Saturday, January 13, 2018

If my life was an airline, this would be my route map

     I recently came across a neat website called Great Circle Mapper that makes it easy to display customized airline routes. I decided to enter all the flights I've ever taken (anyone surprised that I keep track of such things?) so I could visualize all the places I've been privileged to go.
     This tilted globe shows the result. It's my version of the Bible maps of Paul's missionary journeys—only without any shipwrecks.
     The green routes span my newspaper career, mostly in Greenville. I wore a leisure suit on my first flight, at age 20, when my benevolent editor/great uncle Slim Hembree sent me to Omaha to cover the College World Series for the Anderson Independent. I have to thank Tony Rice for getting me to Phoenix, and Rick Barnes for the junket to Puerto Rico.
     The yellow routes are flights I've made since joining Samaritan's Purse in 1999. Thirteen years ago this week, I departed on a 22,664-mile round-the-world trip to report on our tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. We flew east via London and the Maldives to Sri Lanka, and after we continued over to Indonesia, the most direct way home was to keep flying east via Taipei and Los Angeles. (On a 40-minute hop from Kuala Lumpur to Medan, we crossed a time zone and landed earlier than we took off.)
     The flight over the North Pole was from New York to Beijing to report on the 2008 earthquake in China. That yellow dot in the Sahara Desert is Timbuktu, where I had the privilege of helping to hand out Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Most recently was an eight-leg 20,094-mile round trip to Bangladesh to visit medical projects among the Rohingya refugees.  
     Here is the flat-earth view that includes the other side of the globe:
     Great Circle Mapper says I've flown 383,000 miles to 88 airports in 33 countries. If you figure 500 miles per hour, that's more than a month of my life spent jammed into airplane seats.
     (On the other hand, I've probably driven close to a million miles. At 50mph, that would be over two years behind the wheels of the Mustangs, Spitfire, Bobcat, Hyundai, Lumina, Windstar, Saturn, Tribute, and Accord.)
     These maps only show the places with airport codes like ATL, JFK, and 34NC (the helipad atop Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte). Some of the places I've flown don't have codes, including several dirt strips in Africa and a float-plane landing at Dick Proennecke's cabin in Alaska.
SILLY JET! What else can you do with Great Circle Mapper? Well, the navigators of a Boeing 787 used an 18-hour test flight to draw a self-portrait. Click here!

I don't always fly to Darfur, but when I do, it's in the cockpit of a DC-3 built for World War II.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Orval and Buddy: Inseparable to the end

Orval's driveway has this view of Balsam Gap
     Orval Banks and his dog Buddy lived for many years in a cabin atop Chambers Mountain, where Orval manned the fire tower for the state of North Carolina, while Buddy specialized in search-and-rescue missions. I met them in June when I hiked up their steep two-mile-long driveway.
     Orval knew his days on the mountaintop were running short. Cancer had sapped his strength, and the state had decided to close the tower. His son over in Hendersonville was preparing a place for them to live. When I visited, Orval was working on a crate for Buddy to ride down in the back of his pickup truck. It wouldn't be long until they had to leave.
     Orval welcomed me to climb the rickety lookout tower and was sorry he was no longer strong enough to go up there. From his front porch, he fondly pointed out the mile-high mountains that encircled us: the Pisgahs, Balsams, the Lyn Lowry cross, the Great Smokies, Crabtree Bald, the Roans, Mount Mitchell, and others; as well as the landmarks at our feet: Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, and Asheville.
     The photo I've posted here is the view from his driveway looking southwest through Balsam Gap toward Georgia. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the three of us, but I'm not much for selfies, I doubt that Orval would have wanted to pose, and Buddy didn't want me to get too close.

     One of the commands Orval taught Buddy was "show me," and the last thing Buddy did was show Orval the way out of this world. Orval was already on his deathbed on Tuesday when Buddy suddenly became sick. The family took him to the vet, but there was nothing they could do, and at 8 o'clock Tuesday night, Buddy went to sleep for the last time. Orval’s grandson lovingly told Buddy that when he got to heaven, "Stay!" and wait for Orval.
     Buddy didn't have to wait for long. Just two hours later, Orval followed him. They had an amazing life together, and they were inseparable to the end.

     The family sent out a message saying: 
     It was meant to be, Orval followed Buddy around for years. Only fitting that he follows him now. I truly believe that neither one of them wanted to leave without the other. Buddy will also be cremated and his ashes will be spread with Orval's.
     I believe that Orval's Heaven will be endless mountain ridges and valleys. And that he will spend his time crossing each of them, with a pack of dogs in front of him and Buddy leading the way. Orval will be able to breathe again and his body will work again. And all along the way he will find the people he has been searching for, along with friends and family, who have gone before and will follow in the future. And Dad's face will be lit with God's light as he chases the setting sun.
     And for any of you who have been on searches with my Dad and followed him through the woods, there is bound to be occasionally one of the gnarliest briar thickets and Dad will go straight through the middle of it.
     For more about Orval Banks and his gift for communicating with dogs, check out this 2011 story in the Smoky Mountain News.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The pun is mightier than the sword

     We're having a headline party over at my other blog, The Stoneman Gazette.
     Feel free to drop in. Bring your own pun. (Because the pun is mightier than the sword.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Riddler on the roof: When did N.C. stand tallest?

When Frenchman Andre Michaux stood here in 1794 and declared Grandfather Mountain "the highest mountain of all North America," he overlooked the obvious: The blue ridge on the distant horizon to the right is Mount Mitchell, which was actually the highest peak in the United States for 56 years.
     Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings writes a blog called Maphead where he posed this question: Before Alaska became a state, where was America's highest mountain?
     It's really more of a riddle than a question. Because for most of our nation's history, no one was sure.

