Gazette Sea Foam: All roads lead to Beaufort's beauty

March 14, 2011 

Thanks to Carl E. Linke of Chapel Hill, N.C., for sharing an essay on why he picked Beaufort as the setting of his novel, "Haint Blue."

OYSTER FACTORY ROAD

By Carl E. Linke

Street names around Beaufort can be very descriptive. Bay Street is, of course, the street by the bay. Oyster Factory Road is, of course ... well, I was not sure what it was other than it was on Lady's Island.

For years I drove down Highway 802 past Oyster Factory Road. One day I wanted to know if there was a factory there, so I turned down the narrow lane and, of course, when I got to the end, there was no factory.

Being the curious sort, I stopped by the Beaufort library to do a little research. Sure enough, "once upon a time" there was a Lady's Island Oyster Factory, one of several facilities owned by the L.P. Maggioni Co.

Back in the day, the factory (really a cannery) employed dozens of local workers. When the factory closed its doors, Lady's Island lost a landmark and one of its best employers.

Those events, combined with the fact that Newpoint subdivision was going in, helped drive up waterfront property prices along Factory Creek. What an interesting combination of events and potential outcomes, ripe with the background for a local novel about Beaufort.

As an "out-of-towner," a "Yankee transplant" biding time in "North Cackalacky," I have found a soothing serenity in Beaufort. Sitting on the dock of my in-laws' place for 37 years allowed me hours to watch great blue herons glide above the tranquil creek waters, belly-to-belly with their reflections.

I awed at the majesty of the sun, draped in robes of pink and orange and molten yellow, as it peeked above the distant trees on Coosaw Island.

I shadow boxed with no-see-ums while I watched fish jump and shrimp scurry in front of diving dolphins.

So much to see -- marvels of nature -- far, far away from the city streets and diesel fumes of my life outside of Beaufort.

All of it, a moving tribute to the Lowcountry, well worth writing about.

And, the people. All the people, most notably the Gullah people. I met my first Gullah lady in 1973; what a wonderful lady she was. I tried for years to understand her Gullah language; no luck. But I learned a good deal of the Gullah traditions and history in the Lowcountry.

Though I admit I molded history in my novel to fit a storyline, the Gullahs have a wonderful heritage that needs to be told. I tried to marry their story to the beauty of nature and the confluence of events, which all pointed back to Oyster Factory Road.

Beaufort needed a new story that visitors could take home with them. Beaufort needs a new movie -- like "The Big Chill" and "The Great Santini" -- to feature the beauty of the people, nature and life in the Lowcountry.

So, from Oyster Factory Road, I created "Haint Blue."

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