1942 — Born, Gadsden, Alabama, the seventh or eighth child –I’m not exactly sure, no one is –of a man who boasted of getting in at least two fights a week until he was 40 years old. Now there’s a story, no, several stories.
Correction: Make that “eighth or ninth child.” See June 19, 2017, post, “Our Missing Sister Found Us.”
1953 — Moved to Charlotte, N.C., after Dad went broke mining coal.
1959 — Fell in love with a high school classmate, Donna Joy Hyland. We’ve been a couple from then until now.
1960 — Graduated from Garinger High School in Charlotte without flying colors — I failed four subjects in high school. Got a job writing sports for The Charlotte News making $1 an hour, double what my father had paid me for working at his sweat shop. Working for Dad, manufacturing clothes hangers, was dirty, deafening, dangerous, and hot. Let me put it this way: If OSHA inspectors had been around in those days they would have put my father under the jail.
1960-1962 — On active duty in the Navy, including 20 months aboard the USS Los Angeles, a heavy cruiser. I was a Journalist Third Class when I got out which is not the same thing, let me point out, as third class journalist.
1962 — Got engaged. Enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With my high school grades, why did UNC admit me? I found out one afternoon early in my freshman year, when I was hitching home to Charlotte. I introduced myself to the driver and he repeated my last name: “Stith,” he said. “Did you just get out of the Navy?” And then he told me the story.
1963 — Married my high school sweetheart.
1964 — Bo was born.
1966 –Graduated from UNC with a BA in journalism; went to work reporting for The Charlotte News; Jack and Mark, our twins, were born.
1967 — Doctors in Chapel Hill tested Jack and told us that he is mentally handicapped. Autistic too, it turned out. My father told me, “Everyone has a cross to bear, and this is yours.”
1971 — Moved to Knightdale, N.C, to work as an investigative reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh. Bought Snowbird, in the mountains of North Carolina near the Tennessee line.
For the next 25 years, life went by. Our three boys grew up. Bo graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and Mark from UNC at Chapel Hill. Both married terrific women and began raising families. When he was 20 years old Jack moved to a group home. Donna still brings him home most weekends. She ran our home and served our community. I worked.
1996 — Won a Pulitzer Prize.
2005 — Inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame.
2008 — Retired from The N&O, age 66. Worked full time, then part-time for various law firms for the next six years.
2009 — Lynn Muchmore introduced me to backpacking, hiking part of the Michelson Trail in South Dakota. Over the next few years I hiked almost 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland with friends and with four of my grandsons.
2012 — Hiked rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon in Arizona and an Escalante River canyon in Utah.
2015 — Thru-hiked the A.T. [14 states and 2,189.2 miles — and that doesn’t include the miles I hiked backwards] in four months and some few odd days. OK, OK, exactly four months and 29 days — Feb. 15 to July 14, 2015.
March 25-31: Hiked a 105.4-mile section [862.6 to 968.0] of the A.T. in Virginia [Shenandoah Valley National Park], the first half, alone, the second half with Eli Gordy-Stith. April 22-27: Hiked 59.3 miles with Rob Waters from Hurricane Gap [mile 283.6] to Erwin, TN [mile 342.9]. April 27-30: Hiked from Carver Gap [mile 379.0] 23.8 miles south [mile 355.2] with Lynn Muchmore and Mark Ogburn. June 6-13: Kayaked the Neuse River with Mike Johnson, from Falls of the Neuse near Raleigh to Oriental, on the North Carolina coast, about 225 miles. See “Are You Boys Armed?”
Nov. 25: Began blogging My Stories
June 4: Opened an email and discovered our long lost half sister, who is 96 and lives in Los Angeles. What a birthday present! I turned 75 today.
May 20-26: Paddled the Roanoke River with GRRRR, AKA Karl Smith, from Weldon to Plymouth, N.C., 113 miles. [See “PIZ ZA! PIZ ZA! PIZ ZA! Paddling the Roanoke.” July 7-12: Hiked a 100-mile A.T. section, Swatara Gap, PA, [mile 1082.0] south to Fayetteville, PA [mile 1182.0] [See “The (Warm) Iceman”] with Viking, AKA Nate Harrington. Oct. 16-23: Hiked the Nankoweap Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park with Jim and David McDonald, Lenny Frye, and Canyon John Laneve. See “Nankoweap Trail: Don’t Look Down,” Parts 1, 2, 3. Estimated mileage, 40.