At age 61, Greg Catledge sat down with his accountant to talk about the future.
After growing up in Mississippi, Catledge graduated from Mercer College in Atlanta and devoted his career to information technology. His work eventually led him and his wife Sherrie to Charlotte, where Catledge worked for Family Dollar.
After losing his job in 2014 in the midst of a corporate staff reduction, the Providence Plantation resident decided to pursue his dream of writing. He had started a novel almost 40 years before.
He has now self-published two books.
Catledge grew up in the Mississippi Delta, where he spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm. He has always loved to read, everything from science fiction to fellow Mississippian William Faulkner.
He lived in a small town, and books “opened up the world,” he said.
His first stories came from those early days. When his nieces asked him to tell them stories, he hearkened back to days on the farm with his dog Scrappy.
He wrote the stories down, scanned pictures of himself as a young boy with Scrappy and drew maps of the farm for a self-published book.
Catledge also loved the outdoors and he became hooked on backpacking as a Boy Scout. As a teenager, he and his friends would load up a station wagon with camping gear and spend the weekend in the woods.
So many adventures are about perseverance, friendship and personal growth. These stories from the trail are no different. They will inspire you to travel, hike or call up an old friend.
Bill Bartee, owner of Jesse Brown’s
He met Sherrie in Atlanta, where she was a single mom raising twin boys. She enrolled them in a Cub Scout pack where Catledge was a volunteer.
Catledge said he enjoys introducing boys to nature and watching them grow into responsible citizens and good leaders through the scouting program. He now is an assistant scoutmaster at Boy Scout Troop 3, which meets at Myers Park United Methodist Church.
Even so, he stays connected to two friends from Mississippi whom he met when they were 8 years old.
The men have taken backpacking trips around North and South America, and some of their adventures are recounted in Catledge’s book “Put on Your Boots and Go.”
“So many adventures are about perseverance, friendship and personal growth,” said Bill Bartee, owner of Jesse Brown’s, a Charlotte-based outdoor store. “These stories from the trail are no different. They will inspire you to travel, hike or call up an old friend and say, ‘Hello.’ ”
Catledge and his friends Vergil Hays and Stuart Worley celebrated their 60th birthdays backpacking in Chilean Patagonia.
He said the trail has strengthened and defined his longstanding friendships.
“I feel blessed because I don’t know how I got so lucky,” he said.
Along with a place to deepen friendships, Catledge said that he has found that backpacking helps refocus life.
“Backpacking requires self-sufficiency,” he said. “It’s life at its most essential: water, food, shelter and walking. When your life is so complex, it’s nice to strip it down to the essentials.”
Away from the trails, Catledge now is focused on his novel “Redemption,” which is based on his grandfather’s story about a teenage boy who stabbed his father to death in the early 1900s.
His grandfather, then a young adult, witnessed the stabbing and was later asked to testify in the boy’s defense, Catledge said. The boy’s father was known as an abuser and alcoholic.
Before he testified, Catledge’s grandfather was threatened with death if the teenager was freed. Catledge’s grandfather testified.
“How does a guy who is 21 years old say, ‘I’m going to risk my life and family to preserve another family,’ ” Catledge said.
Sherrie has read the manuscript, which covers race relations, death, revenge and sacrifice.
“She said she only cried about half a dozen times reading it,” Catledge said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Catledge’s books “28 Dog Years” and “Put on Your Boots and Go” are available on amazon.com.