Personal Journeys

The great stayer
Personal Journeys

The great stayer

My first memory of life is being kidnapped.

It’s Aug. 5, 1971, and I am 6. I don’t remember how the day started or how I found myself in the backseat of this car, sitting next to my sister Cindy, who is almost 9. But I know I don’t want to be here.

Behind the steering wheel is my mother, Charlotte, looking like a blonde beauty queen. She had abandoned our family six months earlier to live in Tampa with her friend Mary Ellen. Beside Charlotte in the front passenger seat is her small, browbeaten mother, Gan.

“Let us go home and pack something,” I plead. “Or we can do this another time. Just take us back home and we’ll figure it out from there.”

Those may not have been my exact words, but that is the case I’m making for why Cindy and I should not be kidnapped.  


Trouble in Nepal

After a great morning of trekking in Nepal, Decatur's Martin Emanuel stopped at a tea house near Gong Gang.

While sitting on the terrace looking out over the Himalayas that Saturday, Marty ate dal bhat, a traditional lentil soup with rice and spinach, and watched the owners' two children play.

The sky was so clear, it sparkled.

"It was absolutely gorgeous," Marty said. "We'd had a wonderful morning, a wonderful lunch."

Marty couldn't believe his good fortune.

"Things couldn't have been better," he said.

That was when he heard a loud, low rumble. It was a noise he had never heard before.

The novice farmer

The novice farmer

As a teen Nathan Brett learned the guitar and performed in the church band between his father's prayers. From his home in Madison County, he could reach the rock 'n' roll mecca of Athens by car in 20 minutes. Music consumed his thoughts.

Nathan attended the University of Georgia, studying history and music business. When he finished school, Nashville called. He interned for a year at a small recording studio, and at night he wrote songs and explored the bustling singer-songwriter scene.

After his internship ended, he got a job loading and unloading trucks and cooking in a restaurant. Time to write music and perform grew scarce.

Back home, Murray Brett worried. What kind of life was his oldest son choosing? Murray feared that spiritual bankruptcy loomed.

Every summer Murray took his three sons to the Georgia coast to toss seine nets for shrimp. One evening, tending to the day's haul, Murray wanted to know when Nathan would wake from Nashville's trance.

Everyone says give it five years, Nathan said.

I don't think you've got five years, Murray said. In five years you'll be 29 and starting over; you'll have to find a new career, start at the bottom. What if you have a family by then? Come home, Murray pleaded, we'll work together, father and son. We'll open a wood shop, make guitars. Maybe we'll do a little farming, who knows?

Ga. Highway 83 through Kevin Liles eyes

The road home

A photojournalist's love letter to Ga. Highway 83. Story and photos by Kevin Liles, for the AJC.

Driving my favorite part of Ga. Highway 83, it's easy to lose track of time. With only an occasional house or rusted fence to break up the miles of pine trees, irrigated cornfields and rolling pastures dotted with anthills, driving easily takes a back seat to my thoughts.

Deemed a Scenic Byway by the state, Ga. 83 is an 86.5-mile two-lane road that traverses from Monroe south to Forsyth, passing through the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and crossing the Ocmulgee River along the way. Its shoulders are so narrow at times, road signs fight for real estate among the milkweed and oak saplings.

» Get the whole story, including a special video presentation, in a vibrant and photo-rich format.


Called for Life

Dr. Kent Brantly was a medical missionary with Samaritan's Purse, living with his wife, Amber, and their children in war-torn Liberia. While working at ELWA hospital, where only one Ebola patient out of dozens had survived, he began to run a fever.

"Kent, bud. We got your test result. And I'm really sorry to tell you that it is positive for Ebola."

I had not expected to hear those words despite the mounting evidence over the past three days — the worsening symptoms, the repeated negative malaria tests — that would have led me to suspect Ebola had I been the doctor rather than the patient.

Decatur Book Festival 2015 highlights

'Cooking as Fast as I Can'

Childhood trauma spurred chef Cat Cora to be fearless. Read an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, exclusive to the AJC.

I spent the first week of my life at the Mississippi Children’s Home, waiting to be adopted. My name then was Melanie. The word means dark in Greek, and referred to my brown hair, my deep brown eyes.

My birth mother was 16 when she got pregnant with me. It was 1967. Whatever free-love thing was happening in other parts of the country in the late ’60s, it was not happening in Greenwood, Miss. A girl who got knocked up there brought shame upon herself and her family.

