Sunday, November 26, 2006

Autumn in Farm Country

It's quite a contrast from New York City to rural South Carolina's back roads. It was great fun to visit the Empire State and it's good to return to the Palmetto State. As shadows lengthened this afternoon, we fought that sharp western sunlight as we made our way west on the Jeffries Hwy in Colleton County, SC.

Colleton is both historic and large. It's one of the largest land mass counties in the state so one might well consider it a big ass county. The harsh sunlight in the late afternoon seems to penetrate even our sun visor. When we caught sight of this wild sign, we very nearly hit the thing trying to get off the highway. Such untoward tracking may have been the car itself forcing us from the road. Once it saw the east end of that west bound horse, the Mustang must have been drawn to the place. Perhaps the car thought that it might try out for a role in the stud service offered by BAF.

We just about lodged the GT in the ditch as the slope was steep and the ground pretty wet. BAF also offers a rescue service, but we weren't sure that this is what they had in mind. There's no mention of Porcine goods offered here, but this looks like a place that David Letterman might try for those Big Ass Hams which he handed out to numerous guests.

"Draft" does not, we think, refer to the recent conscription proposal by Congressman Charles Rangel nor does is suggest beer on tap. We figure that it means beasts of burden or draft animals. The expression "Draft-X" might mean that these are ADULT beasts of burden.

What did puzzle us was the offering of "REHAB". Do they rehabilitate the studs here or are the studs so good that their mates need some revovery? One thing for certain is that they must be on the up and up as there's nothing undercover about this operation. Few who pass this way are likely to overlook this great sign.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Greetings from New York


A late night Thanksgiving greeting to one an all. We're in New York City as the Manhattan sky line in the background demonstrates. Typically, we think of going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast. In this case we've migrated pretty far above the Mason-Dixon Line.

In our prowlings around Manhattan we've found the usual sea of people rushing everywhere. Unlike the tourists who frequently pause to take in the sights in downtown Charleston, these folks keep He who hesitates is likely to be flattened. We tend to think of New Yorkers as hustlers, bustlers, but not so much as traditional folks. That, however, would be only a surface observation.

New York has many historic landmarks, countless older buildings and significant places to which we enjoy returning. Like most visitors we feel somewhat sentimental toward these special places and take for granted that they will always be there. We were shocked to see the famous Plaza Hotel covered in massive pink signage announcing that it will no longer be a hotel, but will become ( very, very ) expensive condos. It seems close to a sin for this storied hotel to fall from public lodging into closed hands. It's a place which is known to many who never visited the city. It appears in books, plays, movies and television shows. Beyond all that, we wonder how many personal adventures have come to its many guests.

It is a sorrow to see it go and even more regrettable that it portends a dark trend in the Big Apple where we discovered several other legendary hotels will fall to the same fate. It is apparently a matter of the exponential increase in real estate values which has brought this about. It is certainly not for lack of guests as almost all of the hotels stay booked. In Charleston we always took the Peoples Building for granted and now it's taken the same turn as the Plaza. The Francis Marion Hotel is about the closest thing to the Plaza which remains standing in Charleston. We had better not take that or any other place of character in our city for granted.

New Yorkers and indeed people from all over the world took for granted that the World Trade Centers would continue to loom over the skyline until the lords of commercial real estate decided to build something else. That decision, of course, was tragically not for decent human beings to make as it turned out. Today New Yorkers seemed thankful to still have a city, to still be alive. Even the NEW YORK TIMES called upon citizens to keep this day one of thanks and not simply the precursor to obscene excesses in shopping.

They and we are losing the Plaza and we've lost the World Trade Centers for good. These are consistent with the frequent messages by which fate often warns us to take nothing, nothing at all for granted. We should likewise take note that our survival is never assured, but then neither is our doom. We regret the hits we've taken large and small, but we most clearly have so very much for which we should be thankful.

Monday, November 20, 2006

DAVID sticks it to 'em


This appendage which looks like King Kong's second hand Q-Tip looms from the bow of a replica of the C.S.S. DAVID. Nicknamed the LITTLE DAVID, it replicates the famous Confederate vessel which revolutionized warfare by attacking the Union vessel, NEW IRONSIDES in Charleston Harbor, October 5, 1863, using a manually delivered torpedo. It could be said that the DAVID really stuck it to the enemy.

This attack came many years before the era of self propelled and gyro guided torpedoes. In the World War II submarine movies, the commander orders, "Fire 1....Fire 2.....Fire 3.." and we see those long tubular fish leave the sub with a big "WOOSH" and a thousand bubbles. The DAVID had its torpedo fastened to a long staff which was used to ram the explosive charge into the enemy vessel. It did not have the luxury of watching the impact at great distance through a periscope. Once the torpedo exploded, that staff didn't seem so long at all. This technique is akin to strapping a hand grenade on to one end of a long broom stick then trying to sneak up on an armed enemy soldier to blow him up while you are still holding the stick and while he's still quite capable of shooting you. This being attempted while you're wearing snowshoes. Such was the DAVID'S ability to beat a hasty retreat after the attack.

