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Celebrating big 90th birthday and 66 years writing column

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OK, ardent readers, I told you last week that this column will be my last one about backpacking and I’m sticking to it.

I ended last week’s column by writing about a surprise meeting of two girls just after the four of us, Leon Stenzel, myself, and my two oldest sons, Bobby and Greg, had entered the Shining Rock Wilderness filled with tall rhododendron bushes about 6 feet tall, plus many others larger.

Our mouths gaped as Leon said this is where we will set up camp for the night. We looked all around and found only a small space right close to where we were standing which was clear enough for our tents.

Being happily surprised by the entire area, Greg and I told our leader we were going to walk through the tall rhododendron and look at the large Shining Rock. As we were returning from our brief visit, and walking through the tall rhododendron, we heard voices coming toward us and then we met two girls who were also going to the Shining Rock.

When returning to our campsite area, the girls returned and asked if it was OK for them to set up their tent also in this area, and all we could do was agree while knowing full well this was the only spot suitable for camping.

Well, let me tell you something about these two — one was an outdoors teacher at nearby Western Carolina College (before it became a university), and the other was one of her A students.

Our eyes opened wide when we saw they were cooking steak for supper plus frozen vegetables. Let me tell you, we had some second thoughts on what we could eat the next time we backpacked.

We all had a great time talking by our firesides and found it hard to hit the sack and fall asleep with such interesting company.

Today, Friday, Aug. 16, I am celebrating my big 90th birthday — an event I never thought I would see. It takes a lot of luck and hard work keeping up with the medications and doctor’s appointments, but with help from son Jimmy and his wife, Ginger.

Todd is a lot of help for me, now that I’m having trouble with balance and have to use a cane all the time I’m walking. He has been staying with me temporarily, for which he says he is privileged with the opportunity to spend some time with his dad.

Todd makes the best coffee each morning grinding the beans before brewing. He also is good for running errands for me, now that I don’t drive.

Todd and Jimmy, and daughter, Mary Nancy (known as Mae), joined me in our Thursday morning breakfast group at The Border Restaurant. Granddaughter, Maggie, hated to miss eating there with us, but she had to return to Western Carolina University on Wednesday. The youngest grandchild, Mae will be attending Wake Forest University later.

Going back to my best friends: I want to add these: Bill Brown, “Talkative” Brantley, Scott and Rebecca Harris, Eddie and Delores Riggins, Jim Cloonan (former top manager at Athey), Al Merritt, long-time employee of The Wake Weekly, and Bill Wall and wife, Doris, of Raleigh, who together served on the NC 400th Committee back in the 80s, and George Macon the handyman farmer who can do most anything.

And either, close-by or wave-to, friends: Al and Martha Loftin, Kenneth Jackson, Al and Olga Hood, and Sam Register, advertising manager of The Wake Weekly, who also likes “The Rifleman” as much as I do.

Recent deaths include two of my favorite newspaper people: Mark Wilson, former publisher of the Rocky Mount Telegram, and Ed Harper, top press award-winning editor of the State Port Pilot of Southport at an early age of being in his seventies.

Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at 919-556-3059 or