Oh, Lord, Beaufort has made another list.
Our elegant county seat is now listed by Southern Living magazine as the South’s Best Small Town.
Beautiful Beaufort by the sea makes so many lists that if you piled them all into a john boat, it would sink.
Here’s my List Within a List, so to speak.
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It’s the Five Best Things About Beaufort. Feel free to make up your own list. Everyone else does.
1. Characters. I liked Walter Dennis. “The Dixie Drifter” was a poet, chef, photographer, veteran, and coffee-drinking night owl who banged out 20 books, mostly poetry and recipes, on an old-fashioned typewriter in a home with an American flag flying and old military helmets hung upside down as planters. He represents Beaufort’s parade of characters — like Wilson “Tootie Fruity” Bourke, who led all the parades, directed traffic for school buses and swept Bay Street’s sidewalks — who add as much beauty to Beaufort as the big bend of Beaufort River.
2. The swing-span bridge. It’s like the old aunt at the family reunion, looming over the proceedings with every intent of creaking and groaning and slowing you down and making you pay attention to the way things “wuh.” The day they come to unscrew the old Erecter set is the day we need to fire up the cannon at the foot of the bridge, which the Lord has obviously put there for that direct purpose.
3. The Yacht Club. Not to be confused with the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club, which actually involves yachts and sailing. This is the Yacht Club downtown. It deals in poker, and delicious meals by Larry “LT” Taylor, but no yachts. Don’t ask.
4. Robert Smalls. The grandest American story you’ve never heard — bigger than Tara, and actually true. He was born enslaved in Beaufort. He commandeered a rebel boat during the Civil War. He was elected to Congress five times. He bought and lived in the fine home downtown where his mother had been a slave. We have his bust, sitting over his grave in the Tabernacle Baptist churchyard, and an epitaph: “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”
5. Bicycles. People ride bicycles in Beaufort. People like Mark Wiggs, known as Gizmo, who gets special bikes from the Little Red Dog Foundation because he lost the use of both legs when he was 13. And then there was Dottie McDaniel who rode a three-wheeled cycle after giving up on the automobile and turning her condominium parking space into a garden she called the “Sky Room.”