This concept took more daring than genius. It is the antithesis of today's smart bombs with which the enemy is dispatched at great distance by remote control and seen by the folks back home more as a video game than actual warfare. It's a safe bet that the boys aboard C. S. S. DAVID were not watching the attack upon NEW IRONSIDES with detached interest. This was intimate contact with the enemy.

The replica was begun in 1970 by students of the Trident Technical College at North Charleston, SC, in preparation for South Carolina's Tricentennial celebration. In 2004, members of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., completely refurbished the replica and restored it to the actual vessel's original specifications. The group devoted more than 5,000 man hours to this project. We suspect that there must have been a few woman hours given to this project as well. Funding for this restoration was made possible by proceeds from the annual antique tractor and engine show at the Berkeley Museum.

The site on which it rests is Stoney Landing in Berkeley County, SC, the very place where the original was constructed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Feliz Navidad: Don't Try This at Home


Typically, the Christmas commercial season begins after Thanksgiving Day with a stampede to rival any Game Boy trampling. With the ever increasing need to get a jump on the competition, the date of opening day inches forward each year. Here we've got a tree going up on Daniel Island not quite a week before. It might have been even earlier had this crew not been collecting pumpkins after Halloween.

Drawing up to this curious tree trimming we thought we heard Jose Feliciano in song then we thought we saw him on the lift, but we were incorrect on both counts. The two gentlemen in the basket of the cherrypicker are in charge of ornament placement and have tentative control of the pitch and yaw via the hydraulics which move them about. We observed some untoward pitching and yawing into the tree and expressions on their faces sufficient to indicate that such operational instructions as they may have received were given only in English. Our friend at ground level seems in charge of observing the unfolding events while learning to dodge the unexpected movement of the base unit which seems unchecked.

Statisticians sternly inform us that most accidents happen within 25 miles of home if not IN the home. Santa's helpers in this case are considerably farther away from home, but just as likely to take a tumble. We hope that Santa has left a first aid kit under the tree. We wish them a safe completion of their tasks and, as always, Feliz Navidad.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bee City or Be Square

[ FOR BETTER RESOLUTION, CLICK ON IMAGE ] Easing up Hwy 61 heading north, about 4 miles past the 3rd bridge over the Edisto River, which is 2 miles above the intersection of Hwys 61 and 27, you will find this array of signs promoting Bee City. The signs are set in a bit too far to be prominent to the traffic and the roadside mailbox (blocked by the GT) is a study in confusion as our 2nd photo demonstrates.

Several months ago we crossed paths with a team of 5 brand new Ford Thurnderbirds perched just off the road on Hwy 61 at Hwy 27. Being of the Ford Family we felt is reasonable that we might pull over and ask those polite and admiring questions which gather blog fodder, but do not get us jailed or shot. The group did not object, but rather enjoyed the attention while explaining that they were a cluster of old friends who loved the original or "classic" T-Bird and decided that each couple would buy a new one. Their plan seemed far more logical to us than most who might read this posting. They loved their cars, but no one loved the plan more than their Ford dealer.

The T-Bird band told us that the were headed as a team to Bee City. Having run Hwy 61 north and south in that region we had never noticed the signs, heard of the place. Last week we found the place.

We don't know much about Honeybee Farming and quickly dismissed images of bees driving tiny tractors, planting gigantic flowers and returning to miniature farm houses at dusk. It appears that it is the means by which the honey is extorted from the bee and where the wax it segregated from the honey. There is, of course, a gift shop and a seafood restaurant which morphs into a cafe. One sign promotes just a zoo while another promises a " petting " zoo. That expression always gives us pause. This is to say that we did not wish to see Ned Beatty on all fours nor Burt Reynolds selling tickets. Fortunately, it's a collection of passive and friendly critters who warm to the human touch after the zoo puts a small touch on your wallet.

During the trip into the interior, some child had broadcast the alarming news that the Petting Zoo's badger was DEAD..that is " dayed ". Children love nothing so much as to knock the stilts out from under adult constructed devices or to blow the whistle on parents' secrets, great or small. always in front of those upon the news has greatest impact. A patient and pleasant seeming fellow approached us to explain that their badger always looks dead, seems dead, acts dead, but always wakes up for feeding time.

A view of the inner kingdom follows in the next photo.

Inside the Hive

The adjective eclectic was developed for just such encounters with creative interior design. Since our subscription has lapsed, we don't know just when SOUTHERN LIVING found its way here, but remain certain that they have posted a big spread on this spread. We tried to insert a nickel between wall mounted collectibles, but there wasn't room. We commend the lack of wasted space.

