Blind Waynesville resident can smell snow coming
This winter when most folks around Haywood County were curious if snow was going to fall the next day, they checked out the 6 o’clock news or hopped online to see if a mountain snow day was on their way.
However, Bobby Dotson, a 63-year-old blind Waynesville resident, doesn’t have to check out a television or a computer to tell if snowflakes will soon be falling.
All he has to do is step out on his front porch.
“I can smell snow a day or so before the snow comes because the air has a clean, fresh smell to it,” explained Dotson, as he sat down in his Waynesville home to interview, noting that, because of his blindness, his other senses like smell and hearing are super sharp.
“My pastor at Barberville Baptist Church tells me that my nose comes in handy because, when I tell him it’s gonna snow, he has to cancel church,” he added.
Dr. Kerry and Barbara Cogburn, longtime friends of Dotson, say he is 100 percent accurate in his snow predictions. “If we want to know if we need to pick up milk or bread before a snow storm, we just pick up the phone and call Bobby,” Barbara said.
Dotson’s story began in 1949 when he was born to parents Herschell and Mary Cagle Dotson at the old Haywood County Hospital building (currently Haywood County Board of Education) approximately two months premature and weighing in at only 1 pound, 3 ounces at birth. But, he was not blind immediately at birth.
According to Dotson’s family history, soon after his birth, his doctor thought he was going to die and placed oxygen over his tiny face in an effort to save his life. While the oxygen did save his life, it also got into his eyes and caused his blindness.
Dotson has lived 63 years without sight, but he says he has never been angry about that long-ago hospital moment that took his eyes. “That’s all I’ve ever known,” he said.
“I don’t use my blindness as a crutch in life,” he said, and has always sought to live an independent and productive life as he uses his ears and nose in place of his eyes.
He studied under Mr. John Chambers in Chambers’ West Asheville home where he learned to read by the Braille system.
“I’m right handed, so I read with my right hand and keep my place with my left hand,” Dotson explained as he picked up the oversized, white Braille Bible from his living room coffee table to demonstrate.
An important part of his life here in Haywood County is his dedicated work within the Clyde Lions Club where he has served for 35 years, since 1978, selling brooms and mops and working on the telephone committee.
When there is a Lions Club board of director’s meeting, Dotson calls all 15 to 20 members to keep them informed. He has all the phone numbers memorized and feels where the numbers are on his phone. “He always asked them, ‘How is everything going?’ and rejoices with them when something good is going on in their life,” noted Barbara.
“Bobby is a top notch Lions Club member,” added Kerry, a fellow Lions Club member. “He is one of our best salespersons and does a great job telephoning and rarely misses a meeting.”
Dotson especially enjoys the Lions Club special events like their “Christmas Party for the Blind,” which he has attended an outstanding 51 years since 1960. “The only year I missed the party was in 1978 when I was visiting my uncle in Florida,” he said.
He also looks forward to the Lions Club fishing tournament on the North Carolina Outer Banks where 500-600 members, both blind and seeing, gather to compete over fishing bragging rights. Last year, he caught five fish – four sea basses plus a drum fish.
In 1992 when he went to the fishing tournament, he walked with a folding cane he had used for 20 years – from 1972 to 1992. “I remember one of the members kidded me and said, ‘Your cane looks like it should be turned into the ‘Antique Road Show,’ so, the next thing I knew, the Lions Club got me a new folding cane with roll tips,” recalled Dotson.
In addition to his tireless work in the Lions Club, Dotson also operated his own Amway business for 31 years – from 1981 to 2012. Plus, he plays the organ at times at Barberville Baptist Church after teaching himself how to play in the 1970s.
Once, he even served four days on the jury here in Haywood County on a drunk driving case.
“I never will forget the attorney asked me, ‘Do you think your handicap will hinder you from being on the jury?’ and I told him ‘No’ and that I didn’t use my blindness for a crutch,” recalled Dotson. “So, the defense attorney said, ‘Well, I’m gonna keep him on the jury.’”
“I really enjoyed being on the jury and found it very interesting,” he added.
Dotson said that when he talks to other people who became blind later in life and trying to adjust, he tells them to take it one day at a time.
“I think there are a lot worse handicaps than being blind because I think being in a wheelchair or not being able to hear or talk would be worse,” he expressed, noting that his faith along with living independently in his own home has keep his spirits up over the years.
“For sure, blindness isn’t the end of the world,” he added.
To contact Dotson, call 627-6518.