Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pete's Herbs


Here's the sign to look for when you're traveling down Chisolm Road from Main on Johns Island, SC. You see this about a mile or so down Chisolm. We usually enter the first Chisolm Road access just after crossing the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway and never saw this sign since it points only one way.

Pete's Plant Farm also known as Pete's Herbs is found down a long dirt road deep into the 42 acres on which the farm is situated. He's got a vast offering of all sorts of herbs, flowering plants and many kinds of plantings. It's a friendly, cozy place where one is greeted by nice folks. They had a sort of open house with a generous offering of tasty treats for all.

When we met Pete he was tossing his beautiful baby girl up over his head and she was perfectly delighted with his attention. While held aloft the little girl seemed to be swimming in mid air and trying to kiss her dad on the nose. Pete's a solid looking fellow who appears to work his land more than sit at a desk. He told us with justifiable pride that he's a third generation owner of this property. What pleased us as much as high quality offerings at the farm was the fact that a local fellow had chosen to remain on his land and make something productive which he enjoys doing.

This is valuable property on which Pete plants herbs. He could sell it off and live like a king. What developer wouldn't kill to get hold of this beautiful land? Considering how fast lowcountry coastal lands are being developed, we are grateful to Pete for staying.

Friday, October 27, 2006

NO PARKING ! ( But it's good for business )


Here we are in defiance of a uniform traffic control device on Hwy. 261 in Sumter County, SC. We left the engine running during the taking of this photo in case the owners stepped out to confront us. We admit to a certain level of arrogance in blocking the entrance to this business, but we wanted to make a point.

Recently some character set up tables in a metered parking space on Charleston's very busy King Street according to the (Charleston) POST-COURIER. The character put some coins in the meter and settled in with fellow characters to have a meal and celebrate themselves and their neat little blow against the Empire. The characters were in due course and much to their delight were given a parking violation citation because they were illegally blocking a parking space.

The cited violators proclaimed that their cause was to have more outdoor dining on King Street and less vehicle parking. To King Street merchants this must have been as welcome a prospect as an abscessed tooth on Christmas Day and as logical as airlifting gasoline to a forest fire. It was reported that one college hangout had welcomed this frolic. Indeed, there are a few college joints along the street which are in easy walking distance to the College of Charleston which don't depend on parking and would welcome increased table space and thus increased revenues.

We're not certain whether this prank has some underlying commercial motive. That is, we wonder whether the pranksters have a vested interest in removing parking from the street of if this might simply be the result of a runaway ego. Whatever the case may be, we'd suggest that they have a look at the photo above to get an idea of how eliminating parking can be helpful to business.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



Owing to unusual and unhappy circumstances the Mustang does not appear in today's posting. A sentimental treasure of some sixty years caught fire on Sunday night severely damaging Bowens Island Restaurant. In little more than a generation so much of the charm Charleston and its outlying area has vanished into glitzy new developments, hideous high rise condos upon our beaches and, of course, Walmarts all around. Bowens Island was just about the last trace of genuine living history in terms of rustic coastal pleasures that we had left.

We went over to visit with Robert Barber, owner the of restaurant and grandson of the founders. He was cordial, but clearly vacant from the deep personal loss. It's not unlike the loss of the family farm or the destruction of one's lifelong home or any structure in which loved ones had devoted the majority of their time and energy. We wanted only to photograph the mural in which Mr. and Mrs. Bowen and John Sanka are depicted in an almost ghostly effect, a request which Barber graciously granted. We did not wish to sift through or photograph the extensive damage inside. Most burned buildings look pretty much alike when it's over and Bowen's was unlike anything left in our world today.

Barber seems a good steward of his land and an honorable neighbor. It is almost certain that whatever he does from here will be consistent with what friends and customers have come to value about Bowen's Island.

Anyone who has been there probably knows the history of the place from all the relics and graffiti on the walls. It revealed itself to all visitors. There was no veneer about the place or its owners. If you've never been, neither a comprehensive written description nor a series of professional photographs could inform one of how it felt to be there. To call it "rustic" would be as strong as using a .22 pistol to capture Normandy. No two chairs matched.