In the next room anything which can be fashioned from bee's wax has been and is on sale. Their prices are reasonable, but clearly their plan is No Marketing Opportunity Left Behind. Do you need a beeswax toilet paper holder?

Bee Mail


Bee City's mailbox seems unremarkable at speed, at a distance, but upon closer inspection there appears to be an unrecognized art form at work. The box began service with a coat of Carolina (UNC) Blue which may have irritated loyal local Carolina (USC) fans though management obviously resisted the Gamecock's Garnet and Black.

There is some evidence that no primer coat preceded the white paint now in partial retreat. We cannot rule out artistic objectives in this, however. Bolder blacker font could hardly be found to better herald one's arrival at Bee City, yet odd blue copy dropping to lower case confounds the visitor. It resembles a hidden word puzzle from READERS' DIGEST. The red over green dots is certainly a secret signal not within our experience. The population shown as 1,260,000 adds a decidedly surreal touch to the project. We deem this to be in its first trimester in its development as certified site specific art. Bee City may be aiming at the Spoleto overflow crowds.

An important detail about this mailbox proves that the owners stand in well with the community as respected neighbors: no bullet holes. There's no better index.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Seat are You Running For ? Election Day + 1


On this, the first day following the great mid-term election of 2006, we wanted to reflect on the campaign. In the U.S. House of Representatives every seat was up for grabs. We were reminded of the quality of the campaigning in the late election when we came upon this photo taken last November. We wonder if the folks who will occupy the two seats in Old # 7 might know more about what they are doing than those who will occupy the seats in Congress.

Since were a nonpolitical blog, we're much more comfortable in the two seater in blue. The other two seater is, however, bipartisan: one seat for Democrats and one seat for Republicans. In Old #7 they will certainly find parity. In the months ahead this will be a pleasant reminder of the campaign for the nostalgic.

Not only do we feel that the atmosphere in Old #7 is consistent with that of the campaign ads we've just experienced, we suspect that the quality of the paperwork produced by office holders will match as well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boxed-in Bolshevik ?


We were cruising pleasantly in the area of Awendaw, SC, in Charleston County when something out of the past caught our eye: a Red Star on a black Hummer. Inside that red star was the infamous Hammer and Sickle, the logo for the "former" Soviet Union. " What the heck is THAT ! ", we wondered. Had the Soviets been secretly buying Hummers and consolidating a power base in the Francis Marion National Forest ? We thought that they went broke years ago. Maybe they already had Hummers back then and just ran out of gas so they migrated to South Carolina for our low fuel prices. They couldn't possibly be buggering around with our protected woodlands, we felt assured.

Well, who would really know? That is, with all those trees in that big forest, who really has any idea what's going on in such thickly wooded areas? We do a lot of snooping, but we're not really rigged for busting through the heavy brush or jumping ditches in the Mustang. We have to admit to certain suspicions, but we never thought that the Russians would be invading our woodlands. We thought that our massive southern woodlands would be forever protected by the likes of Westaco, International Paper and other users of pulpwood who planted, harvested and managed these forests. Unlike Robert Frost, we didn't have to wonder whose woods these were when we entered them. Posted signs proclaimed the ownership and protection of and by the paper companies.

We couldn't wait to see the Berlin Wall fall and with it the entire Soviet Union along with their grip over Soviet Satellite states. How nice that would be to have all those little countries liberated. Unfortunately, few of us anticipated the tribal and regional warfare or the ethnic cleansing which ensued nor were we ready for the resulting rogue states which play hell with world peace more each day. In retrospect, we have come to realize that the Soviet Union had kept most of the nutty states in line, not nicely, but in line nonetheless.

In this brush with the red menace, we began to think of how so much forest land is now being liberated by the paper companies divesting themselves of thousands of acres which they formerly held...and protected. All of a sudden, parcels of land are falling to developers and we already know where that's going. We'll have countless cutely named subdivisions from Awendaw right up to Georgetown's door. These will not be grand homes to be cherished by future generations. We shall see the onset of many little Taraettes, the Scarlet O'Hara line of Double Wide Mobile Homes. There will be bungalows constructed of composite materials which won't last long either. They will all be made out of "ticky-tacky " and they'll all look just alike....except that genius developers will skew their "footprints" just a bit so that nobody quite figures out they're all in a row right away. Give them your money and they'll give you a geometric stunts.

Well, the Hummer was not filled with Communists or even " Fellow Travelers ", but had they been, we'd have called in the FBI. Now, if that big gas hog had contained developers, we'd have just lynched 'em. We don't mind developers hanging around, we just don't want 'em building anything in these parts.