THE most trying part came in the Mojave desert of California.
The royal blue sky glared down on the grey brittlebush, and the heat was searing. Great trucks thundered past, showering her with grit, and a fierce wind got up that made her stagger.
The worst of it was that her hat (the straw garden hat that had belonged to her dear friend Elizabeth) was whipped off and trundled through the cacti, where it splintered and broke.
She was walking across America, an odd occupation for a woman of 89. But Doris Haddock became annoyed if anyone made much of that. Her large, dark eyes narrowed then, and her gentle voice acquired an edge. And indeed there was little in that voice, with its perfectly enunciated consonants (drilled into her at Emerson College of Oratory, when she had girlish dreams of going on the stage) to suggest she was much over 30.
The adventurer in her heart, she liked to say—stressing that she meant the adventurer in everyone’s heart—was always young. She could still ski, hump a 25-pound pack, sleep on the ground and get up again; and though she went to bed choking on dust in Arizona, or nursing bleeding feet from frozen shoes in West Virginia, the next day she made sure she walked her set ten miles, until all 3,200 had been done. Friends in Louisville made a stout oak staff for her; she slung it over her shoulder, and hung her banner from it.
The question she wanted people to ask was not how (on earth!), but why. Why, in January 1999, had she set off to walk from Pasadena to Washington, DC? The simple answer was that she had lost patience with the power of big money in American politics. Congressmen and senators did not listen to people like her—people who spent years nursing their husbands when they had Alzheimer’s, or who battled to keep the interstate out of their small towns, in her case Dublin, New Hampshire.
They patted little old ladies like her patronisingly on the head, while taking wads of money from special interests for whom they would do favours later. Mrs Haddock was sick of it. She had organised petitions for campaign-finance reform, with tens of thousands of signatures, but got nowhere. So it was sneakers on, and hit the road.
Susan notes: Doris "Granny D" Haddock, died March 9, 2010. She was 100 years young.
Click here to read the complete obituary in The Economist