     The answer is California, which owned America's rooftop from the day it became the 31st state in 1850 until 1959 when Alaska became the 49th. Yet Jennings points out that well into the 20th century, atlases mistakenly listed Washington's Mount Ranier as the nation's highest mountain.
     In fact, California was 75 years old before surveyors verified that Mount Whitney was the highest point in the Lower 48. (Even then, there may have been a 10-foot error because the engineer was in such a hurry to get home to his fiancĂ©.) 
     Early topographic maps that used 100-foot contours show a virtual three-state tie among California's Whitney (14,495 feet above sea level in the 1925 survey), Colorado's Mount Elbert (14,431), and Washington's Rainier (14,408). All three have inched up in the latest satellite surveys: Whitney 14,505, Elbert 14,433, and Rainier 14,410.
     Before California, which state stood tallest? Texas had the highest peak in the nation* for five years after it became the 28th state in 1845, though I doubt that anyone knew it. (*I'm not counting the Louisiana Territory, which included Mount Elbert.)
     And before that? The whole country assumed New Hampshire's Mount Washington was highest until this news broke Nov. 3, 1835 in the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette (back in the days before headlines were invented):

     The editor's note (above right) promoted a lengthy front-page article written by Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor of geology at the University of North Carolina. (If this link asks you to subscribe to, email me and I will send you a copy.)
     Dr. Mitchell surveyed several mountains in western North Carolina before concluding than an unnamed peak in the Black Mountains was the highest. He measured it at 6,476 feet above sea level, which underestimated Mount Mitchell's actual height of 6,684. Still, that surpassed Mount Washington, which then was believed to be 6,234 feet and is now listed at 6,288. 
     Dr. Mitchell's barometric measurements were generally shorter than the summit elevations we know today. He measured Grandfather Mountain at 5,556 feet (it is now known to be 5,946), the Roan at 6,039 (Roan High Knob is 6,285 and Roan High Bluff 6,267), and Table Rock at 3,421 (rather than 3,920).
Following Dr. Mitchell's footsteps
     He came closer on Yeates Knob (5,895 then, 5,920 now), which is important because Yeates is one of the viewpoints he used to triangulate Mount Mitchell and other peaks in the Black Mountains. (Yeates is now known unfortunately as Big Butt.)
     Dr. Mitchell was aware of other high mountains further west in North Carolina, including the Great Smoky Mountains (where Clingman's Dome rises to 6,643 feet, just 41 less than Mount Mitchell) and the Great Balsams (where Richland Balsam reaches 6,411 and the Blue Ridge Parkway crests at 6,047). His newspaper article said that the Unikee Mountains (the Cherokee name he used for the Smokies) "appear to the eye to be lower than the Black."
     Grandfather, on the other hand, appears to the eye to be even higher than it actually is, because of the way it towers almost a mile above the North Carolina Piedmont. When French botanist Andre Michaux climbed Grandfather on August 30, 1794, he broke into song and wrote exuberantly in his journal, "Reached the summit of the highest mountain of all North America, and, with my companion and guide, sang the Marseillaise and shouted, 'Long live America and the Republic of France! Long live liberty!'"
     From that hyperbole, we can assume the skies were relatively clear and Michaux had a view to the horizon. If so, he overlooked the obvious: Just 36 miles to the southwest, Mount Mitchell stood over 700 feet higher.
Lying here "in the hope of a blessed resurrection,"
Dr. Mitchell has a head start on Heaven.
     Through his 1835 trip and subsequent research, Dr. Mitchell was the first to prove conclusively that North Carolina had the highest ground in the 24 states that existed at the time. This had been the case since we became the 12th state back in 1789. 
     In 1857 (when there were 31 states, including California), Dr. Mitchell returned to the Black Mountains to verify his measurements and settle a dispute with one of his former students, Thomas Clingman, who insisted that his professor had not reached North Carolina's highest peak.
     On June 27, 1857, hiking after dark on the way down the west side of the Blacks, Dr. Mitchell slipped over a small waterfall and fell to his death. The following year, his body was laid to rest on top of North Carolina's highest mountain, and in 1882 the peak that had been known as Black Dome was renamed in his memory as Mount Mitchell.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Anderson's Dr. Anne welcomed 10,509 of us

     Dr. Anne Young of Anderson, S.C., delivered 10,509 babies in her 71-year medical career.
     In the pre-dawn hours 62 years ago today, I became one of them.
     Reminiscing with my mama about the blessed event, she reminded me that I arrived later than expected (setting a lifelong pattern), that Daddy delayed checking into the hospital until after midnight (to avoid an extra day's charges) and that Grandmama Essie was so overwhelmed that she told everyone I was 21 feet (rather than inches).
     When I was born, Dr. Anne was 62 years oldthe same age I am today. When she retired in 1983, she was 91the same age as my mom today.
     On the occasion of Dr. Anne's final delivery, my friend Deb Richardson-Moore did a wonderful job putting her life into perspective: "A girl who will graduate from high school in the 21st century delivered by a woman pioneer of the 19th century."
     If you can't read the clipping below, try this link.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I'm proud of you, Daddy

Two days after I wrote this, my dear old Daddy died at the age of 88.

