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Letter: A poem in praise of Bill Gordge

Letter: A poem in praise of Bill Gordge


In most places there are extraordinary ordinary people. They work behind the scenes. They don’t seek fame, fortune, or even recognition. They just do things with excellence so the rest of us can enjoy simple pleasures, such as hiking in our magnificent mountains here in Roanoke without thinking about how these trails came to be. Witness one extraordinary ordinary person here in Roanoke, a man named Bill Gordge.

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In praise of Bill Gordge: an extraordinary individual

The Roanoke Valley owes much to Bill Gordge.

He founded Physicians to Children and went on to forge

“The Mid-week Crew” of volunteers who build hiking

and biking trails much to our liking throughout the Valley

and beyond. We owe much to this “Aussie” who sallied

well beyond mere retirement

to form an entire establishment

of dedicated people who work for free

so you and I can hike, bike, and flee

to the wondrous mountains that encircle us.

It’s given to us in trust

for succeeding generations on end.

These trails are for us to send

into the future. He asks no credit

but we are all in his debit

for seeing how much we enjoy our trails.

Most of you don’t know how much it entails

to get these trails on our maps.

Trails do not materialize without work that caps

months of careful planning,

sometimes spanning

decades. Constructing trails takes time as well:

about a thousand man-hours per mile,

mostly with hand tools of proven worth.

The trails emerge with slow births.

Through forest, brush, and briars

they inspire

works of landscape art.

They become part

of the land. We use it to advantage:

carefully, lovingly to manage

the work so it escapes your notice.

The route is carefully sought out.

Its route does not shout

out “Here’s the way!”

Pathfinders like Bill

seek out a plan that fulfills

an aesthetic sense, past natural features

that we and natural creatures

of the forest such as mice, bears, and deer

also might employ

as “highways” to enjoy.

Bill’s now about ninety-four,

with many more years, we hope, in store.

He exemplifies the extraordinary “ordinary” man.

Thank him and his Mid-week Crew however you can.

Always carry out what you carry in:

littering is a cardinal sin.

Ron Reese, Roanoke

Reese is a volunteer trail-builder on the Appalachian Trail. He lives in Roanoke.

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