Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We're at the Cypress Campground, a Methodist retreat in Dorchester County, SC, before the remnants of several wooden cabins which were destroyed by arson in the small hours of June 21. This is the second set fire at the campground within 30 days.

The cabins which they call tents are owned individually by members. There is no electricity or gas connected to these (formerly) 53 buildings. They have very little cash value and can't be insured. There are no visible religious icons and nothing provocative to the amateur anti-Christs who might happen by. These humble cabins are incapable of inspiring envy. It could as easily be the abandoned village of early Secular Humanists delivered by covered wagons. It's too Amish for the Amish.

The Methodist missionary Francis Asbury came to this site in 1794 after which this ground was consecrated and dedicated to the application which continues today. Each October they conduct a week long retreat which seems enhanced by the absence of modern conveniences including indoor bathrooms. They have a row of outhouses. A week in these spare quarters would tend to unsaddle one from the high horse of the material world. They don't get much brie and biscotti out here and very little Buerre Blanc Sauce for the beans.

Does arson come from the mind, the heart or further south in the body of low living types? Who would burn a place like this? Who does such thing? Well, according to SC law enforcement agencies and the FBI:

White males, aged 17-26, with the following credentials:

#1 Product of a disruptive, harsh, or unstable rearing environment ( a common apologia for a wide range of bad acts )
#2 Poor relationship with father, overprotective mother ( not exactly rare )
#3 Poor marital adjustment ( the group widens )
#4 Lacking in social and interpersonal skills ( wider yet, check out a singles bar )
#5 Poor occupational adjustment, employed in low-paying jobs ( consult the South Carolina public school system for further details )
#6 Fascinated with fire service and its trappings ( Oh, should this be #1 ? )

The South Carolina Forestry Commission began investigating arson by firefighters in 1993 when they found 33 volunteer firemen charged with arson, 47 in 1994. 40% of southern woods fires are causes by arson says the Commission and these boys tend to matriculate from random arson in the impersonal woods to targeting wood structures. Whose woods these are he may not know, but every building belongs to somebody. Fortunately for you when they pick your building to burn, you're not there or at least they don't mean for you to be. In his next stage of advancement, he knows you're home, fires up your place, but wants to dash in and save you. If you're lucky, Mr. #6 plays the hero, but if not you, too, become a number.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This we believe is the Reevesville, South Carolina, town hall. It's one of our smaller small towns located in Dorchester County and about which we are little moved to write. Almost every hamlet has managed to insert itself into the footnotes of our history via some central web site which never heard of the place, but posts sentimental notations as if it had. We didn't bother looking it up.

What caught our eye was the decal, a triangle within a blue circle, on the window. The CD within the triangle stands for Civil Defense. If you were not old enough to drive the original Mustang then you may be puzzled by that term. Civil Defense was a sweeping program designed not to prevent, but react to a preemptive nuclear strike by the Soviet Union. We feared this attack more as a when rather than an if proposition and with considerable justification at the time. Included in these measures were bomb shelters, survival supplies and the famous "Duck and Cover" imperative in which school children would get under their desks when the bomb hit. We were to avert our eyes from the bomb's flash and remain covered until we got the all clear signal according the public service announcement. There were no further instructions.

No one with even the faintest understanding of nuclear war ever believed that any such measures would a block one Curie Unit much less save a single life. No responsible person sought to rob us of this fantasy because it was all we had. We children of the Cold War were protected from knowing the certainty of our annihilation as we were protected from most cruel and aberrant realities of our time.

The Civil Defense decal struck us as the most significant artifact in the town. That same logo survives in many classic automobiles. The AM radios in our kitchens, in our cars bore that same logo at the tuning positions of 640 and 1240 Kilohertz on the dial. They were the CONELRAD stations established just after 1950 to which we were to tune in the event of a national emergency. They were on the radios of the original Mustangs. A long ominous tone would sound in the middle of a Chuck Berry song then a stern voice would remind us that had this been an actual emergency (Atomic Bomb), we'd be directed to the CONELRAD stations. Had it been the bomb, we'd never have heard the end of "Johnny Be Good." We'd all be off the charts.

Ironically, we have today two positions on the AM radio not very far from the old CONELRAD frequencies to which we are to turn for information on traffic conditions, travel advisories, bumps in the road.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


We are at Hampton Plantation near McClellanville, SC. This was the ancestral home of Archibald Hamilton Rutledge ( 1883-1973 ), a Poet Laureate of SC. Here President George Washington had been fed and to whom the large oak in front of the house is dedicated. General Francis Marion had used Hampton as a hiding place from the British during the Revolutionary war. Hampton inspired both Rutledge's writing and his way of living.

Rutledge was a naturalist as well as an accomplished and honored man of letters. "My formula," said Rutledge, " is to find a subject worth writing about and then to make it simple, and then to make it clear and then to make it reach the heart and then to make it beautiful." What a fine technique this would be to master.

Our thanks to Don Rutledge for his kind permission to place the Mustang on the grounds of his ancestral home at a point which is not normally open to automobiles.