Son of a gun: My dad Robert Dwight Layton bequeaths his rifle to my son Robert Holcombe Layton. I'm Robert Thomas Layton, my granddaddy was Robert Dewey Layton, and his daddy was Robert Herman Layton. We're proud of our name.
     One thing I will never forget about my high school graduation is my daddy finding me in the crowd outside the new gym at old T.L. Hanna, shaking my hand, and telling me, “I’m proud of you, son.”
     Daddy has never been one to make speeches, so those words have resonated with me.
     Today I cling to every last word as I clutch his hand and sit by his bedside at Anderson's Hospice House, which is just a mile from that gym. It’s 5:30 a.m. and he is curled up in his bed, his breathing labored, and his aching knees numbed by morphine. Occasionally he raises his left hand to his gray eyes as if he could still see the wristwatch on his leathery arm.
     “Is it time to get up?” I hear him say. Most of his words the last few days have been indecipherable, hoarse, snippets of dreams. So these lucid moments are precious.
     “No, Daddy, you don’t have to get up today,” I tell him. “You can sleep in.”
     This is the first time I’ve ever sat through the night with someone who ishard to say it about my Daddydying. A million thoughts and prayers and memories race through my mind. Above all, I have the comfort of knowing that Daddy is about to meet his Lord and Savior and hear that wonderful greeting, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
     Daddy wasn’t showy or preachy in his service, and none of us are perfect, but his heart is as good as gold, and his soul is in the hands of Jesus.
     About his heart: Daddy almost worked it to death back when he was raising our family. I had to stand in for him at my little sister’s graduation because he had suffered a heart attack at age 51. A few weeks later, he had a second heart attack and had to retire from Owens Corning Fiberglas.
     That was also when Daddy retired from smoking. It was important to him that none of his kids fall for that nasty habit, and we didn’t. When I was about 12, he promised that if I made it to 18 without smoking or drinking, he would give me a car. Those vices never tempted me, and I was so content and mobile on my Schwinn 10-speed that I didn’t even bother getting my driver’s license until I was 18. But Daddy was true to his word, and not long after my graduation day, we found a gold '68 Mustang at a used-car lot on South Main, and he gave me the down payment.
     The nurse has just come in to reposition Daddy so he doesn’t get bedsores. We remove the nest of pillows he has assembled and start to lift him, but he cries out, “No! Please don’t!” He dreads the stabbing pain that will come with the slightest movement of his knees. The nurses here are merciful, and repositioning can wait until morning.
     Even in his pain, in a moment most of us would cuss, Daddy still says Please and Thank You. He raised us to say Yes ma'am and no sir.
     Daddy showed us how to live, and now he's showing us how to die. Unselfishly. Humbly. Responsibly. His generation wasn't much for public displays of affection, yet in his later years we saw more and more glimpses of his love for Mama. He instilled in his children simple proverbs that we call Dwightisms, like "You learn more by listening than you do by talking," and "If you're not gonna finish it, don't start it."
     Daddy knew how to fly. He joined the Army Air Corps as World War II was ending and became a flight engineer on a B-25 bomber. For his 80th birthday, we gave him a ride on a T-6 Texan two-seater, the same plane he had trained on more than 60 years earlier. Daddy amazed the pilot with the details and secrets he knew about that aircraft.
     He built model airplanes that are works of mechanical art: shaped by his hands, prized by his friends, and brought to life by radio-controlled servos and glow-fueled engines with propellers that could lop off your finger.
     Daddy also got to experience the cockpit of one of the world’s largest planes, the Soviet-built Antonov 124. Samaritan’s Purse chartered these to deliver shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child to children around the world. Mama started the OCC collection center in Anderson, and Daddy gladly helped, so I took them to Atlanta one December to see the jet being loaded. The cockpit is on top of the massive cargo hold, and to get up there you have to climb a two-story ladder. Daddy went right up, bad knees and all, so he could hear the Ukranian crew explain to him how they flew it.
     Speaking of Atlanta, Daddy used to take us down there to see the Braves play, to camp at Stone Mountain, and to eat at The Varsity (but never at Lum’s, because their hot dogs were steamed in beer). One of the first games we saw around 1967 in the old Fulton County Stadium featured Hank Aaron against Willie Mays. The last Braves game we attended together was in 2007 at Turner Field, when Tom Glavine pitched for the Mets against John Smoltz.
     Daddy was never a ballplayer and didn’t push me to be one, which was okay. We enjoyed watching the games, and I was able to make a career out of that.
     Our last game together was just five nights ago, when he sat up way past his bedtime to listen to the Clemson bowl game on the radio. (He can’t see the TV.) As a surprise for Daddy, I asked the Clemson announcer, Don Munson, if he could send out a personal greeting during the game. Don made it happen, and Daddy’s face lit up in a proud grin. “Yeah, I heard it,” he said. Basking in the Tigers' victory, he went to bed that night and since then has not had the strength to get back up.
     Daddy went to Clemson for a couple of years but “turned pro” before he graduated. When Fiberglas opened its new factory in Anderson, he was among the first men they hired. They promised him a pension that he still gets today, 37 years after his last day in the shop. He made the platinum nozzles that produced the glass threads that keep houses insulated, fishing rods limber, and oil flowing through the Alaska pipeline.
     Now he’s resting and breathing a little easier. Dawn is breaking.
     I’m proud of you, Daddy. I love you. I'm going to miss you.
Daddy has been a Clemson man for nearly 70 years. We took this last photo at the end of the Ohio State game on New Year's Eve. The night before his funeral, Mama and the children gathered in the same room to watch Clemson beat Alabama for the national championship, just as he predicted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A library of books by authors I have known

The books of Dot Jackson and friends.
     I don't have a book in me, but a lot of my friends do—or recently did. At least nine folks I know have published books in the past year. They're writing them faster than I can read them.
     That made me wonder what a library of my friends' books would look like.
     I've been blessed to know dozens of authors in my career. Off the top of Google's head, I came up with more than 150 books written or edited by friends and acquaintances.
     The bibliography says a lot about me and my circle of friends. My little library has shelves for baseball, biography, the Civil War, Clemson, history, Jesus, mountains, and NASCAR, not necessarily in that order. It includes two books titled Rebel With A Cause, as well as the synonymous Intangiball and The Intangibles.

