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Memorable American Stories

For the past four years, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman has been on a fantastic voyage, criss-crossing the country from coast to coast to prove the simple premise that "Everybody Has a Story." And now he's closing in on a milestone: the 100th profile in his special series.

Wednesday, he took a look back at some of the memorable people he's met.

I remember when I started this project. A lot of people, at the time, thought it was kind of a feather-brained idea. And to be perfectly honest, a little part of me thought it was, too. Throw a dart at a map, go there, pick people out of the phone book and interview them, regardless of whom they are, or what they have to say.

Along with cameraman Les Rose, I am finding stories in places only a dart would ever even think to go. 99 trips. This is very close to ridiculous - 99 trusting souls. This is going to sound a little strange, and about 1,000 not-so-trusting ones.

I got more hang-ups than Woody Allen. That happens all the time. The problem is, people just can't believe CBS News would want to tell their story.

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It has taken up to 44 calls before. But, eventually, someone always answers with a smile in their voice.

Kassie Cattoor was our youngest subject at the age of, "1, 2, 3, 4," she says counting her fingers. Buela Wilkerson our oldest at 87.

Birdman was our strangest, although not by much.

One of the nicest was Suzanne Lee of Camden, S.C., who just liked feeding people.

Another high note, kind of, was Amanda Harper, a wannabe country singer who proves that having dog hearing isn't always a good thing.

We also met the newly adopted...

"They love us and they snuggle us" answered the kids when they were asked why they liked living there.

And the newlyweds...

"I sat down on the couch, and he got down on his knees, and I thought we was praying... so I bowed my head, and that's when he proposed to me," says Naomi Coddington of Camden, Tenn. This had to be the sweetest.

The spookiest was a funeral director who once owned a mummy, which for lack of a better place, he stored upright in his garage.

Every person offered some insight.

"When they don't give you any hope, you chase rainbows," says Rosalee Ernest of Tripp County, S.D.

Every person, some wisdom drawn from their own experience,

"An obstacle is a steppingstone to success," says Alan Gunsbury of Brainerd, Minn.

"If you're looking for happiness, I think it finds you," says Jessica Pfohl of Evansville, Ind.

"Life is long, but then again, it's short," says Michael Mulkey of central Alaska.

Well, most every person. In fact, if I had to pick one story that best captures the spirit of this project, Trey Pyles would be the winner.
Trey is just at that age where he can't sit still no matter where he is, like at church.

But he does slow down to give balloons to his grandmother.

Of course, a lot of kids like to give their grandma presents.

But what is special about Trey, is that he still does. He was 2 when she died.

"I never say, 'Let's do this.' It is always him saying, 'I want to give my nanny a balloon,'" says his mom.

I asked Trey if he would show me how you give a balloon to someone who is not here anymore and he obliged. But didn't take me to the cemetery, because his way of thinking is: Why tie it to a tombstone when she is not even there? Why not bring it up to a field and let her catch it?

As Trey watched that balloon disappear into his grandma's arms, I realized that he did have something to say after all, that faith is where you find it, and there is a lot more to religion then just sitting up straight on Sundays.

That story was especially important to me because we met Trey fairly early on. And I figured if a 5-year-old who suction-cups his belly had a powerful story, I'm sure the rest of America did, too. Now we're on to 100. Tomorrow big number 100 from Buckhannon, W. Va.

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