DES MOINES, Iowa — Fred Louis was making his normal rounds this week, stopping at around a thousand suburban homes a day to pick up trash. His one-person truck can empty the trash cans using a mechanical arm, and then another lift dumps into the main part of the truck.
“Went into a cul-de-sac and I noticed a little girl and a little boy standing out with their mom, so I picked up their can,” said Louis. “Just randomly I opened the door and asked if one of them wanted to dump my can.”
The girl, Kinley Barrick, said she did not want to, thinking he was asking her to lift a big trash can. But her brother Keegan understood what he was asking.
“The little boy was really excited and he started jumping up and down, and saying ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So I told them come on,” said Louis. “Mom get your camera ready, this is a memory for you.”
Kelly Barrick already had her phone in her hand, so she recorded the brief moments her son had his hand of the lever, making the huge container dump into the truck. She then posted to Facebook, where thousands watched the uplifting few moments in an Iowa cul-de-sac.
“Keegan was pretty excited about it. He didn’t really know what he was doing,” said Kelly. “It was just very generous of Fred to make his day. He smiled the rest of the day.”
As the truck pulled away, 6-year-old Keegan made a comment to his mom.
“I just wanted to ride with him all day, and then when it got full, dump it in the garbage can,” said Keegan. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he said he would like to do what Louis does.
Louis can relate. He remembers riding on the back of a garbage truck with his grandfather when he was a small boy. The Houston, Texas, native moved to Iowa, as his wife grew up in Waterloo.
“I’m a father of three. I have a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old at home with a beautiful wife,” said Louis.
At Ankeny Sanitation, Louis’ gesture was appreciated by his boss. But he did ask Louis to not do that again, due to safety concerns.
“It’s not recommended, but I was in the neighborhood, new driver, new customer,” said Louis. He keeps his sparkling new truck shiny, washing it every day back at the shop.
“We’re happy we could spread a little joy,” said Kelly. “Every time we watch it, it makes us smile. We hear that from other people as well.
“Me as a black man can bring cheer and bring joy to somebody else’s life. That’s not of my culture or my ethnicity,” said Louis.
Kinley has been doing homeschool art, including chalk art. She wrote a message to their garbage man for the next time he comes by.
“Thank You Fred.”