     If I have overlooked your book, please accept my apologies and let me know so I can make amends. One good thing about a blog is the ink never dries.
     Here they are, arranged alphabetically by author:

JERRY ALEXANDER: Jerry manned our Oconee-Pickens bureau at the Anderson Independent and knows those storied hills better than anybody else (now that Dot Robertson is gone).
  • 2004: The Cateechee Story
  • 2006: Where Have All Our Moonshiners Gone? 
  • 2008: Antebellum: Old Pickens District S.C., 1828-1868
  • 2009: Blood Red Runs the Sacred Keowee

DR. FRANK AYCOCK: If you wonder why your TV won't function like a wall-sized iPhone, join us on Wednesday morning for bagels, and Doc can explain it to you.
  • 2012: 21st Century Television: The Players, the Viewers, the Money 
  • 2014: Television in the Cloud 
BILLY BAKER: We share a deep appreciation for high school sports in South Carolina. I burned out after a decade of statewide coverage for The Greenville News, but Billy's High School Sports Report is about to turn 30 and still thriving. He wrote the book on the granddaddy of them all:
  • 1993: John McKissick: Called to Coach

PETER BARR: I had the honor of welcoming Peter to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rutherford County, N.C., when he became just the second man to reach the highest point in all 100 counties in North Carolina. This book won't be his last:
  • 2008: Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers

WILLIE BINETTE (1938-2003): Willie was sports editor of Anderson's afternoon newspaper, The Daily Mail, when I first started newspapering. He wrote The Phil Niekro Story after the 1969 season. Niekro pitched until 1987 and recorded 264 of his 318 victories after his biography was written, which must be some sort of a record. (John McKissick, mentioned above, won 206 of his 621 victories after his book was finished.)
  • 1970: Knuckler: The Phil Niekro Story 
SAM BLACKMAN, TIM BOURRET, and BOB BRADLEY (1925-2000): I've listed the B-team of Clemson's sports information department together, because they line up alphabetically in my library and have collaborated so often. The Bob Bradley Press Box is (or used to be) the one place in Death Valley where cheering was not allowed. You will please excuse Mr. B if he cheered in his books.
  • 1991: Death Valley Days: The Glory of Clemson Football (Bob Bradley) 
  • 2001: Clemson: Where the Tigers Play (Bob Bradley, Sam Blackman, and Chuck Kriese) 
  • 2008: Clemson University Football Vault (Tim Bourret) 
  • 2015: Tales from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Locker Room: A Collection of the Greatest Fighting Irish Stories Ever Told (Tim Bourret with Digger Phelps) 
  • 2016: If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Clemson Tigers Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Sam Blackman and Tim Bourret) 
  • 2017: Father Ted Hesburgh: He Coached Me (Digger Phelphs with Tim Bourret)

BART BOATWRIGHT: Bart is a longtime photographer for The Greenville News and one of the world's foremost collectors of Mayberry memorabilia, including some you can see in Mayberry Memories: The Andy Griffith Show Photo Album, a 2000 book by Ken Beck and Jim Clark; and The Definitive Andy Griffith Show Reference, a 1996 book by Dale Robinson and David Fernandes. So it's appropriate that Bart's photos adorn two books about Clemson, which used to be our own little Mayberry.
  • 2016: Return to Glory: The Story of Clemson's Historic 2015 Season, by Scott Keepfer and Mandrallius Robinson
  • 2017: Clemson Crowned: The Tigers' Historic Run to the National Championship, by Scott Keepfer and Mandrallius Robinson 

DR. DICK BRANSFORD: After a career as a medical missionary in Africa, Dick retired to Boone. "Retired" is just a code word that means he now works in places that have code names.
  • 2016: Take Two Hearts: One Surgeon's Passion for Disabled Children in Africa (with Diane Coleman) 
KEN BURGER (1949-2015): Pat Conroy said it so well: "Nobody picks at the scabs of South Carolina like her native son, Ken Burger." Ken was the fastest sports columnist I ever saw, which was good because his time with us was way too short.
  • 2008: Swallow Savannah 
  • 2010: Sister Santee 
  • 2011: Baptized in Sweet Tea: A Collection of Ken Burger's Columns Celebrating the South 
  • 2012: Salkehatchie Soup.

REV. JASON BYASSEE: Jason was my pastor at Boone United Methodist Church and now teaches homiletics and biblical hermeneutics at the Vancouver School of Theology in Canada. We didn't always agree, but he made me think and study and pray, which is what a pastor should do. Jason is also a prolific contributor to Christian Century magazine, in addition to his books:
  • 2006: Reading Augustine: A Guide to the Confessions 
  • 2007: An Introduction to the Desert Fathers 
  • 2007: Praise Seeking Understanding 
  • 2010: The Gifts of the Small Church 
  • 2013: Discerning the Body: Searching for Jesus in the World 
  • 2014: Pastoral Work: Engagement with the Work of Eugene Peterson 
  • 2015: Trinity: The God We Don't Know 
KERRY CAPPS: Kerry recently retired after 40 years of covering Clemson sports. In his farewell column for the Orange and White, he teased us with the possibility of a book. "When, and if, I do write a book, what I write is not likely to draw the attention of national publishers or attract motion picture deals. It will be a collection of orange-tinted stories and remembrances from a sportswriting hack who's been lucky enough to make a life and living (and eaten more than a few free meals) while doing something satisfyingly agreeable, while rarely, if ever, getting up in the morning and dreading to go to work." It would be a bookend to the one he and Steve Ellis produced way back in 1979 that featured Steve Fuller on the cover:
  • 1979: The Orange Machine (with Steve Ellis)
DR. MEL CHEATHAM: I borrowed the title of my blog from a book Dr. Cheatham wrote about an inspiring cancer patient he met while serving as a missionary in Kenya.
  • 1993: Come Walk With Me (with Mark Cutshall) 
  • 1995: Living a Life That Counts (with Mark Cutshall) 
DR. PAUL CHILES: Paul takes on short-term missionary assignments like his Biblical namesake. We traveled together to Afghanistan, among other places. His book profiles a remarkable Christian couple he worked with in India. 
  • 2016: Rose of Calcutta