Mr. Bowen shoveled the oysters on to the hot steel sheet upon which they were steamed. He often paused and spoke to customers about anything which happened to cross his mind. He looked at you through his thick and sometime steamy eyeglass lenses which made him appear to be speaking from a remote point deep into the past. He might speak of World War I or he might comment on the mini-skirt. He usually worked the oyster-eaters-only room in which they were both steamed and consumed in close quarters. Only beer and oysters may be had in this room. Should any dolt enter that room for other purposes, Mrs. Bowen was on them like the Shore Patrol.

Mrs. Bowen ran the place as might Captain Bligh. She would suffer no fools or infraction of her rules. She disliked spoiled, silly girls who knew not and wondered aloud what they might wish eat, but was kind to respectful young men who placed orders in a clear steady voice while looking her in the eye. If you couldn't make eye contact or quick decisions, she'd dispatch you from the counter and call the next in line to order. Even as she advanced in age her eyes remained very clear and animated. When one presented in foolish ways, those eyes would burn through them like laser beams. If you were lucky enough to charm Mrs. Bowen, those eyes would smile at you like Shirley Temple's.

There was no walking on egg shells to avoid bruising delicate sensibilities. There was no obsequious server informing one of the excellence of their menu choices. There was good honest seafood rendered at very reasonable prices by people who sought only to do right by their customers and to live and work on their own terms.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wither Poinsett ?

Wither Poinsett ?, originally uploaded by PALMETT0.

We're parked at the Church of the Holy Cross in Sumter County, SC, under a blazing sun. Of course, the sun's always blazing, but we don't always get such a direct burn. There was, as they say, not a cloud in the sky. If you've taken more than a few rolls of film in years past or filled even a 16MB Compact Flash card, you've probably begun to realize that harsh direct sunlight is not the shutterbug's friend.

We had not set out to wax pedantic with a lesson in primary photography. Actually, we were looking for the late Joel R. Poinsett who was born at Charleston in 1779. He was a statesman, diplomat ( Ambassador to Mexico ), author and naturalist trained in medicine, law and military science. This we knew from our visit to Steve Dopp's beautifully renovated Westin-Poinsett Hotel in Greenville, SC, and were reminded by a plaque erected in his honor here. We know that he died in 1851, but we can't seem to find his resting place.

Having failed to find Poinsett we almost drove off considering the extremely harsh light, but decided to snap a few pictures anyway. So, here's Holy Cross against a deep blue sky ( no polarizer used ). Notice the hard dark shadows on the church, at the rear of the car and from the tree. While there is texture to the surface of the church, we were taken with the way this high contrast outlines the sharp and linear features of Holy Cross. The contrast also brings out an edge of formality which is certainly part of the design and intent of such a building.

In this picture we feel that Holy Cross come across as the " Mighty Fortress " in distinct contrast to those lovely little oak shaded country churches we try to catch in subdued light. We've find that if we take, but a moment to pause, each chruch offers us something of visual value as each, no doubt, offers its members a special place of purpose.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Boykin Recreated by Boykins


Boykin, SC, is in Kershaw County, a tiny little bend in the road which is being recreated or perhaps created as the case may be. We're parked in front of what is called " Boykin Country Store ....( LLC ) ". We believe that the period being recreated of Boykin, at Boykin predates the creation of the LLC. It also predates INC, PC, CD's MP3's, and AT&T. It has actual, rather than virtual, history.

The Boykin family is the ruling tribe in these parts and has been since Boykin became Boykin. It's no hollow bled out ghost of a name as there are plenty of real life flesh and blood Boykins walking around this very day. Many little towns in the state took their names from founding families which have long been extinct, but the Boykins have not only survived, they have prevailed.

