Remembering columnists, friends and Christmases past

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, December 15, 2016

“As we get older, every winter takes its toll.

It was long after the holidays before I opened all the Christmas mail. One of the cards was from my mother’s cousin Lucy. “I am still alive,” it said, in a frail little hand.

And I felt an awful pang. There she was, way down in Miami, where none of us rooted in red clay should finish out our lives…”

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~ Dot Jackson, excerpt from column in Charlotte Observer, 1982

A December twilight amble with River dog along the street finds doves fussing overhead, briskly flapping wings like sails in the ocean wind, settling in on a chill evening high up in evergreen boughs. Memories are like those wings: a sound, a thought, a glimpse brings them floating back.

My family was all avid newspaper, book and periodical readers. Early mornings, my dad, with pipe and hot black coffee from the trusty percolator, rustled through the plump Charlotte Observer and Charlotte News; my mother waited until late morning. The rest of us got our turn after school, which meant the crossword puzzle was already completed or there was a gaping hole where a prize recipe had been.

Columnists like Kays Gary, Dot Jackson, Dave Barry, Paul Harvey, Erma Bombeck, Ann Landers and so many others became life-long friends. No matter what, you hunted their two cents on life every time the papers arrived. Even back then, I liked their writing styles, pretty much down-to-earth, thoughtful, insightful, often humorous, never pretentious. Dot Jackson recently passed away, but her writing will live on.

Winters continue to take their toll. Christmas cards still arrive — fewer and fewer as we get older and those who sent them disappear. I find myself rifling through cards saved from past Christmases, reading over hand-written notes from people who are long gone. That’s a poignant thing, to read those notes, to hold those cards in hand.

Outside, the night blankets the mountains as inside lights glow warm. The doves have quieted down deep in their hidden roost up high in the tree branches. The backyard possum waddles toward the compost heap, hoping for a worthwhile meal. We’re still alive.


Before the end of the year, you can become a founding member of SCLT by contributing $1,000 or more. For a limited time, SCLT has matching funds for contributions of $500 or more. Checks should be made out to Polk County Community Foundation and directed to the SCLT endowment fund. Learn more about Saluda Community Land Trust (SCLT) by visiting or calling 828-749-1560.

Over the years Catherine Ross has volunteered for many Saluda causes. One that remains her goal to complete is the engraved brick paver fundraiser for Pace Park in the alley by M.A. Pace Store. What better present could you give yourself or loved ones this year? Drop off applications and payment to City Hall or mail to City of Saluda, 6 Main Street, Saluda, NC 28773. Proceeds will go toward building public restrooms. For additional information, contact Catherine at 828-749-3534 or

Visit the Holiday Gallery for special gifts at Saluda Historic Depot, 32 W. Main St., through December, Thursday-Sunday, 12-4 p.m.

Saluda Police Department and City Hall are accepting unwrapped toys/donations until Dec. 19 to provide Saluda’s children with a Merry Christmas.

Saluda School will be out from Dec. 22 – Jan. 1.

Happy December birthday to Judy Ward, Holly Wilkes, Theresa Wilkes, Perry Ellwood, Donnie Hunter, Jeff Bradley, Preston Mintz, Carolyn Morgan, Susan Casey, Jeff Jenkins, Nikki Ammerman, Cas Haskell, Mary O. Ratcliffe, Laura Fields, Lord Blanton, Beth Brand, Jim Carson and Tom DeKay.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading this column. As ever, the goal is to make you feel like you’re enjoying life in a friendly little mountain town. Feel free to contact me at or 749-1153. I always love hearing from you! Or visit for more writing and art, or find me on Facebook.