As people toted green garbage bags along West Hendricks Street, Tommy Neal carried his own plastic bag west from Jackson Street.
He headed from the area of Huddle House toward his own dental office. He picked up a few bits of paper and shared bits of information. Very few bits, but all worth collecting.
“That’s where we used to hang out when we were kids,” he said.
The concrete cavity beneath the railroad tracks seemed less a haven than a dungeon. Years of debris and trash had slowed drainage, leaving the former hangout unattractive even to imaginative children.
Neal paused, but briefly. Then he continued picking up cans, bottles, broken guy wires, cable sheathing, papers and material that does not invite description. He stretched over 3 inches of standing water and onto a steep, slick embankment. He reached through weeds, limbs and grass.
So did a dozen other volunteers that Saturday morning. In all, 13 Rotary Club members picked up trash in two neighborhoods. One Rotarian was assisted by his son. Ray Silverstein, of Dearing, got wind of the effort, and joined the crew.
In a half-hour, they spruced up the area around Georgia and Black streets. Much of the trash had been dropped from passing vehicles, but the broken bedroom vanity mirror might have had other origins. Steve Huff bent to yank a square of carpet that was embedded in the grass. Bob Knox retrieved a “No Trucks” sign from the grass and suggested that Don Powers might want that sign back in the city inventory. Mayor Ken Usry collected the trash in the back of his pickup, and hauled it to the second stop, on Hendricks Street.
Neal had promised it would take no more than an hour, and he kept his word.
After all, none of it was Neal’s responsibility. Nor was it the responsibility of George Lokey or Benji Cranford or Liz Vance or Dot Knox or any of the assembled. It fell into that vast area of “somebody should.” And Neal, whose walks through Thomson had caused him to reflect on the appearance of his hometown, decided that “somebody will.”
The fourth-generation dentist decided that even a little effort can make a difference. So he pitched the idea to the Rotary Club.
And it doesn’t have to be a one-and-done, he said. Why not pitch in next Saturday, or maybe every Saturday, he asked.
For those who care to join the cause, another crew will assemble at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on Ansley Drive. That’s approximately across the tracks from C&C Tire. Wear boots and gloves. Bring a green trash bag or two. Be ready to laugh.
For those who question the need for the cleanup, just notice that there’s something vaguely unfamiliar or even promising about a couple stretches of street.
Tommy Neal saw that possibility as he walked the morning streets of his hometown, and he took the first steps toward making those walks more pleasant.