JIMMY CORNELISON: Nothing could be finer than a fall day on a pontoon boat on Lake Jocassee with guys like Jimmy, Mike, Luther, and Scott.
  • 1988: Journey Home (with Dot Robertson, Reese Fant, Mike Hembree) 
MONTE DUTTON: Nobody I know produces more words per day than Hudson Montgomery Dutton. Newspapers could never keep up with him, and nowadays Kindle and Facebook can barely stay ahead of him. A quarter-century ago, Monte helped typeset my only book, the 1992 centennial history of Mountain View United Methodist Church. His newest novel, Lightning in a Bottle, brings stock-car racing back to life. 
  • 1986: Pride of Clinton: Clinton High School Football 1920-1985 
  • 2000: At Speed: Up Close and Personal with the People, Places, and Fans of NASCAR 
  • 2000: Jeff Gordon: The Racer 
  • 2001: Rebel With A Cause: A Season with NASCAR Star Tony Stewart 
  • 2002: Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR's Fast Lane (with Mike Hembree, Kenny Bruce, Jim McLaurin, Jeff Owens, David Poole, Thomas Pope, and Larry Woody) 
  • 2003: Postcards from Pit Road 
  • 2006: Haul A** and Turn Left: The Wit and Wisdom of NASCAR 
  • 2006: True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed 
  • 2011: The Audacity of Dope 
  • 2013: The Intangibles 
  • 2015: Crazy of Natural Causes 
  • 2016: Forgive Us Our Trespasses 
  • 2016: Longer Songs: A Collection of Short Stories 
  • 2017: Lightning in a Bottle
  • 2017: Life Gets Complicated

STEVE ELLIS (1955-2009): Steve was the Cy Young of the press box—the Football Writers Association of America's Award for Beat Reporters is named for him. He was an Eagle scout who got his start at Clemson and made his career covering Florida State for the Tallahassee Democrat. Our paths crossed frequently for the first six years FSU was in the ACC.
  • 1979: The Orange Machine (with Kerry Capps) 
  • 2004: Bobby Bowden's Tales from the Seminoles Sideline 
  • 2006: Pure Gold: Bobby Bowden: An Inside Look 
CAROLE FADER: "Cash" Fader ran the copy desk at the Anderson Independent, where I met Mary Holcombe in 1979. Like several veterans of that newsroom, Carole made her career in Jacksonville and contributed to a couple of local historical books:
  • 2001: The Great Fire of 1901 (with Bill Foley, Robert Broward, Emily Lisska, and Wayne Wood) 
  • 2005: The Jacksonville Family Album: 150 Years of the Art of Photography (with Emily Lisska and Wayne Wood) 
REESE FANT: If Reese published an autobiography, librarians would file it under Fiction. Not counting kin (and not counting Skins), he's my favorite Andersonian. Here's hoping for an anthology of his Yarnspinner columns from the Greenville Piedmont
  • 1988: Journey Home (with Dot Robertson, Mike Hembree, Jimmy Cornelison)

DR. RICHARD FURMAN: Dr. Furman is co-founder of World Medical Mission, which makes him indirectly responsible for my career in Boone. H's creed is "Live younger longer," and he can tell you how to do it.
  • 1982: To Be A Surgeon 
  • 2014: Prescription for Life 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: It is a blessing and an adventure to work on Franklin's team and tell the stories of what God is doing through Samaritan's Purse.
  • 1983: Bob Pierce: This One Thing I Do 
  • 1995: Rebel With a Cause: Finally Comfortable Being Graham 
  • 1998: Living Beyond the Limits 
  • 2002: The Name 
  • 2003: Kids Praying for Kids 
  • 2003: All for Jesus 
  • 2005: A Wing and a Prayer 
  • 2011: Billy Graham in Quotes 
  • 2012: The Sower: FInding Yourself in the Parables of Jesus 
  • 2013: Operation Christmas Child: A Story of Simple Gifts

RUDY GRAY: Rev. James R. Gray was a longtime pastor in Seneca who succeeded Don Kirkland (below) as editor of the Baptist Courier. I knew him as Rudy Gray as an athlete at Crescent High School, as a short-term sports writer for the Anderson Independent, and as my predecessor as editor of the Anderson College newspaper, which he renamed from The Yodler to AC Echoes.
  • 1990: Jude: The Alarm Has Sounded 
  • 2014: Marriage That Works Is Work 
  • 2014: Worry: The Silent Killer 
  • 2015: You Can Live Until You Die 

TERRY HARMON: If you have roots in Watauga County, N.C., then Terry is probably your cousin. (That includes our most infamous Yankee, butter-fingered Gen. George Stoneman, who is Terry's seventh cousin, five times removed.) Terry received a Historical Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians, and if the The Stoneman Gazette gave an award for genealogy, he would get one from me, too.
  • 2016: Watauga County Revisited 

MIKE HEMBREE: If not for Mike, I might never have beheld Yellowstone National Park, nor Richard Petty's last race, nor the coveted Jabba trophy, nor the P in Clemson.
  • 1987: A Place Called Clifton: A Pictorial History of Clifton, South Carolina 
  • 1988: Clifton: A River of Memories 
  • 1988: Journey Home (with Dot Robertson, Jimmy Cornelison, Reese Fant) 
  • 1994: Glendale: A Pictoral History (with Paul Crocker) 
  • 1995: Keowee (with Dot Jackson) 
  • 1999: The Seasons of Harold Hatcher 
  • 2000: The Driving Force: Handling the Curves of Life 
  • 2000: NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport 
  • 2002: Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR's Fast Lane (with Monte Dutton, Kenny Bruce, Jim McLaurin, Jeff Owens, David Poole, Thomas Pope, and Larry Woody) 
  • 2003: Newry: A Place Apart 
  • 2003: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Out of the Shadow of Greatness 
  • 2009: Then Tony Said to Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told 
  • 2009: Racing With Giants: How God Can Steer You to the Winner's Circle 
  • 2012: 100 Things NASCAR Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die 

DOT JACKSON (1932-2016): Dot treated our kids like they were her grandkids, and she acknowledged Mary and me in her novel, "Refuge." Mary helped type it onto floppy disks so the paper manuscript wouldn't languish forever in the box under Dot's bedstead. She was a sweet soul and an exemplary journalist with a heart as big as all outdoors. If you appreciate the free-flowing New River or mourn for the dammed Keowee, you need to know her story.
  • 1983: The Catawba River (with Frye Gaillard)
  • 1988: Journey Home (with Mike Hembree, Jimmy Cornelison, Reese Fant) 
  • 1995: Keowee (with Mike Hembree) 
  • 2006: Refuge.

