It bugged them so much that they decided to address the unsightly mess.
Powell boys Quincy and Devon Barhaug, aged 9 and 7 respectively, made it their mission to clean up after litterbugs along the highways, roads and trails in the Big Horn Mountains and elsewhere.
“We think it’s fun,” Quincy said.
“We respect the mountain, and the mountain respects us,” Devon said.
Their parents, Ty and Jamie Barhaug, are pitching in.
Jamie said her boys love the outdoors.
The family filled 25 or 30 large trash bags over the summer, she said.
Some of the bags weighed 70 to 80 pounds to total 400 or 500 pounds, Ty said. They went trash collecting once or twice per week.
A major portion of the litter was collected along highways and mountain roads, plus some packed out while hiking and backpacking, Jamie said. Parks and baseball fields also benefitted from their toil.
If there is room in the cooler for drinks and food, why isn’t there space in there to keep the empty containers until a trash receptacle can be located? Jamie asked.
“I can’t imagine throwing it out your window,” she said.
People driving down the highway may spot a bottle or can here or there.
The stuff is easier to discern when it’s boots on the ground, Jamie said. “Once you get out and start walking it, (trash) starts multiplying.”
The Tribune met the Barhaugs Friday, Sept. 23, just south of Powell on the Shoshone River. A road above Willwood offers access to anglers and hunters, and unfortunately, litter bugs.
A pile of brush, cans, bottles, an elk carcass and assorted crap mar a lovely landscape of cottonwood trees, cattails and the river.
“The (Big Horn) mountain is tenfold what this is,” Ty said.
At the access area, the boys are raring to go. Dashing hither and yon, they grab debris while their dad holds a garbage bag, which is sagging from the weight within a few minutes.
“They’re the fetchers,” Jamie said, laughing. “We’re the packers.”
“If it was only that easy to clean your room,” quips a grinning dad to his sons.
Cans, bottles, snowmobile and ATV parts are some of the refuse the family hauled from the Big Horns, Ty said. “We can’t leave it.”
“We climbed up a really steep hill to get a snowmobile windshield,” Quincy said with pride.
They haul out quart oil bottles too, Quincy said; many are half-full, Ty added.
They’ve also found still-sealed beer bottles, some still frothy when opened.
Beer cans date back to the 1960s, and bottles from the 1920s, Ty said.
Ty said his brother, Trampus Barhaug, a Bighorn National Forest employee, gave the family access to the ranger station so they could dispose of their debris.
Sometimes the boys’ labors are profitable.
They found a 1917 half dollar, Quincy said, and a geologist weighing in on the family’s Facebook page verified one of their finds as a petrified palm seed. They’ve discovered petrified coral, too.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” Jamie said.
She said her sons aim to make their world a better place. “I’m extremely proud of them. It’s awesome.”
A light drizzle brings a chill to the air Friday, but it does nothing to dampen the boys’ unbridled enthusiasm. The air is as fresh as a dew-drop beneath cottonwood trees acting as umbrellas. Most foliage is green, but a few trees are turning yellow, made bright under glum skies.
Quincy finds a hollow partly concealed by brush where an empty 12-pack of Budweiser presumably was consumed.
The footing is precarious where soggy twigs and leaves conceal holes like natural pitfalls. Jamie holds her sons’ hands to facilitate their descent while maintaining an air of certainty, as though she knows her boys are capable of tackling tricky terrain.
Jamie said they hope to fetch more trash this fall and in succeeding seasons. “Make it a family tradition and inspire other people to do it.”
After driving by and seeing the youngsters lugging bulging garbage bags, will that shame litter bugs into depositing their refuse responsibly?
“I would like to think people would want to change,” Jamie said.
Perhaps folks who would not stoop in the past to pick up a can or bottle would experience a revelation after witnessing the boys and their parents’ laudable deeds.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to clean up,” Ty said.
What if everyone took the time to gather a bit of trash along a road or favorite hiking haunt?
“You can make a difference,” Jamie said.