Mission Of This Blog

The overall mission statement of this blog is to share many unique topics of this blogger's interest. Topics include (but are not limited to): Travel & Photojournalism, Nature & Wildlife Preservation, Americana, Local Places Of Interest, Southern Cultural Heritage, Local History of the South Carolina Upstate, Confederate Heritage Preservation & Awareness, Science & Science Fiction, Astronomy & Night Sky Photography, Literacy & Writing, Southern Cuisine, Popular Culture & Philosophy, Fandom, Local Folklore ....as well as various other topics explained from the blogger's point of view. The following website contains the UNCENSORED thoughts and opinions of a Southern-born country writer from upstate South Carolina - the living, beating heart of the great American Southland!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Trip To Bishopville Part One - Pearl Friar Topiary Guarden

On Saturday, September 19th, my travels took me to Lee County, South Carolina to visit the small Southern town of Bishopville

Bishopville is the county seat of Lee County. It is famous (and infamous) for several known reasons. It was the hometown of legendary football star and 1945 Heisman Trophy winner Felix Anthony "Doc" Blanchard, and the nearby swampland is noted for being the home of the legendary Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp, a noted cryptic that has allegedly been seen off and on since his original sighting in June of 1988. 

Ironically, it was on the latter subject that promoted my desire to visit the small rural town halfway between my home in Chester County and the Atlantic Ocean. 

I saw a recent article back in August where another alleged sighting of the Lizard Man was reported. The sighting and the "photo" (which looks like a guy in a rubber suit) was treated with the same skepticism as previous sighting and acts of vandalism reportedly committed by the seven-foot tall reptilian humanoid that supposedly appears every few years or so. 

Being that it is getting close to Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year, and my childhood interest in such legends, I decided at the very least a little road trip was called for. I gathered up my youngest brother, Alex, and picked up my grandmother, Carolyn, who wanted to get out of the house and away from my grandpa, and we set off to Lee County.

Aside from the local Bigfoot (some people claim that the so-called Lizard Man is actually a Skunk Ape - another type of Sasquatch native to the American Southland) the town of Bishopville and Lee County in general offers several points of interest that I planned to stop and look at.

Upon arrival in Bishopville, our first stop was at a local family owned restaurant called Harry & Harry Too. It was closed on the weekend, but the famous landmark sign was the main attraction. It features a wild depiction of the Lee County Lizard Man.  
Humm, I wonder what he's cookin up?

Just across the road from the Harry & Harry Too sign was another sign welcoming visitors to what is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the area: the world famous Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

Located at 145 Broad Acres Road in Bishopville, Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden is home to one of the most breathtaking attractions in South Carolina. This three acre garden is visited annually by tens of thousands of tourists passing through the area. 

Mr. Fryar, the artist, is known nationally for live topiary sculptures. and won many awards over the years. Both Fryar and his carefully sculptured topiary garden - set around his small home - have been featured many times on television specials and in dozens of magazines. 

Dedicated to Mr. Fryar's message of "love, peace, and goodwill" the topiary itself contains over 400 individual plants along with various statues and sculptures beautifully made out of spare junk parts. Mr. Pearl's garden is a living testament to hard work, dedication and positive thinking. 

Folks, the photos alone cannot do the place justice. The garden and the living sculptues Mr. Fryar made show a unique and amazing talent that needs to be seen in person to give it the breathtaking respect it deserves. Alone, the topiary is worth the stopover in Bishopville.

Me and Alex meeting with the famous artist Mr. Pearl Fryar.
Mr. Fryar spoke with us and several other visitors at some length about his artwork and his website. It was truly a pleasure to listen to him talk about what motivated him to sculpt.

It should also be noted that the rest of the neighborhood had similar lawn sculptures. Some were Mr. Fryar's work, other we were told were done by neighbors who didn't want to have the only drab lawn on the street. 

After thanking and bidding Mr. Fryar a fond farewell,  we continued our journey to our next stop in Bishopville, the South Carolina Cotton Museum. The museum unfortunately was being renovated at the time, but the lobby and gift shop were open. It was the exhibits in the lobby that prompted the visit anyhow. 

On display are several of the artifacts from the first Lizard Man sightings in 1988, including the actual casts of the footprints made by the Lee County Sheriff's Department at the time. The prints are obviously someone's idea of keeping the legend alive (the heels are far too found and symmetrical to be real). The other exhibits on display include some of the original Lizard Man merchandise sold at the time. 

