Barney in a Sea of Rubble

Barney on the Hudson


Barney in His Element

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Phone and Shovel

This was originally published on the Hastings Trails Group site and social network. 

So, I gave an event on Saturday and nobody came. And that's fine. I gave short notice. It was a glorious late autumn day in the height of the holiday shopping season. And, as a rule, people have other errands to run and important things to do with their families during the all-too-short weekend.

My event was to be a one-hour pickup of rubble thrown over the bus turnaround on Warburton Avenue. It was strewn about the western slope of the Hubbard Rowley's Bridge Trail Extension.

The event happened anyway, and it was glorious. I gathered 10 large bags of debris — everything from the remnants of recent takeout lunches to Ballantine Ale cans (I remember the brand from Yankees broadcasts in the early 1960s) to bottles and bedsprings and old shoes and VCR tapes. Not to mention Barney the dinosaur (although Deirdre, my wife, points out that he looks more like Dino.)

I swore it would be no longer than one hour — the standard commitment that Fred Hubbard always asked for. ("Can you spare an hour on Saturday? Yes? Oh, wonderful, wonderful.") And, as was almost always the case, I got so engrossed in what I was doing that it was more than three hours later that I realized what time it was.

Every day, people in this village — some of whom are on this list — are out doing  good things for one of our trails. For the most part, your good deeds go unnoticed and unheralded, and many of you probably prefer it that way. But this blog is about bringing attention to them because one of the best lessons, among several, that Fred taught me is that if a tree is felled in the forest, nobody hears about it unless you call the newspaper. And if nobody hears about it, then not much good can come out of it.

Well, we're in a post-newspaper age.  I know that pains many of you to hear that. It pains me. My great grandfather got a job as a printer's devil at the New Rochelle Pioneer in 1868, when he was 14, and most of us "Forbes" men, and quite a few of the women, have called themselves newspapermen in this area since then. But the bankruptcy filing of the Tribune Company this afternoon is not an anomaly.

What we're doing here, on this site, is part of the future, and I beg you to take part in it. I'm not saying that great news organizations like the New York Times Co., staffed by professional journalists, are going to just shrivel up. But as they transform themselves, they will resemble what you see here more than the old grey lady of ink and paper. But this community won't happen without active participation. Don't make me get your kids to show us how to do it.<g>

Our trails and parks are a great stories. We can see Manhattan from some of them. We can almost feel as if we're in the Catskills or Adirondacks from others. Fred didn't think they should be kept a secret, unsung and unused. Nothing thrilled him more than seeing someone new on the path of the Rowley's Bridge Trail, where I did most of my work with him. 

In fact, my most transcendent moment Saturday came when I heard the carefree voices of children in the distance, as if in a dream. I was cleaning up the bottles and cans that surrounded the perversely smiling stuffed animal I'd dubbed "Barney in the Sea of Rubble." As I continued, the voices drew nearer. I heard a dad say to a child, whose hand he was holding, "Oh, look, somebody left their garbage in the woods." 

The narrow path was packed with bags and metal objects; no one else had been on the trail all day and I'd just kept filling up the available space. The mom, who was ahead of the dad with another child, saw me on the slope and said, "No, look, a man is cleaning up." And she thanked me. I took the opportunity to ask her if they walked the trail often, and she said they did. And then, just like Fred would have invited them to some forthcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony or other contrived event that had the sole purpose of drumming up interest in the trailways, I told her she should check out She said she would, walked on for a few seconds, then backed up a few steps and shouted up to me, "Would you like me to take a bag out?"

She did. And in that simple action, she embodied all the motivation and reward that Fred even needed or sought.

It occurred to me later that a picture of the woman hauling the sack out over her shoulder would have been the photograph that summed up the day. But it didn't even occur to me to take it, which is why my wife was the photojournalist and I wrote the story, upon reflection, back in the office.

Whether you're a photographer or writer, poet or videographer, seasoned professional or rank amateur, please blog or use other areas of the social networking portion of the site to:

              Share your stories about all the wondrous people and things you encounter walking the Hastings trails.

     ◆         Tell us the creative thoughts that occur to you while you're on them.

     ◆         Take pictures of all the things you see that are worth preserving.

     ◆         Announce events (and don't take it personally if no one shows up)

     ◆         Document the misuses you encounter — the aftermath of a party; bike or ATV ruts — and, better yet, tell or show us how you were able to remediate the situation.

     ◆         Make suggestions for trail improvements.

     ◆         Solicit advice on how to fix something.

     ◆         Come up with new ideas and directions — for the trails, for the site, for your blog.

One last request. I've been part of quite a few "social networking" sites during the past 25 years — dating back to when they were called Bulletin Boards or ListServs — and I've learned that their ecology is as fragile as is that of the trails. Let's have an active and open community, realizing that people have different perspectives and points of view. We don't always agree on what's best for the trails, but surely we all believe we're acting in the trails' best interests. 

Let's respect each other for that, always, and keep the conversation civil, at worst.

    Copyright © 2006 - 2017 Thom Forbes, all rights reserved.