SCOTT KEEPFER: Bob Dylan called Scott "the man with the golden pen." Fellow sportswriters at The Greenville News called him "Glue," because without him we might have fallen apart. That nickname has new meaning now that Scott is one of the last of us who is still sticking around The News. Scott once took me to Bryson City, N.C., to watch his high school football team, the Swain County Maroon Devils. Their star was named Rocky Dietz, and the fans celebrated his big plays by rattling plastic milk jugs with gravel inside. Scott's next book may be about Rocky's father. 
  • 2016: Return to Glory: The Story of Clemson's Historic 2015 Season (with Mandrallius Robinson)
  • 2017: Clemson Crowned: The Tigers' Historic Run to the National Championship (with Mandrallius Robinson) 

CINDY LANDRUM: When we asked our bureau reporters to moonlight as sportswriters on Friday nights, Cindy poured her heart into her coverage of Wren, Palmetto, and wherever I sent her. Her book hits home:
  • 2015: Legendary Locals of Greenville

TIM LUKE: God used Tim to deliver me from the newspaper business before times got too hard. Tim was the hardest-working reporter I ever knew, and he earned the opportunity to cover the Atlanta Braves for The Greenville News back in the day when newspapers dreamed big. When The News retreated from some of our far-flung bureaus, Tim decided to stay in Atlanta and joined In Touch magazine, published by Dr. Charles Stanley's ministry. From there he had an opportunity to go to Samaritan's Purse, but he and Karen wanted to stay in Atlanta to raise their family, so he recommended me instead. Tim is now executive pastor at Eagles Landing Baptist Church in Atlanta, and several of his books are collaborations with Mark Hall of the church's band, Casting Crowns.
  • 1995: Atlanta Braves: 1995 World Champions 
  • 2006: Lifestories: Finding God's Voice of Truth in Everyday Life (with Mark Hall) 
  • 2007: Don't Forget to Dream: Because Your Life Shouldn't Happen Without You (with Tim Dowdy) 
  • 2009: Your Own Jesus: A God Insistent on Making It Personal (with Mark Hall) 
  • 2011: The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty (with Mark Hall) 
  • 2014: Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out (with Mark Hall) 
  • 2016: The Very Next Thing: Follow God. Where You Are. Right Now. (with Mark Hall) 

JOHNNY MARTIN: The sports editor of my hometown paper is best remembered for his "dribble-meter," where he estimated how many dribbles he saw during the course of each basketball season. Johnny once dribbled a basketball 17 miles from Anderson to Clemson, into a pregame ceremony at Fike Fieldhouse—where he missed the lay-up.
  • 1968: Death Valley: 72 Years of Exciting Football at Clemson University (foreword by Paul W. "Bear" Bryant).

TIM PEELER: The foothills of North Carolina have given us a trinity of Tim Peelers. Two write sports books, and the third stalks Bigfoot. I worked several years in Greenville, S.C., with the Tim P from Cat Square, who has become the official historian of N.C. State athletics. He was a big booster for my other blog, The Stoneman Gazette, which is as close as I'll ever get to writing a book.
  • 2004: Legends of N.C. State Basketball 
  • 2007: When March Went Mad: A Celebration of N.C. State's 1982-83 Championship 
  • 2010: N.C. State Basketball: 100 Years of Innovation 

JOSH PETER: I helped Josh with some background information for stories on two Anderson legends, Jim "Ed" Rice and Radio Kennedy. The latter was picked up by Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated and became the movie "Radio," staring Cuba Gooding Jr, Ed Harris, and Debra Winger.
  • 2005: Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour 
  • 2010: Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series (with Dan Wetzel) 

DEB RICHARDSON-MOORE: A surprising number of my Greenville colleagues have wound up in pulpits: Tom Robinson, Tim Luke, and Deb Richardson-Moore. (Not to mention my Hanna classmates Marsh Fant and Jacky Newton.) Christians can learn a lot from Deb's first book, which describes her experience as a rookie pastor at the extraordinary Triune Mercy Center in downtown Greenville.
  • 2012: The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets 
  • 2016: The Canteloupe Thief 
  • 2017: The Cover Story

ANDY SOLOMON: Only a native Charlestonian could romanticize the sports history of "The Military College of South Carolina."
  • 2017: My First 25 Years of Citadel Athletics

 (1955-2015): Charlie had seen the darker sides of life, so I should not have been surprised that his novel dealt with a terrorist attack on Greenville. What was a surprise, though, was to read Wayne Roper's eulogy about how Charlie found hope at last. Here's an excerpt: 

  • 2010: Ties 

MICKEY SPAGNOLA: Shortly after I started working for the Anderson Independent, publisher John Ginn pumped up our newsroom with a number of fresh graduates of the esteemed Missouri School of Journalism. Among them, Mickey Spagnola and Lonnie Wheeler were most influential in my decision to go to Mizzou. Mickey was from the south side of Chicago, and we once attended a Chicago concert in the Chicago Stadium.
  • 1997: America's Rivalry: The 20 Greatest Redskins-Cowboys Games (with John Keim and David Elfin) 