There are butterbeans covering the bottom of the display case in reference to the fact that the original Lizard Man sighting took place near an old butterbean shed. The sign for the old shed was also on display in the museum's lobby. On in the display were facts concerning the legend and it's origins, which go back all the way to the Catawba Indians that inhabited the area centuries ago.

Well, I have to leave it off here for today. I will conclude this little adventure on Friday.

Another Southern-Born Anti-Confederate Heritage Reactionary Gets Pwned!

The following is my response to comments written by an anti-Confederate heritage reactionary named Rick Bohan. The comments themselves are followed in red by this blogger's response:

Many words have been written and spoken recently about whether the Confederate flag is a fitting symbol of southern heritage. As a native of the South (born in Tennessee, raised in South and North Carolina), I think I have something to add to the discussion.

And right at the start, Mr. Bohan uses his pedigree as a native of Dixie to justify his pro-white supremacist, anti-Confederate heritage reactionary view of the flag. 

As a young boy in South Carolina during the 1950s and early '60s, I remember "whites only" rest rooms, water fountains, restaurants, and hotels. We had two very separate swimming areas at our local state park, the one where we white kids swam and another where the black families took their children.

I myself was fortunate. I was a young boy in the 1980s and early 1990s, a generation removed from such sights. I recall going to school alongside black children and hanging out with them and their families, sharing childhood experiences and just being kids.

I remember being excited every Friday waiting till 8PM on CBS for the next episode of The Dukes of Hazzard TV series. On Saturday mornings, I had honest to God cartoons worth watching on the same channel, particularly reruns of the Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show that had Yosemite Sam as a Confederate officer and Tweety as a Confederate messenger outwitting the Yankee Sylvester. 

Now many of those same kids - white and black - both watched the same shows and grew up with them.
Finally, I remember the posters that the KKK put in store windows announcing upcoming rallies. Those posters always featured an image of the Confederate flag. I never felt then, nor do I now, that the KKK intended the use of that flag as simply a symbol of my heritage as a Southerner.

Obviously they never did. For the KKK and other like-minded Tools, that flag serves only as a convenient symbol to attract people to their sordid and obscene cause. Their own connection to it is weak at best and not supported by any legitimate Confederate heritage organization, any historical society, or unbiased civil war roundtable in America. Hell, it's not ever supported by organizations that represent the descendants of Union soldiers. 

It stands for and is a symbol of only the dark aspects of Southern history.

And of course you would be wrong. The illegitimate misuse of it by a hate group and other like-minded fools, even when supported by certain academics and "history bloggers" does not translate into the total sum of its history.

I was certain then, as I am now, that the Confederate flag was used by people who sought to send a clear message of white supremacy and harsh, sometimes violent, resistance to full enfranchisement of black men and women and their children. I am just as certain that the use of that flag hasn't changed in the five decades since.

And right there is the biggest hole in your argument and the condemnation of your entire point of view on this subject. While the first sentence there is unfortunately true, the latter sentence is not and here is why. 

Every generation brings something new to Confederate heritage. That is why the battle flag is a
living cultural symbol.

Since the 1970s and 80s, there was a growing movement among Confederate heritage organizations and civil war history groups to push back hard against the misuse of that flag by white supremacists. Even during the 50's and 60's there had been a few voices speaking out loudly against such misuse. 

In 1988 the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) took a leadership role in this issue, proclaiming to the world that racist bigots had no moral claim to that flag. They were joined by many others. 
Since that time a small but growing movement by a new generation of Southerners - whites and non-whites alike - have advanced the honorable aspects of that flag's heritage. "Heritage Not Hate" is not just a slogan, but a pledge and a message that many Southern-born people were willing to stand up and fight back against intolerant misuses of that flag. 

Today an entire generation of Southerners have grown into that philosophy with the newer generation today being taught by those values.  

Southern history has many dark aspects, of course. We are made better by seeking to understand that history so that all Americans can have full inclusion now and in the future. But, it's also true that Southern heritage and Southern culture have offered much to America.
Most of what we think of as "American music," blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, bluegrass, zydeco and country, originated in the South. It's been said that Southern cooking represents this nation's only true cuisine. Southern writers like Harper Lee and Flannery O' Conner and, of course, Mark Twain, have provided some of the world's foremost literature. The impact of Southerners on our military, religious, and political institutions is pervasive.  

Now there you and I are in total agreement. I could add so much more to that, but I will let what you wrote stand.

