The Strength Of A Single Parent

The Early Show: Joanie Frederick
CBS/The Early Show
With the random toss of a dart as his guide, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman has been able to repeatedly prove that "Everybody Has A Story." With a little digging, he has been able to find extraordinary stories told by the most ordinary people. Here, he tells his 99th story.

It was one of those rare winter days in Humboldt County, Calif., when the fog retreats and the postcards develop before your very eyes. It was a day where you could see the tops of the tallest trees on earth at Redwood National Park. That was the day when Hartman chose Joanie Frederick's name from the phone book.

"At first, I was worried about what the story was. And then I figured out it's not my problem; it's yours - to figure out what my story is," Fredericks told him. "I like that part," she says. She is a realtor married to a former piano refinisher named John Frederick.

She has three children by her first marriage and now has four grandchildren. And yes, she also has a story. In fact, it's one so common in this country Hartman can't believe he hasn't told it before now.

"Single parent is hard. I just think it's hard," says Frederick.

After her first marriage went the way of her beehive, she was left with her three boys who were, by all accounts, a handful.

"That knuckle is still a little low," says one.

"We'd fire off a bottle rocket at each other," explains another.

Frederick raised them on a bar manager's salary, bartering drinks for food and saving beer cans to buy children's clothes.

"At the end of summer, we'd recycle them and that'd buy our school shoes," says one of her children.

And yet it wasn't the tight budget or the missile attacks that made that time in her life so hard. It was what she missed. Joanie Frederick says she didn't have the one thing that makes being a single parent bearable - her parent's help.

She says her folks took the approach that she had made her bed and now must lie in it.

"And that was the part that scared me, like if I couldn't be there, who would? Who was going to be there?" she says.

And although it was discouraging, it became defining.

"I sure don't want to be like my parents," she says.

"My mom is way helpful," says her oldest son, Tim. He is now a single parent, raising his own kids.

"I mean if it ain't rides, or watching the kids, or just letting me come over and hang on her shoulder and go (sigh)," he adds.

"And it's not just doing it because my parents didn't do it. It's doing it because I think it's going to be fun," Joanie Frederick adds.

You know, they say the reason redwood trees grow so tall is because of dependence. Because they interlock their roots, they can literally hold on to one another when the storms hit.

It's the same strategy used by this successful, family tree.

Hartman's next destination is Buckhannon, W. Va., where he will get his 100th story.