The State Dog of South Carolina is the Boykin Spaniel which was bred into being by the Boykins. Some jokers and liars have suggested a closer link to the line than simply directing the breeding, but we flatly reject that notion. The Boykins have produced some pretty strong lawyers and we want our exception noted for the record. The Boykin's extended families have extended their reach in business and adventure all over the globe. Many of them have been very successful in one field or the other or both. Boykins have been in state government and not long ago in the very prominent center. Boykins seem to return to Boykin, its outlands and Camden, SC. They come back to visit and they come back to stay. Many more will be planted hereabouts before the end of this line.

Our photo is of one of several such buildings which have been relocated to the site near the old Boykin Mill and the adjacent Mill Pond. Up through the 1970's that area was little more than a site for large parties following Camden's legendary Carolina Cup Steeplechase. Now this little collection of buildings includes a highly rated restaurant which draws diners from all over the Midlands. These seem to be authentic structures, but whether they represent the way Boykin used to be we cannot know ourselves. The Boykins made all the history of Boykin so they got to write its history as well. The Boykins are the last word on Boykin, in Boykin.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Where are we now ?

We always keep one eye out for the side roads along our way. A lot of the interesting sites we find are off the beaten path. A while back we thought we had seen this road sign, but when we doubled back it wasn't there. We had begun to worry that we manufacturing things in our mind, hallucinating. Perhaps it was a Bourbon flashback.

Sunday was another bright day with low humidity and cooler temperature than we've had in a while. While running up Hwy 17 north from Charleston there it was.

Where are we ? Why, we're in OVER DRIVE ! Sorry, we just couldn't pass up this one.

The 3 Basic Food Groups


We've squeezed into the South Carolina community of Wedgefield. Just past the railroad tracks is Batten's General Store and Sportsman's Kitchen. It's a fully stocked general store and a required stop for anyone with high personal standards for boiled peanuts.

We once dropped by and asked whether they happened to have any BP's which brought a strange stare from the lady behind the counter saying, " No. They're not in season !" She looked at us as if we were smuggling bowl weevils into the county. When we told her that we'd just bought some an hour earlier back down the road, she replied, " Well, Lord knows where those peanuts came from ." Batten's only boils locally grown peanuts and in season. Many others get their green peanuts from all sorts of places even...Mexico we were told. Well, we thought, if they're from Mexico you'd have to boil them anyway.

You learn a lot from a good country store. For example, they've gone and posted the three basic food groups on their sign: GATOR , PIZZA , and BURGERS. They seem to suggest that Gator is best for breakfast then you'd want Pizza for Lunch and, of course, a good Burger for Dinner. Anyone who knows so little about boiled peanuts needs such assistance in nutrition planning.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


ASCENSION, originally uploaded by PALMETT0.

Yesterday we ascended into the Midland area of South Carolina bound for the tiny community of Rembert. It was a "sparkling day" as folks on the upper New England coast often say when there's a moment's break in their dreary weather. It is our great good fortune that sparkling days are more the rule than the exception in our state.

Saturday truly sparkled as the cloudless sky blocked not one lumen from the blazing Sun. This is good for the spirit if we subscribe to the theory that light deprived people are often depressed people which seems reasonable in ways most television reported medical theories do not. Only the bookie betting on rain cannot be cheered by so bright and sunny a day. The nattering scolds who hammer us over the toxicity of the Sun and most other pleasures of life are getting smaller in the rearview as we ascend up the road, into the country, toward unavoidable joy of simply being alive.

We have paused under a graceful oak in Sumter County on Hwy 261 at the Episcopal Church of The Ascension. We are seeking shade to make a better picture. This bright day does present the problem of extreme contrast in our picture taking. We always want to show you where we've been and what we've seen, but sometimes it's like attending a very good party where you just have to put the camera down and have a few drinks and a lot of laughs with good friends. If we have to give up picture quality to be in such wonderful weather we consider that a bargain.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Rustic Struggling Country Library?


No, not really, not another library and not a real building at all. This is yet another in series of larger than life murals. We've given up calling them "frescos" which seems the proper name and have surrendered to "murals" which seems the popular choice.

