The story categories outlined below are in chronological order. The oldest has a story dating back to 1830. The newest has stories about a kayak trip down the Neuse River to the Pamlico Sound in June 2016. But I’m not going to tell My Stories in chronological order. I’m going to skip around. I think it’ll be more fun that way.
I’ve written a thumbnail sketch of each category to give you some background and help you decide whether you want to take a look. Here they are:
Old, OLD Family Stories: This category contains family stories that happened before I was born. There’ll be stories here about my grandfather and great grandfather. They killed themselves. One of them died in such an interesting place that he became what newspapermen call a “reader.” On a Sunday. On page one. Can’t get better play than that.
My Dad Was A Pistol: He quit school after the 7th grade and went to work. He was only five foot, seven and three quarters, but he took offense easily and he liked to fight. He married, well, I’m not real sure how many times he married although I’m working on it. He had seven or eight kids, not sure of that either. He was into a lot of stuff, farming, mining, manufacturing. He was broke a lot when I was growing up but in the last few years of his life he did something I never thought he’d do, and made a ton of money.
The Farm: When I was an infant my family moved from a house my Dad built on Hoke Street in Gadsden, Alabama, to a farm outside of town. After my first mother died, when I was five years old, Brother Dave and I pretty much ran wild. One of my favorites stories from that era is “Go Tell Daddy What You Did.”
Going Coal Broke: When Dad began losing his shirt mining coal he sold the farm and we moved back into Gadsden, to an apartment at 1611 Litchfield Avenue. I was nine when I got my first mouthful of poor. I didn’t like it very much.
Charlotte: A year and a half later Dad hit bottom financially and we moved to Charlotte, a move that saved my life. It also introduced me to a new set of characters, including neighbors who were former soldiers and Marines who had fought against the Germans and Japanese — and who told war stories.
Sea Stories: I joined the U.S. Navy Reserves when I was 17 and served 20 months aboard USS Los Angeles, a heavy cruiser. I called one Sea Story “Whose Side Am I On?” and another, “Typhoon!”
Victory Village: Donna Joy Hyland and I were married after I was released from active duty and finished my freshmen year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We moved into “Victory Village,” university-owned “apartments” for married students living on that proverbial shoestring. It was a wonderful time in our lives except, of course, for the “Weekend from Hell.”
Bo, Jack, Mark, and Donna: Stories about my three sons and my wife. Donna and I have been a couple since 1959, when we were both 17. I hadn’t paid much attention to her until one day in plane geometry class she went to the front of the room to sharpen her pencil, wiggling as she turned the handle of the sharpener. I noticed.
Snowbird: Our family is scattered over 10 states but most of them have been to Snowbird, a remote hideaway, I guess you’d say, in the mountains of North Carolina. Snowbird has become the grist for many a story, like the time Brother Pop, who had been up there more than anyone, missed a turn coming up the mountain. No, no, this isn’t about the time he drove his pickup off the side of the mountain. That’s another story.
Did You Hear The One About? These are all the grown up stories that don’t go anywhere else, like “Walking to New Orleans.” Or the odd things I’ve seen at weddings. Or “How Not To Change A Tire.”
My Big Family Stories: There are not so many of these, not as many as I would like. But maybe, over time, we can fix that. We have a good start, including “Gone Missing.”
Newspapering: I went to work for The Charlotte News when I graduated from high school in 1960, before I went on active duty in the Navy. The News paid me $1 an hour [$8.13 in 2016 dollars], not bad considering I couldn’t type and considering that newspapering is not a real job. Over the course of my career I wrote thousands of stories. These stories are about some of those stories.
Thru-Hiker: I took up backpacking in 2009, when I was in my late 60s, hiking out west, in South Dakota [Michelson Trail], Arizona [Grand Canyon], Utah [an Escalante River canyon], and parts of the Appalachian Trail as far north as Pennsylvania. In 2015 I hiked all of the A.T., from Georgia to Maine – 14 states and 2,189.2 miles. I called this category “Thru-Hiker” but it includes all hiker stories. I look forward to telling you about “The Ring.”
Down the River: Paddling 225 miles or so down Neuse River from Raleigh to Oriental, N.C., on the coast, wasn’t all that much fun but it sure was interesting, and memorable. Especially the wee hours one morning when loud voices woke me up and I heard gunfire a few feet from my tent. This category also includes stories from three other rivers, the Toe, the Chattooga, and the Roanoke.
My Favorites: I know right many stories, several hundred. Some are OK, some are pretty good, and some, I think, are real good — My Favorites. My Favorite stories from all the categories will be gathered here.