I/D adopts County Highway ID


How often does a highway have your name on it?

Al and Joe in spring coats, with bags of trash collected in April 2006.

Joe, standing behind his life partner Al above, has coordinated the adoption and care of a two-mile section of County Highway ID west of Madison.  

Integrity/Dignity became the proud guardian of the section of Highway ID between Highways E and JG, "adopting" it on Oct. 15, 2001 as part of the Dane County Adopt-A-Highway Program, which lines up community organizations to rid roadsides of unsightly litter.

Our adoption agreement commits us to picking up the trash along the scenic roadside, which parallells the Military Ridge recreational trail on the way to Little Norway and Blue Mounds State Park, at least three times during the year between April and October.  Joe Farrenkopf has coordinated the pickups since the beginning.  Donned in fashionable blaze orange safety vests, conscientious I/D participants work on keeping Highway ID looking fabulous!  Depending on the time of year (spring cleanup is much heavier), we typically meet around 8:30 a.m. along the stretch of road, which lies just west of Mt. Horeb on the way to Blue Mounds, and finish well before noon.

Why?  Well, "Why not??" we respond.  It's exercise and fresh air with your friends.  It usually involves brunch or a picnic afterwards.  It's educational to see what people actually do discard.  It feels good to complete a concrete project with immediately visible results.  And it's stewarding a piece of Creation.  The experience inspired Joe's Salvage & Salvation reflection, below.

And, after all, how often does a highway have your name on it?  In Wisconsin, county roads are designated with letters rather than numbers as in most states.  'Seems it was meant to be.

Below, Chuck and James, in ditch, pitch in.Chuck (left) and James pitching in.

five volunteers stand in front of six bags of collected trash in front of two-lane Highway ID.
Part of the October 2003 crew poses with the day's six-bag take.  Typically the collection is much larger in spring, when melting snowbanks reveal a full six months of refuse.

What does your trash say about you?
Salvage & Salvation

by Joe Farrenkopf

The magazines that Brian and Bill each found in the ditch along Highway ID just west of Mount Horeb were in rather good condition for having been exposed to the elements for a time. And, as exposure goes, the nude men featured in the magazines undoubtedly could tell a story or two. But the location of these magazines is likely a story in itself.

On the surface, finding these magazines abandoned in a country ditch seems insignificant. But if one thinks for a moment about how the magazines ended up where they did, and perhaps more importantly why they wound up there, a sobering realization comes to mind.

“It’s sad to think that today, someone is still out there struggling with his sexuality and feels that he must deal with it secretly,” observed Ken, describing a litterbug who was perhaps conflicted, ashamed, deciding that he cannot accept himself. “Symbolically—and literally—he opted instead to throw his anguish out the car window along some anonymous roadside.”

Those magazines were among the more unusual finds by Integrity/Dignity volunteers in the past two years along the one and one-half mile stretch of county road. Other interesting and surprising items include a rubber rat that still squeaked, various articles of clothing, a cell phone, money, and a wallet containing credit cards and a driver’s license, which we asked the village police to return to the owner. Most commonly, however, we find bottles and cans (especially beer, both empty and full), fast food and candy packaging, and bits and pieces thereof (mowers sometimes turn a once familiar-looking object into something unrecognizable).

Between April and October, 2003, we collected 34 bags of trash alongside that tiny stretch of highway, comparable to the amount we collected in 2002, the first year of I/D’s involvement in Dane County’s Adopt-A- Highway Program. If one considers our adopted length of Highway ID a representative sample, then millions, perhaps tens of millions, of bags of trash could be collected from our country’s roadsides each year. It boggles the mind to imagine such disgrace.

Disgraceful, too, is the way the Catholic, Anglican and myriad other churches toss people out the window along the highway of life. Self-important “leaders” who beam and coo over their once new and shiny treasures sort those treasures into good and bad, upon discovering what those treasures really are. These leaders place GLBT folk in the bad pile and then proceed to litter life’s highway with broken, damaged and spent lives.

Thankfully, organizations like Integrity and Dignity are there to pick up what has been tossed aside.

One may ask, “Does it do any good for us to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning three times a year collecting and removing 34 bags of trash out of the millions that could potentially be gathered throughout the country?” Similarly, one could ask, “Does it do any good for us to spend a few hours on a Saturday evening once a month worshipping together, serving as a presence, offering a safe space for those who have been discarded by a faction of the church?” I believe the answer to both questions lies in the story of the old man who tries to save some starfish that washed ashore from the ocean. This story has many versions, but it goes something like this:

An old man was walking on the beach one evening. As he drew closer to the shore he saw hundreds upon thousands of starfish that had washed ashore. He began madly scrambling around trying to return the starfish to their watery home. By the armloads, he gathered them up and gently placed them back into the ocean.

A short while later, a younger man came upon the frantic old man and looked at him with disdain. “Old man!” he shouted. “Why do you do this? There are hundreds of thousands of miles of beach throughout this planet and hundreds of thousands of starfish spread on them. What difference does it make if you throw a couple of them back in? The majority will die anyway.”

The old man stopped and looked at the younger man. He took the starfish that he still held in his hand and placed it into a small tide pool. He then looked gently up at the younger man and quietly said, “To this one I made the difference.”

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Integrity/Dignity of Madison is an ecumenical Christian faith community affiliated nationally with INTEGRITY, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group within the Episcopal church, and DIGNITY, an organization of transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay Roman Catholics and their friends. The Wisconsin Conference of Churches has recognized I/D as an AIDS Caring Community since Advent 1996—a community which, without judgment, hesitation or reservation, provides all of its services to persons who are either infected with HIV or are affected by it.

I/D-Madison meets selected Saturdays from September through June at 6205 University Avenue, at 6:00 p.m., unless otherwise advertised.  St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church is wheelchair accessible.   Our mailing address is P.O. Box 2287, Madison, Wisconsin, 53701-2287.  For more information about I/D–Madison, contact Jim or Bill at (608) 836-8886 or info@idmadison.org.  We keep names and personal information confidential.

picture of Dignity members in grassy field holding banner with DignityUSA logo www.dignityusa.org
tel. 1-800-877-8797
Integrity, Inc. national logo www.integrityusa.org
tel. 1-202-462-9193

Learn more about these national organizations.  Check out their web sites or talk to a member at the next I/D event.


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