Author Dot Jackson to speak on June 14 about growing up in SC’s upcountry

Posted by | June 13, 2011

Tomorrow, June 14, between 1-4 pm, the Kershaw County [SC] Library presents ‘A Visit with Dot Jackson.’ Dot Jackson is best known as a journalist who has written for several newspapers, including the Charlotte Observer and the New York Times, as well as editing smaller newspapers.

Early in her career, Dot wrote a novel based on her own family history, but stored it away. In the meantime, she has co-authored two books of South Carolina local history (Catawba River and Keowee), and continues to write stories and articles appearing in newspapers, journals and books. ‘Refuge,’ that stored away novel, was published in 2006.

Dot also has a love of Appalachian history and folklife. Recently, she provided commentary in two films by Neal Hutcheson: ‘The Last One’ concerning Popcorn Sutton and his last run of moonshine, as well as ‘The Outlaw Lewis Redmond,’ concerning the upcountry’s most wanted 19th century outlaw.

Dot is currently focused on the Birchwood Center for Arts and Folklife in Pickens County, SC. To register for Dot Jackson’s talk, please call (803) 425-1508.

Here’s a selection from ‘Refuge:’

“If I wasn’t walking on (these legs) I would have declared they were broken. I guessed the steering wheel had done it, when the car went down.

But Hugh came back looking smug. “I want to go this way,” he said, pointing back the way he had just come.

“Why? We don’t know where it goes,” I said.

“We can ask somebody,” he said. “There’s a house up there.”

I could have cried. “Well for pity’s sake,” I said. “Go! Shoo! Move!”

They ran. I hobbled along behind them, praying these people would help us.

As we topped that little slope I could see the house, up on a rise to the right. A big house, catching the rising sun in its face, shielding its eyes with big porches, upstairs and down. It was not painted; it was weathered to the shade of the bluffs behind it. The shingles of its roof were rumpled, like the feathers of some big gray wind-ruffled bird, and five tall chimneys towered over them. Oh, what a house!

I imagined a regal old lady lived there, with her servants. No — a happy family lived there. Ladies rocked on those porches in the heat of the day, making tatting. Children bounced and wallowed over those unbounded acres and soared in swings, under that big tree.

Pet and Hugh were out of sight, the road was bending, but I could hear them hollering back and forth, excited, and a flock of partridges rose whistling as they passed. The people of this house, I was sure, loved larks and partridges.

That was why they didn’t cut their grass.

In between the children’s tracks I spotted some dainty hoofprints I figured must be deer. They were fresh, certainly since the rain. Somewhere in this meadow, deer were watching us. Were the people in the house looking at us too? I felt like they were and it made me feel sort of warm. Certainly they saw us. And people came this way so rarely they’d be glad. And we’d be glad.

They were not up yet. There was no smoke from their chimneys. Maybe they didn’t mind the cool. But I was sure they’d make a fire for us.

The road cut around right close to the porch, and there were steps going up the bank. The children got nearly there, and stopped, looking up, and I caught up with them.

Creeper climbed thick on the chimneys. Seedlings pushed up between the boards of the front steps and lilacs drooped in great clumps along the banisters. Upstairs there was a broken window, and while we watched in awe, an owl swooped into the hole.

We took each other’s hands, and went ahead.

The steps were solid enough. Our feet rang on the porch floor. I knocked on the door, and waited, and knocked again. The echo bounced through the house but there was no answer, and we waited, and there was no other sound except our breathing, and all around us the waking of birds.

We looked in the windows, then. There was a big room, with sunshine streaming in the side windows, but there was no furniture at all. We went to the other side of the porch and looked in, and in that room, it was very big, there was a huge stone fireplace. But no furniture.

What we all knew, and nobody wanted to say, was that there was nobody, nobody at home.

Bees were beginning to work the lilacs. The air was sharp and light and full of new sweetnesses, of clean wetness and field grass and ancient timbers warming in the sun.

”I guess we should walk on,” Hugh said. He was trying pitifully hard not to cry.

I didn’t want to tell him that I couldn’t walk far enough to find anybody more than a city block away.

“We haven’t looked around back,” I said. “We haven’t looked down at the barn.

Maybe down there, maybe at the sheds there’ll be some sign of life.”

We went around the sunshine side. A monstrous fig bush huddled close to the chimney. It was knotty with figs that one day the birds would enjoy. There was a long kitchen wing on the back, with its own chimney at the end and a porch all around. At the angle of the main house lilacs sprawled all over, tall as the eaves and bowed to the ground, some branches, bent by the weight of their flowers.

No one answered at the kitchen door, either.

Our mouths were like cotton. There didn’t seem to be any well, but there was a trough that came almost to the back porch, and it looked like it was meant to carry water. Now it was dry, a cradle for drifted leaves, and the moss that had grown in it was black and curling. Weeds grew in the spillway that had carried the runoff. Leaning up against the sluice there was an old black iron wash pot, the kind with legs. A spider was living in it, working on her web. We followed the sluice uphill a way and found where one of its supports had rotted and left a joint gaping. Spring water was streaming through the hole; it had made itself a new little channel where it hit the ground. It was like ice and clear as diamonds.

We caught it in our hands and drank.

“What are we going to do?” Pet said.

I said I thought that for the time being, we ought to stay right where we were.

Her poor little tired face said I was crazy….

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