Bendel news report | Garbage Bugs: Sisters take on a never-ending task to clean up the sides of Gillette’s roads

Gillette – For a Wednesday, a late spring day was almost perfect for a Wyoming day: 70 degrees, a light breeze and skies reminiscent of Bob Ross paintings, with happy little clouds of white titanium embossed on a blue phthalo canvas with a brush fan.

In a meticulously preserved home in Jane Court, Madeleine Martinez and her sister Mira Johnson were preparing to make a beautiful day even more beautiful. They packed a big bag stuffed with Albertsons and Smith’s plastic shopping bags, gloves (latex for Myra, cotton for Madeleine), and something to drink, and they were ready to go. They were going to collect garbage on the roadsides in Gillette.

When they left the house, they passed a garage that was as clean and tidy as the inside of the house, where Madeleine’s husband, Jerry, was busy restoring a 1977 Thunderbird that was ready to be painted. The women jumped into a white F-150 that Madeline said she had “largely taken over” from her husband, and took off.

They made their way down Fox Park Avenue, which they both called “the dirt road” as if an official name had not occurred to them, and found a place to pull off. A tractor was mowing through Cam-Plex grounds behind the fence near where it had stopped, and on the other side of the road, a rider and a horse were making their steps, seemingly oblivious to the world.

Without exaggeration or circumstance, the women began to work; Madeleine, 68, is on one side of the road, and Myra, 64, is on the other. Although they definitely hadn’t planned on it, they couldn’t help but look like sisters while they worked. They both wore teal family shirts, they both chose jeans for a walk (Madeleine, shorts, Mira, pants) and they both wore Skechers black. If they went too far on the road to be discernible, there was a simple trick: Mira wore what looked like a small backpack, but in reality it was a portable oxygen tank.

They worked quietly for the most part, each in its own realm, and soon their plastic shopping bags were filled with junk from moving cars, of people who clearly thought a fraction, if any, of this earth were like sisters. she did. It was not their land. They didn’t own it – yet they cleaned it with the same loving care as if it were.

In 2021, Madeleine said she collected a literal ton, at least 2,000 pounds, of trash on her various trips along Boxelder and Garner Lake roads and Highway 51. She said there is no shortage of trash. I remembered once after I cleaned along a certain road that on the way back to the truck, within an hour or so it was running steadily down the road, someone had just dumped more trash right on the side of the newly cleaned road.

After moments like that, you’d forgive her if she didn’t want to do it again, but Madeleine said her relatively few outings in 2022 were a byproduct of the weather, not a frustration. However, it still poses an obvious question.

Why would these two women, each in their 60s, choose to do such a selfless act?

As for Madeleine, she seems to have never thought about why. It’s more like “Why not?” She said it was because she couldn’t stand seeing trash.

Sure, she admitted, there are additional perks that have nothing to do with beautifying the city, like the fact that it’s giving her something to do now that she’s been retired for almost a decade.

There were some moments where I helped people, real people with faces and names that you could recognize and could appreciate her work on. Like the time you found a women’s wallet or the two separate times you found wallets. Each time I faithfully returned it to its rightful owners, and each time I knew it had done something that really helped those people.

There’s also a remote chance that she might make some money from recycling, though for the most part she said it’s nothing more than a pocket change. Although there was that one time I found a catalytic converter.

‘I said, ‘Honey, can you come over here and pick up that tube for me?’ “I remember Madeline asking Jerry. When he arrived, he knew what I had found. They glanced sideways when they went to recycle, as catalytic converters are often stolen from cars, but she remembered over $120 as one of her biggest payday days.”

Then there is exercise and fresh air.

“I’m usually there for two to three hours,” Madeleine said over the phone one day. “I can get about 6000 steps.”

Counting steps and picking up trash brings to mind humorist and author David Sedaris, who has now written several articles that began with his sudden fascination for achieving the goal of steps back in the day that he finally married with a street-cleaning habit like he’s gone.

Mira loves the exercise work provides.

