Columnist Kays Gary on Dot Jackson, in 1993

Kays Gary, by former Observer artist Al Phillips, in ’97.
Kays Gary, by former Observer artist Al Phillips, in ’97.

This was first published Dec. 8, 1993.

Medical science has yet to produce a mood-elevating pill packing the punch of a chat with Dot Jackson.

Unless you are very young, you remember the one-time Observer columnist whose heart was in the highlands and with the people on the back roads – people gloriously free of faddistic modern cultures.

To those of us privileged to call her friend, her life has been marked by keen disappointments and even tragedy. But she does not, will not, let it show nor slow her indomitable, unfailing sense of celebration.

And so, with some guilt concerning my own geriatric problems and having heard she was struggling with her own, I called Dot at her home near Six Mile, S.C.

“Hel-lo, darlin’!” she cried. Then she promptly quashed my anxiety over her health with:

“I was just workin’ on a 12-step program when I had to give up, meanin’ I could take 12 steps before I had to sit down. Plumb embarrassin’. . . .

“It got real bad the day my roof sprung another leak, and I had to get my ladder, tar bucket and a broom. Honey, by the time I got on the roof I was done in, wiped out, couldn’t move.

“I couldn’t holler loud enough so my neighbor at the volunteer fire department could come and get me down with that cherry-pickin’ machine. So layin’ there I just prayed and asked the Lord, ‘What am I goin’ to do?’

“And the Lord said, Well, long as you’re up there, Dot, you might as well get your breath a little longer and then tar-patch that roof!’ So finally I did that and crawled back’ards down that ladder with my eyes closed and wound up goin’ to the hospital at Asheville where they put in this pacemaker machine, and in no time a-tall I was ready to go!”

When I called, she had just got back, an hour or so earlier.

She had to admit, in this case, modern medicine had topped all the herbs and mountain kitchen remedies.