POUND — After 30 years in journalism, William Minor is no stranger to pounding a beat.
A veteran of the Miami Herald before later notables Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry joined that paper, Minor said he found himself on the presidential beat in Key Biscayne in the months leading to Richard Nixon’s visit to China and the later Watergate scandal.
“I kept a golf ball on the table in the house where I was staying so it would fall off if a helicopter flew in or out of Nixon’s compound there,” Minor recalled Monday as he sorted through his notes from his latest post-retirement venture. “I was living about five houses away from his.”
For two years, Minor has gone on the road across several hundred miles in Virginia and North Carolina via bicycle and a small two-wheel trailer to research historical weather patterns.
Minor said he developed his latest interest after he retired to Pennsylvania a few years ago. Living near an Amish community, he said he talked with many Amish about changes to seasonal weather and how it affected their farms.
Noticing information on weather shifts locally and through the national news media, Minor decided to go where the weather was. He often refers to area National Weather Service office online data and website SpaceWeather.com as references and context to the information he learns from residents along the way.
“I don’t chase weather, but I try to track it,” said Minor. Part of his inspiration was a SpaceWeather.com posting about solar flare cycles over the past three centuries, with activity this year expected to be among four times of higher-than-normal flare activity.
“Something is happening with weather patterns worldwide,” Minor said.
Two things in his backpack show the path he has taken up to this week.
A Virginia road map coated in plastic is marked with stops from the Outer Banks through Tidewater and Southside Virginia up into Southwest Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The second log of his trip is a stack of fire department patches corresponding to his map.
“Wherever I go, I contact the local dispatch and tell them what I’m doing out of courtesy,” said Minor. “I also contact local fire departments and see if they will let me stop by for a day or so.”
From the more than one dozen patches, Minor has received hospitality on every stop of his journey. The hospitality continued when he rolled into Pound on Sunday.
“I told him I had a houseful but that he was not sleeping in the town park,” Pound Vice Mayor Leabern Kennedy said. “I warned him that the cat might sleep with him, though.”
“I woke up to a breakfast of toast and strawberry jam.” Minor said. “It was pretty good.”
During each stop, Minor will talk with residents about weather events and local history in what often becomes a cross between historical meteorology and cultural geography. On Monday, he talked with Kennedy and town native Terry Short about recent storms in Wise County and a series of 20-year flooding cycles that struck the town in the past five decades.
Minor said that, coming through Clintwood and Dickenson County before arriving in Pound, he got to learn a little about Darrell “Shifty” Powers — made famous in the book and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” about a World War II paratroop company in the 101st Airborne Division. In Pound, he added some local knowledge about U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers to what he had read in a recent book by Powers’ son and Cold War researcher.
Using notebooks and the backs of local and state transportation department maps, Minor takes and organizes notes along his journey. He said he plans to write at least two books — a weather research work and a historical collection — from his travels.
“I’m not much with computers, but there is a need to collect this research,” Minor said. “Something I’ve learned about journalism, you have to have integrity and you have to write to educate and inform, not just entertain.”