Since I am new at being old, I guess reminiscing becomes more frequent in one's so-called "Golden Years." Before my dad passed away, I remember hearing the same story umpteen times, but it really didn't bother me much. The way I figured it was if he got a kick out of telling me about some speck from his interesting life, then I should just shut up and listen because it obviously made one heck of an imprint on his memory.
Maybe it's some odd alignment of the stars or some wayward neuron that fired in a part of my brain rarely used but whatever it is, I have been thinking a lot lately about my life thus far. Quite honestly, if I were to keel over right this minute, I would go down happy as a clam. What a neat life I have lived and I owe it all to my folks making the decision to bag the mundane 9 to 5 working life and move all of us kids to a relatively unknown island off the coast of South Carolina. Of course that island was Hilton Head.
I was only 6 years old but I can still remember driving by cotton field after cotton field as we headed to our new home. I didn't know that cotton balls still in the field will rip you to shreds but I do remember that I begged my parents to stop so I could roll in that fluffy cotton. Luckily, they opted to keep going -- no doubt because there were five kids piled in that old Ford Galaxy station wagon, and the South Carolina state line couldn't come quick enough.
If only you could have seen this area back then. If you think it is paradise now, it was heaven then. The swing bridge coming onto the island had just been built and the two-lane road was lined with monster oaks that had so much Spanish moss on them it draped all the way to the ground. U.S. 278 was paved, but pretty much every other road was dirt.
Even at 6, I was hooked on fishing so you can imagine what was going through my mind when I realized that every lagoon was chock full of shrimp and fish. Crabbing was as simple as walking down to the beach and filling a bucket with crabs that would be in the tide pools at low tide. Deer, wild turkeys, pigs, ducks and lots of rattlesnakes and alligators were absolutely everywhere you looked. I often got spooked during the night when I would wake to a noise, and with my curtains drawn, all I could see were the moving silhouettes of herds of deer in our yard. At times there would be as many as 30 deer in the yard at once. As you can imagine, landscaping didn't stand a chance.
With so few people around, and even fewer kids, entertainment was what you made it. Friday nights were for coon hunting. We would meet up at the Plantation Club in Sea Pines and then follow the baying dogs through swamps and woods alike. I wasn't ever big on coon hunting but I'll admit it was educational -- especially when the dogs would tree a big ol' coon. PETA would have a field day if I were to tell you the finale of these hunts. Can you imagine Sea Pines sponsoring deer, coon and pig hunts these days? Personally, I would love to see it happen.
Bluffton was not just a sleepy town; it was more like it was asleep. The sound of cicadas and tree frogs was deafening and besides the brick schoolhouse where the courthouse now sits, Messex Store (the Eggs N Tricities building) was about the only other place to go, especially if you wanted an RC Cola, which was definitely the drink of choice in these parts. I attended Bluffton High from the second through six grades and then commuted to school in Savannah every day with my brothers and sisters. It was weird going to school in Savannah because those city kids regarded any of us from Hilton Head as country bumpkins. That view didn't change until the late '70s when Hilton Head's fame exploded. From then on, we were the "rich kids." Yeah, right.
I wish I had more space to write but I don't, so I guess I'll have to continue next week. Just telling some of these stories has brought out other quirky things about my life here in the Lowcountry that I haven't thought about in years. Next week folks, next week.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.