We don't know who painted this very detailed and realistic mural, but we certainly do admire the work of this outdoor artist. We don't know how much or whether the artist was paid nor the motivation for taking on such a job. We're grateful that it was undertaken.

We often link these massive murals of sundry topic and design with what we think of as the original. In 1975 the artist Blue Sky painted his famous "TUNNEL VISION" on a large blank concrete wall off of Taylor Street in Columbia, SC. It was stunning not only in it's breathtaking attention to detail, but in it's very idea. The concept of taking barren flat commercial space and making a thing of beauty in full public view was wildly new. There was no public outcry to subdue flat, bland, masonry spaces, no letters to the editor demanding these murals simply because nobody had thought to do one.

As we run the length and breadth of South Carolina and neighbor states, we keep an eye out for these murals. Sometimes they are commercial in nature or depict actual historical event or are satirical or ironic in their impact. Often they just are. We like to think of this trend as a recycling of sorts. It's a taking of something structurally useful, but esthetically inert and creating a visual wonder. With no point in pulling down the ugly wall, someone has made it pleasing. When construction throws you lemons, some make lemonade.

More power to those who encourage and paint these priceless reprieves from the barren and the boring streetscapes. More power to those who light those candles rather than curse the darkness.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Library as Entitlement


Our library series has not exactly been what one might call a page turner, but we felt that it was important to the little communities which we have visited. Those of us who live in larger urban areas tend to take libraries more or less for granted. We usually feel that libraries are just...there. Except for dedicated readers, most folks consider the library as a necessary, but uninteresting place. It's a place to which we were dispatched to write term papers and undertake endless research projects on topics which could at best be considered soporific.

The average person thinks of a town's library as they might their water works or post office. It's considered some sort of utility itself. Just like the water works, nobody misses a library until they need one. A library might even be considered an "entitlement", that dangerous expression used to refer to something which one wants, but does not wish to pay for or work toward. Following this corruption of logic some feel that we are owed a library.

Above, we demonstrate that the Holly Hill, SC, library isn't much larger than the Mustang. Of course, the number of books the average citizen reads can fit easily in the Mustang's tiny trunk, a space once described by an automotive magazine as having just enough room for a six pack and a bikini. That library is kept alive by dedicated staff and volunteers who still believe that citizens deserve one.

The Holly Hill Library just as the one in Elloree and many other small South Carolina towns was begun by a book club. These were unselfish and optimistic folks who wanted to grant the gift of books to their neighbors. They clearly feel that the future belongs to the informed, the educated, those who want to learn. Certainly there have been home bound folks who through dedicated reading learned more about the world than their neighbors who have taken Carnival Cruises to every point on the globe.

With the boundless resources for information on the internet and ever increasing forms of entertainment, the library is hard pressed to survive. It is, however, an enrichment to any community which cannot be easily figured. Many eager minds deserve a library within reach, but it is certain that this is not an entitlement for which no effort or expense is required.

Monday, October 09, 2006




The old expression that one votes with their feet simply means that they elected to turn their back on some person, place or thing which disinterested them. If you did not walk, drive or skate TO one of the many voter registration locations in Charleston County by or before October 7, not even your feet will be allowed to vote on November 7, if you were not already registered to vote.

Failure to register and vote is right up there with running your vehicle without oil. It couldn't be easier to do nor dumber to ignore.

The excuse that you're disillusioned about politics suggests laziness more than a critical review the candidates and issues. The presumption that your vote doesn't count is clearly disproved by increasingly close races. A recent City of Charleston Council election had the candidates for one seat separated by only 2 or 3 votes in general election and two runoff votes. This election will have candidate from several splinter parties on the ballot as well as the two main ones. As always there are write in opportunities for every office so you can pencil in Mickey Mouse if you wish. Just don't write in Mustang Rolling, please.

