In early May of 1979, Bill Youngblood suffered a type of heart attack commonly referred to as the “widow maker.” It wasn’t that – thank God – and to ensure that it wouldn’t become that, on July 20 of that same year, he tied on some walking shoes and headed out the door.
He didn’t return until he had covered two arduous miles.
The next day, he tied/headed out again.
By Day Seven, this had become a ritual that continued over the next four decades-plus, save for the “arduous” part. Each walk became a little easier. Each outing’s gait became steadily faster over the hills and dales that marked his suburban path.
He didn’t walk every day, but he was religious in seeing that he got in steps during at least six days of every week. If he couldn’t walk outside because of the weather, he would drive to the mall and walk there.
By its very nature walking can be boring. By his very nature, Bill can be resourceful. So he decided to make his quest for better health a chart-able journey. He logged every mile, marking compilations every so often on a globe he and his wife D.Anne keep in the living room of their home in North Richland Hills, Texas.
His original goal was to “walk” to Japan, where he had been stationed as a sailor during the Korean War. Getting back there literally wasn’t likely, given a lot of circumstances, so he took the next best course – two miles at a time. Or, to be more accurate, two miles at a time by way of San Diego to Australia to Hong Kong to Japan.
He reached Tokyo in the summer of 1996, and, like Forrest Gump, he just kept going. After making it around the world once he began working on a second “lap” – in the other direction. A few years back, I remember him telling me he was “exploring” Greenland.
Due to some recent health issues, he finally had to end the journey just prior to the pandemic. But the record still speaks for itself. The earth has a circumference of nearly 25,000 miles (give or take a hill or dale in North Richland Hills). I’m guessing there aren’t many 89 year olds who can claim to have walked that far, much less to have set about walking it twice.
Bill Youngblood can make that claim.
He can make one other (though he won’t) this month: He is also the greatest father a son could ever have. I’m talking the talk, here, but he – in every way imaginable – has walked the walk.