DIXIE TENNY: Dixie and I were friends at the University of Missouri, and decades later I discovered her novel during a PTA meeting in my daughter's high school library in Greenville.
  • 1984: Call the Darkness Down 
  • 2016: How to Find Your Dream Dog 

KEN TYSIAC: Ken covered Clemson for the Anderson newspaper during the years I did the same for Greenville. He later reported for Columbia and Charlotte. His book marked the 25th anniversary of Clemson's heyday.
  • 2006: Tales from Clemson's 1981 Championship Season 

LONNIE WHEELER: Lonnie and I coached a Little League baseball team while we were sportwriters at the Anderson Independent. Fundamentals he taught on the hardpan playground at Nevitt Forest Elementary School were no doubt incorporated into his 2015 book Intangiball, which won the 2016 SABR Research Award. (SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research, known for "sabermetrics," the science behind the Brad Pitt film Moneyball.) Lonnie also made the big time in an NPR interview with Terry Gross, not to mention my blog on Hank Aaron's 80th birthday. His books:
  • 1988: The Cincinnati Game (with John Baskin) 
  • 1988: Bleachers: A Summer in Wrigley Field 
  • 1990: The Official Baseball Hall of Fame Story of Mickey Mantle 
  • 1991: I Had A Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story 
  • 1994: Stranger to the Game: The Autobiography of Bob Gibson 
  • 1994: Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young 
  • 1997: Street Soldier: One Man's Struggle to Save a Generation--One Life at a Time (with Joe Marshall) 
  • 1998: Blue Yonder: Kentucky, the United State of Basketball 
  • 2006: The Road Back: The Cincinnati Bengals Under Coach Marvin Lewis 
  • 2009: Schoolboy Legends: A Hundred Years of Cincinnati's Most Storied High School Football Players 
  • 2009: Sixty Feet, Six Inches: A Hall of Fame Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter Talk about How the Game Is Played (with Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson) 
  • 2013: Long Shot: Mike Piazza
  • 2015: Intangiball: The Subtle Things that Win Baseball Games
  • 2015: Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game (by Bob Gibson)

More authors I have brushed shoulders with

STEVE BIONDO (1951-2008): Steve was the columnist for the Anderson Independent as well as a Confederate re-enactor, which made him the perfect person to tell the story of Anderson's most infamous Confederate. 
  • 2002: The True Story of Manse Jolly 
  • 2004: The True Story of Manse Jolly, Part II 

FURMAN BISHER (1918-2012): Furman was elected the Georgia Sportswriter of the Year 18 times in 50 years. I didn't know him well (unlike my Greenville boss, Dan Foster), but I had the privilege of spending one unforgettable day with him in Salisbury, N.C., as we explored the N.C. Transportation Museum and Furman reminisced about the days when sportswriters rode Pullmans.
  • 1966: Strange but True Baseball Stories 
  • 1972: The Birth of a Legend: Arnold Palmer's Golden Year, 1960 
  • 1973: The Atlanta Falcons 
  • 1976: The Masters: Augusta Revisited 
  • 1989: The Furman Bisher Collection 
  • 2001: Thankful 
  • 2005: Furman Bisher: Face to Face 

DR. BOB FOSTER (1924-2012): Dr. Bob spent his career as a missionary in Africa, and he had a snake story for almost any occasion.
  • 1997: Sword and Scalpel (with Lorry Lutz) 

MICHAEL C. HARDY: Michael was named the North Carolina Historian of the Year in 2010. His books were indispensable when I was writing The Stoneman Gazette.
  • 2003: The Thirty-Seventh North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia 
  • 2004: The c. 1840 McElroy House: A Glimpse of Yancey County, North Carolina 
  • 2005: Images of America: Avery County 
  • 2005: A Short History of Old Watauga County 
  • 2006: Battle of Hanover Courthouse: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign, May 27, 1862 
  • 2006: Images of America: Caldwell County 
  • 2006: Remembering North Carolina's Confederates 
  • 2007: Remembering Avery County: Old Tales from North Carolina's Youngest County 
  • 2008: Families, Friends, and Felons: Growing Up in the Avery County Jail 
  • 2009: "A Heinous Sin": The 1864 Brooksville Bayport Raid (with Robert M. Hardy 
  • 2009: Avery County Heritage, Volume IX: Obituaries 
  • 2010: Images of America: Mitchell County 
  • 2010: The Fifty-Eighth North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Tennessee 
  • 2011: North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg 
  • 2011: North Carolina in the Civil War 
  • 2012: Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy 
  • 2013: North Carolina Remembers Chancellorsville 
  • 2013: Watauga County, North Carolina, in the Civil War 
  • 2014: Images of America: Grandfather Mountain 
  • 2015: The Capitals of the Confederacy
  • 2016: Avery County Place Names

DICK JENSEN: We met when his son David was a star basketball player at Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, S.C., and our paths crossed again after I left the newspaper business. Dick once managed the WMIT radio station for Billy Graham, and his book compares the evangelical careers of Billy Graham and Billy Sunday.
  • 2008: The Billy Pulpits: Chronicles of Billy Graham and Billy Sunday 

DON KIRKLAND: Don is editor emeritus of the Baptist Courier, where he served from 1974 to 2012. Prior to that he ran the communications department at Anderson College and helped keep me out of mischief.
  • 2014: Something Gained: Selected Writings from My Career in Christian Journalism 

HUGH MORTON (1921-2006): Mr. Morton is the only author on this list who has also been the subject of a book: Hugh Morton, North Carolina Photographer, published in 2015. We met briefly when Samaritan's Purse held our company picnics at Grandfather Mountain, and I had the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated all that he has done for our mountains.
  • 1981: The ACC Basketball Tournament Classic (with Smith Barrier) 
  • 1988: Making a Difference in North Carolina (with Ed Rankin) 
  • 2003: Hugh Morton's North Carolina