Low voter turnout is the scandal of the Republic. On November 7, every office from Governor down to the school boards is up for election. We don't care who you vote for, well, we really do, but we ain't saying, just go out and vote. So if you screwed up this time around, please register to vote at your earliest opportunity so that you can be a part of the process and invest yourself into the fate of your local and state governments.

The Charleston County Board of Elections has on line help, instructions and directions.
Link up with these for a better picture:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Need any Survival Underwear ?

Forget L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer and Cabela's. What you need is well within reach at Greenville's Army Store. From the condition of their streetscape it would appear that some opposing army had launched its own shopping offensive. We think that's just a bit of patina which gives the place character. They have "a little bit of everything" says the sign. Four columns of panels explain these exciting products.

With the rash of street crime in the lowcountry, fear of hurricanes and the worldwide threat from terrorists, survival must be on the minds of many. When you think about survival you naturally think first of underwear. At the Greenville Army Store ( GAS ) you can select either thermal undies or the poly-proplyene variety which we presume would be autoclavalbe. No self-respecting survivalist is going to strap on a canteen without the proper underwear. It just isn't done.

When those monkeys start lobbing grenades into your home, when you're taking incoming fire from AK-47's or after Hurricane Zulu rips the roof from your house, there's nothing quite like a good tarpaulin. After everything gets blown to the devil and back you never seem to have a good canvas bag at the ready in which to store the remnants of your worldly possessions. We don't know a single camper who doesn't take along a nice big foot locker when hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We're not too encouraged by their " MILITARY " offerings for the last entry in that column certainly looks like " WORN BOOTS ". Well, it's such a pain to break in a good set of boots so this may be a plus after all.

We've got to admit that there's something for every one of every age on your shopping list. We were, however, given pause at the offering of FOAM RUBBER of every SIZE AND SHAPE. There must be a 5th column on the side which explains more about this.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Return to Glory: Hotel Poinsett


One of our central pleasures in the making of this journal is the finding and recording of buildings, businesses and places of color and individual charm just prior to their passing into grist for the developers' mills. It takes all the horsepower we can muster just to stay a building ahead. When we overtook the old Poinsett Hotel in Greenville, we were stunned by its tasteful return to dignity, its exciting return to glory. " Magnificent " is too weak a word to describe the place.

Little more than a generation ago, the Jack Tarr Poinsett Hotel had become a boarded up refuge for bums and dopers, hookers and outlaws with a watered down version of the Manson family sequestered in the ballroom. It had developed its own eco system and probably had a rain forest within the building. It had been a sister ship to Charleston's Francis Marion Hotel in the Jack Tarr Line, but it went to the bottom with the general sinking of downtown Greenville.

What sank Greenville's downtown sank most other downtown areas in the region: flight to the suburbs and the sprawl of malls beyond the city limits. There were, of course, certain other factors, but this was the basic drift. The shoppers, diners and customers of the community excised the downtown with all the regret with which one parts with a gangrenous limb. " Grim " is too mild a word to describe the process.

Many downtown areas languish yet today and some of the comebacks have been partial even artificial. Convoluted traffic designs, curious plantings in wayward medians and funny lighting do not a revival make. Greenville's downtown has come back to life in a robust and orderly manner by sound planning, prudent investment and sheer dint of will. Charleston resident, Steve Dopp, is fully responsible for the inspired renovation of what is now the Westin-Poinsett which illuminates the once dead end of Main Street.
The enlightened partnership between Greenville's Mayor and the business community has reanimated the corpse of their downtown and given it the happy human face of independent businesses. They are not dominated by chain stores and formulaic franchisees.

Not every business is new and not every business surrendered during the declining years. Charlie's Steak House around the corner on Coffee Street, the last place in the world where one can still obtain Thousand Island dressing, has been serving beef to beat the band for a mere 87 years. " Steadfast " is the right word for Charlie's.

We'd love to check into the Westin-Poinsett and avail ourselves of all their amenities except valet parking. We still like to do our own stunt work including parking. Mayor White might give you the keys to the city, but we ain't giving up our keys to nobody.