So, like most Southerners, black or white, there is a great deal about my heritage that I'm justifiably proud. That flag, however, does not stand for that heritage. It stands for and is a symbol of only the dark aspects of Southern history.

It stands that way to you because you choose to ignore and ridicule those who have fought against its misuse, and instead chosen to embrace the very display of that flag championed by white supremacists you claim you reject. 

There is a great deal more of its history than just that misuse. How about how Southerners and Confederate descendants in the US Armed Forces took that flag with them to Europe and the Pacific when they helped free the world from Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism? How about the men who took that flag as a reminded of home and, yes heritage, when they defended the 38th Parallel, South Vietnamese firebases, the oil fields of Kuwait, marching in the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq? How about a man named Richard Jewel who had a battle flag on the plate of his car when he helped save thousands of people from being killed by the bomb of a domestic terrorist at the 1996 Olympics? I could go on but you would either get the point or you wont. Hopefully someone will.  

Anyone who is genuinely interested in advocating for Southern heritage should listen to Howlin' Wolf and Ralph Stanley. You should read "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Color Purple" or "Cold Mountain." You should learn how to pick out a really good watermelon and make a good gumbo. You should travel down to Martha Lou's Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina, the Loveless Café in Tennessee and any barbecue restaurant in Lexington, North Carolina. You should drive down the Skyline Drive and the Natchez Trace Trail. You'll find yourself immersed in the very best of Southern culture and heritage.

Not to impugne your taste in music and literature, but I could literally list a dozen other artists and authors who fit the bill better in that regard. But again, I will concede the point that they are fine examples of Southern culture and heritage. 

However, one cannot simply pick and choose Southern culture or any of its aspects, either good or bad...or if you define them as "good or bad" respectively.  

But, please, don't fly the flag. Yes, it's a part of our history but in no way does it represent the best of Southern heritage.

Today, in the hands of those who honor it, that flag represents a group of dedicated Southern people of all races and religions, Confederate descendants and Southern born, who have chosen to take a noble and heroic stand against both white supremacist ideology and political correct cultural fascism. 

In rejecting both like-minded ideals which seek to divide the Southern people and force conformity of thought onto said groups, those Confederate heritage activists are boldly telling the haters that nobody defines what it means to be Southern but us and us alone. 

That is true moral courage! Taking back from hate what it has no claim to....and not just a flag, but all of our individual identities. Out very souls! 

Your way, to pick and choose, to condemn and surrender, is not courage and its not being Southern...it's just moral cowardice. Period. 

Well, there you have it folks. Once again a Leftist ideologue gets schooled by The Man The Deniers Fear Most. Once again, I was proud to take a moral stand for Southern and Confederate historical heritage, as well as dish out a little Southern Fried Common Sense. 

Y'all have a good day. See ya next month...which ironically is tomorrow. Peace out! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Twenty-Sixth Anniversary Of Hurricane Hugo

This week in South Carolina history, twenty-six years ago on September 22, 1989, the Category 4 Hurricane Hugo made landfall on the Isle of Palms just north of the city of Charleston around midnight. With estimated maximum winds of 140-145 mph, Hugo produced significant wind and storm damage along the coast and even produced hurricane force wind gusts several hundred miles inland into western North Carolina. Hugo produced the highest storm tide heights every recorded along the US East Coast, around 20 feet in Bulls Bay, SC. 

At the time, Hugo was the strongest storm to strike the United States in the previous 20-years and was the most costly hurricane on record in terms of monetary losses of around 10 billion dollars in damages. It is also estimated that there were 107 deaths directly associated with the storm and its aftermath in the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. 

I was thirteen years old when the hurricane hit. Though I live four hours from Charleston, my part of South Carolina was effected by Hugo - which remained a stable hurricane with an eye this far inland! It was a night and an experience this blogger will never forget, nor ever expected to have. I don't remember being too afraid: I actually fell asleep not long after the eye of the storm passed over. But I do remember the trees bending over, almost as if ready to break in half. Many trees in my town and the surrounding area did fall over blocking roads and destroying power lines. 

I don't believe that anyone who lived though Hugo will ever forget the experience. Since then we have had some near misses, but no major story systems landing on the South Carolina coastline. 

The question however is not so much if, but when will another major hurricane hit South Carolina the way Hugo did? My hope is no time soon.

UPDATE! 10-01-2015

Well folks, looks like Hurricane Joaquin came along and proved me wrong on that last line (although technically it did not make landfall like Hugo did). Thoughts and prayers go out to those in the South Carolina lowcountry affected by floods related to the recent storms.