Keth Hodgson isn’t afraid to speak up

Published 9:55 am Thursday, December 6, 2018

Keth Hodgson isn’t known for keeping quiet. Or backing down.

And the man who put up the “This Ain’t Cooleemee” sign on NC 801 many years ago is still at it. This time, he’s upset over the way he’s being treated – and he suspects other disabled residents of the community are being treated the same.

A curmudgeon for sure, he doesn’t care.

Legally blind and in early stages of dementia, one wouldn’t notice either on a phone call. He’s the same old guy, pointing out inproprieties when he sees them. And after a stay in a nursing home, involuntarily according to him, he’s back home.

Hodgson went to Woodforest Bank to pay his electric bill. He had cash. They didn’t want to accept cash. When they finally did, he was charged a $1.50 fee. Infuriated, he contacted the state utilities commission, and was told that any place accepting payments for utility bills is required accept cash payments. And they couldn’t charge a fee. That problem was straightened out, and Hodgson may have saved some people $1.50 a month. It’s one of many instances he says where people just don’t know the law.

Hodgson has been at odds with YVEDDI over transportation. This one was more personal, something about the agency not agreeing to take him where he needed to go. He called the sheriff’s department, and was told a crime wasn’t committed.

Yes, Hodgson has a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. But many times, he’s right.

“You would not believe how disabled people are taken advantage of,” he said, adding that Davie County has trouble following the law – the Americans with Disabilities Act. “I just want a level playing field. I have to tell people about the laws.”

I’ve talked to Hodgson several times over the years, even gave him a ride once when he came to the sheriff’s department and pretty much asked to be arrested. It was an issue over his driver’s license. And yes, he went round and round with the DMV then. He’s been round and round with firearms manufacturers, and I’m sure many others over the years.

My first encounter was with that “This Ain’t Cooleemee” sign he put in his front yard, probably less than a mile up NC 801 from where the city limits reach. I thought the sign was funny. But Hodgson was serious. He didn’t like what was going on in Cooleemee and wanted no part of it.

Like him or not, Keth Hodgson does what he thinks is right. And more often than we would like to think, he’s right more often than wrong. His worst fault, although I’m sure he wouldn’t call it a fault, is rubbing people the wrong way when trying to get his points across. He just has that ability to upset people, and it doesn’t bother him in the least. The old saying “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” doesn’t apply to Hodgson. He’s full of vinegar. But then again, he’s not trying to “catch flies,” or make friends as that saying implies. He’s trying to get people to do what he thinks is right, sometimes just trying to get them to follow the law.

When it comes to the disabled, he’s right. Obstacles shouldn’t exist, especially in public places.

Imagine, like him, being legally blind – a pretty tough situation for a former truck driver who relied on his eyesight to make a living.

You don’t have to like Keth Hodgson. He probably doesn’t care whether you like him or not. But if he calls you on something – pay attention. He may be right.

– Mike Barnhardt