My drive home is litter free since The Disciples joined the county’s Adopt-a-County Road program. Photo by Phil Houseal


Oct 17, 2018–When we first moved from town out to the country, one of the joys was taking walks with the kids. My daughter was appalled seeing the trash strewn along the side of the road.

“Why do people do that?” she indignantly asked as only a 10-year-old girl can do.

My answer was to hand her a trash bag. So on occasional Saturdays the family would police one of the three blacktops that intersected at our drive.

Picking up trash is more difficult than it sounds. First is the walking, with gravel trucks and pickups whizzing by a few feet away. Then there is the repeated bending, and the actual “picking up” part. Many of the cans still contain dregs of drinks and, yuck, tobacco juice. Paper trash falls apart and plastic trash tangles in agarita and catclaw. There is always the danger of various arachnids who’ve decided an empty Big Red can makes a durable and stylish abode.

The final insult is that after going to all that trouble, within a few weeks the trash is back as bad as before. The effort is as futile as picking up after a sulky teenager.

The kids are grown and gone–almost–but I still do daily walks or rides along those same roads. Recently I noticed a new sign announcing our road was now kept litter-free by The Disciples.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, but huh?

Immediately I had visions of robed and sandaled Samaritans walking across water puddles and driving demons out of Whataburger wrappers. It felt good to have a heavenly host patrolling my gravelly gates, but also made me a bit guilty since surely they could put their skill set to better use.

Then one Saturday while driving back home, I saw a white-garbed figure stooping over along the road. It was not an apostle; it was Judy Vordenbaum.

“Are you a Disciple?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

I had to dig out the whole testament. Turns out that she had gathered the twelve to atone for our littering sins along the path.

“The Disciples is just several of us who live along this road,” she explained. “We thought we’d get a group together to pick up trash and keep our road clean.”

What was the significance of the name?

“Most of us go to Holy Ghost church, and we thought we are doing God’s work, keeping the countryside clean.”

They organize and meet four times a year to spend a Saturday morning collecting litter.

Gillespie County has offered its Adopt-A-County Road Program for a little over a year. It is based on a model used in Llano County, and is one of the few counties in the state doing it, according to commissioner Donnie Schuch. (Kerr County does not offer the program at this time, according to Commissioner Bob Reeves.)

The whole program is modeled on the TXDOT litter program, but tweaked to meet county needs. The county provides signage, litterbags, and safety vests. One of the attractions is that there are no other costs.

“We had to make sure we provided the correct signage and safety materials,” Commissioner Schuch said. “It seems to be working really well–we have close to 15 groups signed up, and probably getting more individual families than organizations.”

He is pleased with how it has gone.

“You can also post a sign in memory of someone, or to honor somebody,” he said. “It’s a big boost for county roads to keep them cleaner. It’s a pretty neat program.”

According to Vordenbaum, top items harvested are cans, then plastic, followed by fast food wrappers and the stray feed sack that blows out of a pickup bed. She delivers the glass and paper to the recycling center.

While she wishes people wouldn’t toss trash out the window, she likes to think the efforts of her group are making a difference.

“Since we’ve been picking up, it doesn’t seem to get so dirty,” she said. “It might just be rest of the group is more conscious about littering.”

The Disciples challenge others in the community to do the same and help keep the roads clean.

“Like they say, don’t mess with Texas.”

I think that’s somewhere in Proverbs. Or should be.


For information on forming a group, visit and search Adopt-a-County Road.

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