When Granny D Walked Across America
When Doris returned from Florida, she announced to her “classmates” that she would be making this walk. She mapped out her trip and members of the academy helped link her with friends in towns where she would be walking. Soon she had an itinerary, with a star next to towns where she could be assured of lodging. For each of the towns where she knew no one, she contacted the local police and hoped to convince them to let her sleep in an empty jail cell. She herself knew nothing about computers, but her grandson Joey designed a Web site for her. They called it grannyD.com and with that she hoped that anyone who was interested could follow her journey.
Her rhetoric poised, Doris Haddock began trekking on her 89th birthday, January 29, 1999, in Pasadena, California, where she had hoped to strike up some attention by walking in the Rose Bowl Parade. To her surprise, they banned her from walking in the parade because she was walking for a cause. That was her first tussle with authorities.
Disappointed but undeterred, she walked after the parade had ended, wearing a high-visibility jogger’s vest, a gardener’s straw hat, and sturdy boots, and carrying a 25-pound pack on her back. On her shoulder, braced like a soldier’s rifle, she carried a big flag she had stitched that said, simply, “Campaign Finance Reform.” Those first days were slow going.
Jim kept in constant touch with his mother and joined her when he could. Friends from Dublin and members of her Tuesday Morning Academy flew out to walk with her. She walked through Pasadena and Colton and Redlands and into Twentynine Palms, and then into Arizona. Through Parker, Bouse, Salome, Wickenburg, she trudged her way.
She rose early to beat the heat, but in the Mojave Desert, she collapsed. Severely dehydrated, she spent four days in the hospital. A sympathetic supporter named Dennis Burke took her back to his house, and he and his wife helped her recuperate.
Now as we walk beside the bog near her home, Doris remembers this time in the desert as a kind of turning point. “Dennis decided I needed a camper, something I could sleep in at night. He went to a used-car dealer and convinced them to ‘lend’ us a camper for two weeks. That was the start of it.”
Her collapse in the desert had attracted attention in the news media. Doris Haddock’s campaign had truly begun. “It gathered a certain momentum,” she says now, perhaps an understatement from a woman who was subsequently listed by the magazine George, alongside Madeline Albright, Hilary Clinton, and Elizabeth Dole, as one of the 20 most fascinating women in politics.
Shouldering her yellow flag, wearing T-shirts and khaki shorts in the heat, heavy woolen pants and sweaters in the cold. Doris marched like a soldier through Los Lunas, New Mexico; Dalhart, Texas; Hooker, Oklahoma; Kismet, Kansas; Mack’s Creek, Missouri; Odin, Illinois; Versailles, Indiana; Chillicothe, Ohio: Clarksburg, West Virginia; Falls Church, Virginia; and all the little towns and big cities in between. She finally strode right into our nation’s capital, just two months late.
Doris never had to sleep on the ground or in a jail cell, and she never missed a meal. Her arthritic pains left her and her emphysema all but vanished. “I had an inhaler when I started,” she says, “but I don’t know what happened to it. I must have lost it.”
On morning walks along the familiar roads near her house, Doris’s child-size feet track at a good pace. She dislikes hills, and when the road steepens, her breath quickens and she recalls the “worst” part of her journey: West Virginia. “It was cold,” she says. “And there were lots of hills.”