TOM PRICE (1927-2008): Tom was the longtime sports information director at the University of South Carolina and shepherded me through my first big assignment, the 1975 College World Series in Omaha.
  • 2001: Tales from the Gamecocks' Roost: A Collection of the Greatest Gamecock Stories Ever Told 

BOBBY RICHARDSON: A native of Sumter, S.C., Bobby was the World Series MVP in 1960—still the only player to win that award for a losing team. His first book was influential in shaping my faith in Christ. We met in 1975 when he coached the USC baseball team and I had the opportunity to follow them to the College World Series. More recently, I heard Bobby speaking at a church in Boone, and I won an autographed baseball from him for knowing who replaced him at second base for the Yankees (answer: Horace Clarke).
  • 1964: The Bobby Richardson Story 
  • 2012: Impact Player: Leaving a Legacy On and Off the Field 

ED WRIGHT (1925-2008): Ed figured he met over 120,000 people on his 1,310 hikes up and down Tennessee's Mounte Le Conte. I figure that I must have been one of them—even if I was too winded to remember the encounter. His peakbagging exploits inspired my other blog, Le Conte Log.
  • 1998: More than 1,001 Hikes to Mount Le Conte: And Still Counting

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Celo Knob: Mount Mitchell's bookend

Looking north at Celo Knob along the gorgeous but hard-to-reach Black Mountain Crest Trail.
     Tourists who climb the quarter-mile sidewalk to the lookout tower on Mount Mitchell see a row of 6,000-foot peaks lined up like dark-green dominoes toward the northern horizon: Mount Craig, Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak, Potato Hill, Winter Star Mountain, Gibbs Mountain, and finally Celo Knob, about eight miles away.
     The hike along that ridgeline is sometimes known as the "death march," because of the punishing ups and downs. It is even harder starting from the other end, because there is no road up Celo Knob and you must start by climbing 3,000 feet. 
     Three years ago, I hiked to the four peaks immediately north of Mount Mitchell, which was an exhausting but spectacular six-mile round trip. This time (Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016the day after Hurricane Hermine passed), I started on the other end and made the big climb to Celo Knob and its neighbor, Gibbs Mountain. This was a 10.5-mile round trip that took me eight hours. It was the longest hike I've done in a couple of years, and it was worth it to see Mount Mitchell from the other side. 
Looking south toward Mount Mitchell from Celo Knob: Percy's Peak (6,200 feet), Gibbs Mountain (6,224), and Long Ridge (6,180) dominate the near horizon. Winter Star (6,203) is dwafted by those beyond, which stairstep left-to-right from Potato Hill (6,475) to Balsam Cone (6,611) to Cattail Peak (6,600) to Mount Craig (6,648) to Mount Mitchell (6,684). Balsam Cone is actually further away than Cattail, which is why it appears lower from this perspective. The ridge further right is Mount Gibbes (6,562, not to be confused with Gibbs Mountain) and Clingman's Peak (6,520), where you can barely see the radio towers for WNCW and WMIT if you click the photo to enlarge it.
     I've had my eyes on Celo and Gibbs ever since I became interested in South Beyond 6,000 (SB6K), a program sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club that challenges hikers to reach 40 Southeastern peaks over 6,000 feet. By bagging Celo and Gibbs, I have climbed 24 of the 40. In the Black Mountains, the only one I still lack is Winter Star, which will require either the death march or another 3,000-foot climb.
Like climbing this—4 times.
     This was also a training hike for a 15-miler I want to do later this month in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to climb two more SB6K peaks, Mount Guyot and Old Black. Guyot (pronounced GEE-yo) is one of the last six county high points I have not yet climbed in North Carolina.
     Celo (rhymes with Guyot) gets is name from seeloo, the Cherokee word for corn. At 6,327 feet, Celo Knob is the 13th highest mountain in the eastern United States--39 feet higher than New Hampshire's Mount Washington and 327 feet shorter than Mount Mitchell. 
     Celo was the first peak climbed by Dr. Elisha Mitchell during his 1835 exploration of the Black Mountains that led him to declare these mountains as the highest in the United States.
     What's it like to climb 3,000 feet? Imagine four trips up and down the staircases of the tallest building in Charlotte, the 60-story Bank of America tower (which is occasionally visible from Celo Knob, 90 miles away). 
     If you are interested in following in my footsteps up Celo Knob, you can find details of my hike on my Peakbagger page. And even if you don't feel up to the climb, you can now "walk" the trail on video, thanks to Google Trekker.
     Here are some glimpses:
Take this sign seriously. I couldn't see the bottom line (Park Here) and I had 4WD, so I proceeded with caution and made it safely up to the Bowlens Creek trailhead, which does indeed have room to turn and park. But you only gain a couple of hundred yards--not worth the risk to your oil-pan. 
If Mary knew how rocky it was, she would wisely forbidden this.
An interesting old tree along the Crest Trail.
Pink Turtlehead blooming at an iron-tinged spring about 500 feet below the summit. Thanks, Rick Shortt, for identifying the flower.

As you approach the summit, this is the view that greets you. (Not sure why the video is so grainytrust me, the original is spectacular.)

Celo Knob's summit isn't that impressive, but ...
The eastward panorama from a clifftop just below the summit is worth the climb. If you know where to look on the horizon, you can see Elk Knob and Grandfather Mountain on the left and blade-shaped Table Rock toward the right. At 6,327 feet, Celo Knob is 357 feet shorter than Mount Mitchell, but from Elk Knob it appears to be higher. The white blotches are feldspar mines near Spruce Pine, N.C. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
Mountain ash decked out in reddish-orange berries for the Clemson-Auburn game.
I'm always thankful for the volunteers who blaze the way.
The N.C. High Peaks Trail Association has done a
tremendous job with the Black Mountain Crest Trail.