I’m sure most Boundary County residents would agree that we live in a beautiful place. Whether enjoying snow-covered Purcells from afar or hiking the peaks and ridgelines of the Selkirks, stunning scenery is all around us. But anyone who spends much time out in the forests has surely found evidence that many people do not respect the beauty of the roads and trails.
Terry Huggins has lived in Boundary County all his life, and he loves where he lives. He and his wife have been cleaning the forest service roads for the past 17 years. They spend their summers camping and four-wheeling with their puppy, and they take their pinchers along to pick up trash. It’s not just a few pieces here and there but rather pickup loads full of trash that people throw out of their vehicles or leave behind in their camp spots.
Terry is unable to work because of trauma from an antibiotic he took six years ago. Before he took the medication, he was active, healthy and very busy working three jobs. But just two pills of Ciprofloxacin was enough to permanently damage the nerves of both inner ears, resulting in the loss of over 75 percent of his hearing and balance. He visited several specialists only to be told the same thing: The damage is permanent and there is nothing that can be done to cure or improve it. This drastically changed his life in many ways. Even hearing and understanding on the telephone is a challenge now.
But Terry is not one to sit around, not one to be kept down. “He just puts one foot in front the other and goes; he’s a fighter,” says his wife Sue. She says that he needed to find something to help fill his time since he couldn’t work anymore, but too much noise makes him feel sick and almost everything makes him nauseated. But he was not content to just sit around and do nothing.
In March of 2019, Terry began walking daily for his health. Although it started as an effort to improve his balance and get exercise, it grew into a daily habit to beautify our county. He has been walking daily for almost a year now, and he has already covered 582 miles of roads in Boundary County. Each day is different as far as what he is physically capable of, but he gets out every day for at least a short walk. His drive and determination have proven the doctors wrong—Sue said that since he has been walking, his symptoms have definitely improved.
“I usually drive to my destination and park my pickup. I walk one direction, and when I start getting tired, I walk back toward my vehicle,” says Terry. “It depends on the amount of trash I find; most of the time I bag it and drive back to pick it up.” Terry adds that he walks until his body tells him to stop. Some days that is only a mile, but many days Terry walks 3 to 6 miles. When he gets home, he sorts out everything that is recyclable and hauls it to the appropriate place.
“I wish people would take a little more pride in where we live and not litter,” he says. “I wish that people, no matter where they live, took more pride in their communities and would stop littering.”
Because of Terry’s hearing loss, walking along roadsides has its challenges. He can’t always hear the cars coming, and so he is careful to wear bright colors. He walks with a pincher, which he uses both to help him balance and to pick up trash.
Even family life has been deeply affected by Terry’s affliction. He tries to still be involved with his grandkids and great grandkids, but it’s not easy. For example, the noise from a grandchild’s basketball game is enough to bring on additional dizziness and tremors. Fishing is really the only thing he can do that doesn’t cause nausea or tremors, so he spends a lot of his time down by the river. But Terry is not giving up.
He plans to continue to walk every day and pick up trash, and is happy to have something worthwhile to do. “I do this because I love it here. I have lived here all of my life, minus a couple years I left for work. It makes me feel good being able to contribute a little bit for our community by trying to keep our roads clean. We love living in Boundary County; it’s beautiful here. Boundary County is home, and I take pride in living here.”