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Charles Kuralt’s favorite byways

July 4, 1997

Excerpts from the book ``Charles Kuralt’s America,″ published in hardcover by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1995. A 1996 Anchor Books edition was published by arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Kuralt received a Grammy nomination this year in the spoken word category for his reading of the book.

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Grandfather Mountain, N.C.: A local physician, Dr. Ted Ledford, ``told me about a man who came down the hill to visit the clinic in Banner Elk one winter. The doctor asked, `Are you sleeping all right?′ The man said, ``Well, I’m sleeping all right at night, and I’m sleeping pretty well in the morning, but here lately, I’ve been having trouble getting to sleep in the afternoon.″

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Twin Bridges, Mont.: ``I fell in love with Montana at first sight. I was young and all the world was beautiful to me, but Montana was a great splendor. The steep, snow-clad ranges caught my eye first, and they were wonderful to see, but over time, my affection came to be for the welcoming valleys. And not for the valleys, exactly, but for the rivers that run through the valleys. And not for the fastest or deepest rivers, but for the smaller ones that would support a floating dry fly.″

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Key West, Fla: ``I did not visit Hemingway’s House, having discovered on a previous visit that Hemingway is no longer at home.″

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New York: ``Nobody lives in New York City. That’s what people from elsewhere in the country don’t understand. They say, `I don’t see how you can live in a place like New York.′ Well, I don’t. Nobody does. We live in our neighborhoods. These are small towns just like those in Iowa or Nebraska, except that they are not surrounded by farm fields; they are surrounded by other small towns.″

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Ketchikan, Alaska: ``I said to a Tlingit Indian woman one time that I thought she lived in the most dazzling place in America. `It’s God’s thumbprint,′ she said. And it is.″

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New Orleans: ``I could have closed my eyes in the backseat of the taxi and known where I was purely by the pungent accent washing over me from up front. ... From the first time I heard those sweet New Orleans intonations, they have been music to my ears.″

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Charleston, S.C.: Invited to return someday, ``Perhaps I will. I hope so. ... I hope a mockingbird is singing.″

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Ely, Minn.: ``It’s hard to be a stranger there. If your name is Charles, everybody in Ely calls you Chuck.″

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Boothbay Harbor, Maine: ``I feel that once a human being has outgrown a highchair, he’s outgrown a bib, too; therefore, I eschew the bib and always end up with melted butter on my shirt″ while eating lobster.

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Rio Grande Valley, N.M.: ``New Mexico is old, stupendously old and dry and brown, and wind-worn by the ages. I went to New Mexico in November to be overcome again by oldness. And because I knew that in November I could see the cranes again.″

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Woodstock, Vt.: ``They deliberately chose Vermont, and a hardworking, old-fashioned life. I heard this attitude of Vermonters described as `preventing the future.‴

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