“I like it when it’s nice out there,” Mira said after her sister gave her the phone. “To get some fresh air. For good health.”

To walk alongside Mira while she works, the occasional hissing from her portable oxygen tank makes picking up the trash seem like an even bigger and more selfless gesture. But like her sister, the idea seems to have never crossed her mind; Her oxygen tank is simply a necessary part of the trip, no different from her shoes or gloves. The only thing is not a reason to stay home and leave her sister without help.

Despite all of these potential additional benefits, at the end of the day, for Madeleine, it’s still trash. On Fox Park Street, as they were on their way back to the truck, they wondered aloud about the people.

“I just keep a suitcase in my car,” said Madeline, almost baffled that not everyone in the world does either. “This way, I can keep the trash and throw it away when I get home. Or at a gas station.”

The two women agreed that the litter problem had worsened in Gillette in the past few years. “It’s never been like this before,” said Madeleine, who had been here longer than the two of them, wistfully.

It’s the minor inconveniences of picking up trash that one discovers in the midst of doing so that reminds you why so few people give up their time to do so. As soon as you bend down to pick up a piece of plastic thoughtlessly that has become part of an anthill you’ve overlooked, you remember: This is not fun.

Once it’s a liquid of unknown origin, a translucent yellowish-brown in color it’s probably rainwater (please make it rainwater) but sparks the imagination of tobacco spit or, worse yet, leaking from a deformed, perforated bottle, you remember: This is more.

But mostly you remember how seldom you think about a simple truth: it doesn’t require anyone’s permission. There is no one to prevent anyone from this part of community service; All one has to do is go.

Often, people don’t think about it at all. When they do, perhaps on a walk with a spouse, child, or pet, they may see trash and lament: “Oh, pity. People really shouldn’t do that. They know better.” And after that they resume their march, never bending over to help the cause, and never soiling their hands.

This is what sets them apart from one another, this slight difference between them and many others; This is what made Madeleine and Myra seem like giants in society.

They got back in their truck and drove to the end of Fox Park Street, where they stopped on the side of the road where it meets Interstate 51.

They began to walk on the sidewalk, side by side, and then split up. One can take the shortest stretch between the sidewalk and the fence line; The other one will take the bigger one between the sidewalk and the highway.

As they made their way away from their truck, the world opened up and suddenly everything was phenomenal, except for the two of them. Although they might be giants, they seemed so young at that moment, consumed by their labor.

The pavement has reached infinity. The ground was so flat and the distance so vast, it seemed impossible for them to make an impact on their overall goal. The sky was so big that it surrounded them as if it was under a dome. The individual’s peripheral vision saw that blue with those happy little clouds of Bob Rossian all the way to the extreme edges of sight, unable to escape them.

Unlike Fox Park Street, where the occasional car swerved slowly, rolling its necks inward to see what was happening along the side of the road, the highway was a cacophony with the hiss of fast-moving cars and trucks. It felt like a real certainty that few, if any, had given any attention to the sisters.

It is almost certainly what they prefer, to toil in anonymity, to avoid being recognized. Madeleine, to put it mildly, wasn’t crazy about an article in the newspaper.

“I love what I do, but this confession is not what I do,” she wrote in a text message, in an attempt to avoid spending an afternoon with a reporter. “My goal is to keep busy and do something good for our small town and neighborhood.”

By the end of that Wednesday session, she had done just that: a good thing for her very small town. The back of Jerry’s white F-150 before it was taken over as a volunteer garbage truck was filled with perhaps a dozen garbage bags and still more loose pieces of wood, plastic and rusty metal. It was proof that an hour and a half was well spent.

Given that space is so long and wide, it can be hard to tell how much work they’ve done; Photos from a distance may not, to the naked eye, look much different from previous photos.

But they knew. Kano is there. They did the work, the good deed, the selfless deed. The bed of that truck was full of evidence. Their services were required, and they answered the call. They can rest very well in that knowledge.

And now the rest of the lovely little town knows her, too.

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