updated 08/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
She got a lot of attention too. The sight of Samford clipping grass and planting flowers amid whizzing traffic initially confused Houstonians. "Someone called the police and said there was a crazy old woman shoveling dirt," she says. "I said to the officer, 'You tell those people this is a courtesy—if they'd do it themselves, this crazy lady wouldn't have to.'"
Cleaning an urban roadway is not for the faint of heart. Despite shooing vagrants from highway underpasses, dodging cars and routinely picking up condoms, Samford persists. "Louise's pride in her neighborhood is unparalleled," says Parks Department spokeswoman Marene Gustin.
And contagious. Early on, Samford spent $1,000 of her savings on supplies; now, local businesses chip in. But while others volunteer to help, "it's easier to do it myself," says the mother of three, who has two great-grandchildren. "I work fast and hard—no time for play." Which might explain why she spends her rare spare moments mowing her own lawn and that of a 92-year-old neighbor. "I look my worst—sweat pours down me in rivers," says Samford. "But I feel 16!"