When Granny D Walked Across America
NOTE: Doris “Granny D” Haddock died in Dublin, New Hampshire, March 9, 2010, at the age of 100. This article is from Yankee Magazine November 2000.
The rising sun brings veils of mist out of the damp soil, and the rain-swollen stream tumbles jubilantly behind Doris Haddock‘s Dublin, New Hampshire, home.
Into this new morning, Doris steps from her front door, her walking shoes on, the long sleeves of her denim shirt buttoned at the wrists to discourage biting insects. “Which way shall we walk?” the five-foot-tall great-grandmother asks. I’ve come to walk with my neighbor, Granny D, our local hero, the 90-year-old woman who recently returned home from a very long walk.
When she was 88, Doris said she’d walk across the country to call attention to campaign finance reform, the effort to stem contributions that slip through not-quite-illegal channels from corporations and special interest groups into the pockets of political candidates. To Doris, this so-called “soft money” is the root of all that is wrong with our democracy.
Starting in California, she planned to walk ten miles a day for one year and to enter the nation’s capital on her 90th birthday, on foot. Like many women her age, she had arthritis and emphysema, but this did not stop her. Her son (and next-door neighbor), Jim, said more than once, “She’ll die trying,” for he knew better than any of us her stubborn spirit.
With Jim’s guidance, she began to train for her journey. On our back roads we’d encounter her, this diminutive lady, a heavy pack on her back. For months she walked the winding, hilly roads of Dublin, logging nearly a thousand miles. She slept on the ground to prepare for what she imagined might lie ahead. All the while, she was trying to get newspapers and magazines interested in her mission.
“No one seemed to believe that I could do it,” she says now, as we begin our walk down the gravel road.
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