Strong survivor

Strong survivor

"The first time I remember something happening was right after my fourth birthday. I was wearing blue jean overalls, Mary Jane shoes and a pink shirt.
Family found

Family found

On the third day of the New Year, Maureen Miles opened a letter she had waited 50 years to receive. It was from The Salvation Army Missing Persons & Booth Records.
Back to the woods

Back to the woods

It was one of those wilderness moments. In May, as we hiked up to Weverton Cliffs, east of Harpers Ferry, W.
Personal Journeys: A common thread

A common thread

She pretty much cried for 250 miles. It had been almost a year since Cathy Palmer had traded her “idyllic” life on a lake in Missouri for an apartment near the busy intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Buford Highway in Atlanta.
Lost and found

Addiction, recovery and my son Josh

AJC columnist Jeff Schultz usually writes about sports. Now, for Father's Day, he tells a family story.

Lost brother

Lost brother

Outside the center for unwed mothers, Alan Horne – a black, 6-foot-2, 200-plus pound former offensive lineman on his high school football team — waited in the dark.
Long-distance runner

Long-distance runner

I’ve run the Beltline Eastside Trail dozens if not hundreds of times. I know every inch of it and always enjoy flying down the path whether I’m the only person on it or it’s packed with a weekend crowd of thousands.
Family outcast

Family outcast

Daniel Ashley Pierce never clicks on the YouTube video. Watch the disturbing clip that went viral and made him a famous gay teenager, and you understand why.
Ty Cobb young

A terrible beauty

Every story must begin someplace, and the story of Ty Cobb began in Banks County on Dec. 18, 1886. Many people assume (or assert) that Cobb grew up in a shotgun shack on the wrong side of the tracks from Dogpatch; that is hardly the case. He was born in a nicely appointed 13-room house on the property of his maternal grandfather, a fairly well-to-do former Confederate Army captain named Caleb Chitwood. Local people, for a reason now lost to history, called the area “the Narrows.”

Cobb’s mother was the very pretty Amanda Chitwood, his father a tall, thin, North Carolinian named William Herschel (W.H.) Cobb, who had first met her when he was a farmhand, working his way through school, on the Chitwood plantation.

Rookie coach

Rookie coach

One of the beauties of cellphone technology is caller ID. When my phone trilled that afternoon in late December I saw the name of my friend and neighbor pop up on the screen. David Roth rarely called.


We exchanged genial insults, as men will do. Then he got to the point.

“I’m going to be the head coach of the school baseball team this year,” he said. “I need an assistant.”

He had me cornered, and we both knew it. My older son had played on the team last year and surely planned to try out again. This year, his kid brother was eligible to try out, too. Smart money said they’d make the squad. With two Davis boys on the team, why not rope in their old man, too?

“Well, uh —”

“What? It’ll be fun!”

House of hoops

House of hoops

Before Ron Hunter cried on national TV. Before he injured his leg. Before his son R.J. Hunter hit that impossibly long shot that caused his father to tumble off the now-famous blue, rolling office chair, there was a hoop in a backyard surrounded by walnut and sycamore trees.

The long pass

He couldn’t shake it. He, John Dewberry, lost.

Even at 8 years old he knew how to view second place: first among losers.

He was athletic, and he knew how to tussle. He’d powered through football knockabouts in his parents’ suburban Virginia yard. But he was new to team swimming at the neighborhood pool. New, in fact, to any organized sport and its hierarchy of winning.

Mom had resisted such brutish pursuits for him and his older brother. She’d steered her boys to excel at floral arranging instead — even signed them up for contests through 4H.

Once freed to swim competitively, he did well the first couple meets. Then, from across town, came a big kid, a fast one. Dewberry was introduced to defeat.

That evening, he was moping around the house dejected when his father, a former boxer with a competitive streak, found him.

Adrenaline junkie

Adrenaline junkie

“It’s always something. I didn’t want to be the something. And I was the something.”

She overslept. The morning had been chaos.

The father had wrenched his back; standing straight was impossible. Holding onto the hood of the truck was the best he could do after sleeping on the motel room floor. Closing his eyes would not mask the pain. The cocktail of Aleve and Tylenol did not help.

Mom lifted her 5-foot, 9-inch son from the passenger seat. All 110 pounds draped around her petite frame as she placed him gently into his bike. She strapped his hands to the handle bar and clipped his feet to the pedals.

Kevin Enners was born with cerebral palsy, making it impossible for him to control his muscles. Of the 1,509 participants who registered in the ninth annual Albany Half and Full Marathon, he was the only one pedaling the 26.2 mile course in a three-wheeled, low-rider bike.

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