Mick Mayers took the Hilton Head Island snow picture I wish I’d taken.
He was tooling around in the freakish storm Wednesday as inches and inches (your guess) of snow fell on the subtropical island. Adding to the miracle of January 3, 2018, those fat snowflakes that turned the gray sky white all stuck — to the sandy ground and to our hearts.
Mayers recently retired as the island’s deputy fire chief, so he got to play in the snow instead of work, like he did in the last big one in 1989.
He took a picture of icicles hanging from an alligator’s teeth.
It’s old Albert, the alligator that made Hilton Head famous. Albert and Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser casually walked beside each other in the Saturday Evening Post of March 3, 1962. That picture grabbed America’s attention and never let go. Together, they still stroll as bronze statues in the Compass Rose Park that honors Fraser on Pope Avenue.
That’s where Mayers snapped the photo I wish I’d taken.
It puts teeth back into the joy of Hilton Head.
That was Fraser’s dream: Joy.
They say Fraser was a lot of things: Brilliant, impatient and a “bad businessman” because spending money to bring people to a remote island of stunning beauty was way more fun than stacking it up in the prison of a bank vault.
But more than anything, Fraser had an irrepressible joie de vivre. Life and ideas and people and beauty brought to him a bubbling joy that oozed from sparkling eyes and engaging, arm-waving conversation to the point that Harvard MBAs and fellow Yale Law School graduates would come to a tiny, broke company to fashion a dream — a dream of joy — from mud and bugs and alligators.
That pixie dust that built Hilton Head came floating back to us in the miracle snow of 2018.
It came to us in the astonishing, long, icy teeth of old Albert.
It bit us with a moment to stop, slow down and fling a snowball of joy from dear old Mother Nature.
Fraser put us in boats and a Harbour Town of pure fabrication, complete with a fake lighthouse and a very real singer named Gregg Russell to serenade generations of people who would take their photographs in the aura of Fraser’s world.
Fraser knew what made the human heart flutter. He studied it and spliced and diced it as demographics and trends and forecasts — and possibilities that few others could see.
He was smitten by the pure joy he saw in children recklessly letting it all hang out at simple old Sliding Rock in the untamed mountains of North Carolina.
And Fraser — who took heat for adding bike paths to Sea Pines and a waterslide to South Forest Beach Drive — would have loved nothing more than what people who never knew him did in the great snow storm of 2018.
Without being prompted, they trudged to the top of the steep bridge over Broad Creek on the Cross Island Parkway that was closed to traffic because of the snow and sleet and ice. They took snow boards and boogie boards, maybe even a kayak, and flung themselves into the pure joy of life.
Like Mayers’ photograph of Albert the alligator’s icy teeth, this sight will sink in forever with me:
The joy of sledding down the Charles E. Fraser Bridge.