On the first cool day this month when fall hinted at its pending arrival, Trip Cooper broke out the wheelbarrow for a routine walk.
Before then, it had been just too hot for much hard labor, so the streets were ripe for picking.
The 5-year-old’s little, red, rubber clogs propelled the rolling bin all through his Ingleside-area neighborhood.
Like the waves of green and blue shades on his tie-dyed long-sleeved hoodie, he washed over the neighborhood and scoured it clean.
By the end of the stroll, he had harvested a beer can, several discarded cups, empty water bottles, wrappers, sale papers and a slew of garden-variety garbage.
His mother snapped a photo.
A smile, complete with a tiny gap in his upper right grin, told of the recent bounty.
Trip’s not sure he knows what it is to be going green, but buddy, he’s been there and back more than a few times.
His passion for pollution patrol began when he was 3.
“Trip got obsessed with trash and things out of place,” said his mother, Beth Cooper.
He didn’t think it was right for people to litter up his yard with cigarette butts, leave a mess outside the corner store or toss things out in his neighborhood.
The Stratford Academy kindergarten student started taking a bag along on walks, and earlier this month he took it upon himself to upgrade to the wheelbarrow.
The mission was simple: Pick up anything that didn’t belong.
Trip paid special attention to items that potentially could hurt someone. He knows a broken bottle might cut someone’s foot, injure an animal or pop a tire.
With his 3-year-old brother, Harrison, in tow, Trip now has an apprentice on his beautification beat.
“They started filling up the wheelbarrow with trash as they walked around. And they got quite into it, digging under bushes and the whole nine yards,” Beth Cooper said.
While cruising the backyard last week, little Harrison discovered the dog’s toy mallard had suffered a run-in with the lawn mower. He promptly put the now-unstuffed toy in the back of Trip’s mini John Deere for the next haul to the Dumpster.
“We’ve always tried to make them conscious of their surroundings and contribute both to the household they’re growing up in, as well as the world they’re in, and not just be taking, but trying to do something in return,” Beth Cooper said.
The boys are responsible for clearing their dishes, feeding the dog and cleaning up their own messes.
While his mother works in the yard, Trip follows behind her and collects clippings. With supervision, he carts them off to the curb in his battery-powered green machine.
He isn’t one to brag about his efforts. Either out of shyness or humility, Trip shrugged off most questions about his anti-litter campaign, but he did say other kids his age should be doing the same thing.
What does he think Macon would look like if all little 5-year-olds picked up trash?
“Good,” Trip said before flashing a quick grin on the way to snatching up a crushed plastic pail in his backyard.
If you know of a person going above and beyond to help the community -- someone whose work might otherwise go unrecognized -- please let us know. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch Above and Beyond features Thursdays on NewsCentral. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.