes. I put my kitchen scrapes in the garbage during the winter. If I had a worm composting set up, like Linda mentioned, I would use that to compost kitchen scrapes in the winter. According to the composting book I mentioned, Linda is right, worm composting does take
    careful management and should probably only be done if you are willing to spend a significant amount of time learning to do it.

    Like this

  13. Good trip, Steve. Glad you are up to it.
    Getting thin on here between traveling Babooners such as Steve and Barbara, and those we have lost, such as Donna, Catherine, barb in blackhoof.

    Like this

    1. BiB, New babies of all species are round the clock work, aren’t they? Is Dreamy up and about again? Does she look for her babies? Do any of the others nurse with her or are the mother goats very protective of their own?

      Like this

  14. Rabid recycler and composter here. I have some rather decrepit compost bins built by wasband (they are made of wood and are rotting from the moisture. I have done a little research on replacing them). I put kitchen scraps right on top of the frozen piles or on top of snow if we’re so lucky. They just sit there and freeze and when it warms up, they do their merry composting thing. I add as many leaves as will fit. I feel better about sending leaves to Mpls composting now that they require compostable bags.

    I hate plastic bags and always refuse them unless the haul is too large and I have forgotten my reusables.

    My kids know the embarrassing truth that when out walking, I can’t resist picking up recyclables to bring home. My pet peeve is freeways and especially off-ramps. I have had plans, not yet realized, to take a bag (bags!) to the off-ramps I frequent and pick up everything.

    Anna, I not only rinse out yogurt containers and the like to bring home, I also bring home apple cores and banana peels to compost.

    I’m an annoying goodie-two-shoes in this department.

    Like this

    1. Had to look up the source of “goodie two-shoes” and found this in Wikipedia (apparently, I’m spelling it incorrectly):

      The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is a little children’s story published by John Newbery in London in 1765. The story popularized the phrase “goody two-shoes”, often used to describe an excessively virtuous person

      Like this

    2. If I put my fruit peels and cores in the right garbage cans at work, it gets sent to be composted. Or at least that’s what the signs above the receptacles tell me…

      Like this

      1. A long time ago when Rainbow was first collecting plastic bags, the store where I shopped moved the bins and I asked where they had gone. The store worker pointed them out but said, “you might as well not bother. We just take them out and toss them in the trash”.
        Then the bins went away altogether. Even though they reappeared, I have always been a little concerned about what was really happening to the bags.
        It’s always a bit of a worry to me that stuff doesn’t end up where they say it will.

        Like this

        1. Geez, I had better check with my local Rainbow what they do with them, ’cause that’s where I take all the extra plastic bags we inevitably end up with. I thought it was some legislated mandate that they had to recycle them, is that not so? Of course, even if it is, who’s going to make sure it happens?

          Like this

    3. A goodie-two-shoes, urban organic gardener here. Reuse, recycle and compost almost everything. City of Mpls has sent rude letters accusing me of not recycling and not putting out my garbage. From time to time, when I have nothing to set out, I ask neighbors to borrow some of their recycling and if they have overflow garbage, they know they can put it in my cart. I don’t like to get those letters.

      Like this

      1. Wow, I’m impressed that you reuse, recycle, compost to the extent that you sometimes have NO garbage! We have a long way to go at our house, I’m afraid.

        Like this

        1. The trick is—not to buy anything that is not essential. It has been a journey that started with separating my wants from my needs and designing my own austerity program. It became easier when I retired—no money is a great motivator, hee, hee. I enjoy 2nd hand stores but can walk out with nothing—amazing feat considering my past history. I’m not very good for the present economy.

          Like this

  15. Clyde, I think the early spring has lead to a little decrease in participation in this blog. Also, I am using a computer that is not too good until I can get my other one fixed or replaced so I am not as active. In addition, Work Press will not let me post a reply to a comment from some one else and I think others are having this problem. I didn’t post this comment under your comment about blog participation because Word Press will not let me do that.

    Like this

  16. What do I do to keep America clean? The things that most people here have mentioned – recycling, composting, not littering. I’m not perfect at recycling and composting but I try, and I hope to improve.

    No Littering was hammered into my head as a child. We NEVER tossed garbages out the car window – maybe an apple core that would decompose and if we were in a deserted area, but no trash. I wish the people in this neighborhood had No Littering as one of their core values – you wouldn’t believe the trash I pick up in my front yard every week.

    Like this

Comments are closed.