by Ella Bell
Thomas Sumter Academy
(photos provided by South Carolina Wildlife magazine)
The Fourth of July every year we have made a point to visit my aunt and uncle’s beach house. We usually arrive in the afternoon while the birds are still are still out and as my sister and I explore the island, food is ordered. We immediately take the bikes out and head to the marsh and inland fishing docks, which also have boat ramps.
The marsh grass stands tall and untamable, and the sounds of people coming in from a day on the ocean fill the air. It is the perfect atmosphere. We get to see the crabs that call the marsh home scurry around at low tide and then continue onto the docks, chatting with the local fishermen to see how the fishing was doing that day.
As we arrive to the end of the docks, we sit on the wooden benches that seem as old as the island themselves, with their cracking and splintering wood and the creaky boards underneath your feet and watch the colorful sunset with the purples, blues, pinks, and oranges in the mixture of dancing colors.
The sunset starts to fade, and we go back up the neatly placed beach houses that stand in rows, we always make a point to stop in a forest-like area with a bike path which has beautiful butterflies and small birds as we choose that path to go home. On the path home, we are nodding and saying “hi” to the year-rounders and the ones visiting who are sitting on their porch eating dinner or enjoying the peace and quiet of the streets and the South Carolina air filled with a sense of calmness and peacefulness.
Usually we order from a local seafood restaurant and sit on the deck just like the other people. As we sit, we start to notice the mosquitoes that are starting to come out as night falls. We also hear and see the owls as they arrive for their night of exploring. Occasionally you will hear a tugboat coming into the port with its loud and bellowing horn as it pushes through the waves.
At night, we will walk down to the beach and see if we can spot turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs. Sometimes we spot their large frames crawling up the beach. Occasionally my aunt and I will drive, or sometimes hike, over to the point, at which we go hunting for shells that rest in the water, or which lay on the beach. Sometimes we find large conchs that have drifted to the shore.
The next day my father will cook breakfast on the grill, after driving to the store to pick up a new one because the old grill either has not been use in a year, or somebody forgot to cover it up or at least put it into the shed out back.
Soon after breakfast, we will conjure up a plan of what we will do that day. We start out by all of us either grabbing a bike or lacing up our shoes for a run, and we will run and bike to the marsh and through the neighborhood that covers the island. When we arrive to the marsh, we check out the crabs that are out during low tide weaving through the grass, or occasionally carrying a suspicious piece of something that looks like a little bit of fish. After that however, we go to the docks and talk with the fisherman and check out what they have caught that day. The most impressive catch I have seen somebody retrieve has been a twenty-five-inch Atlantic bonito.
We soon go to a nature center that is right off the docks, but it is not open, so we wander through the gardens and trail paths for a while before returning home. Some of us will go to the store and gather food and drinks for the beach later that day and then the rest of us will get ready for the beach. We soon are all on the beach which is not busy even for the fourth of July. Several of us will walk down the beach spotting the seagulls picking up the forgotten food left by the beach-goers. The seaweed is strewn across the beach, and the sea foam lays in clusters about the water line. Smaller birds are picking in the now softer sand. And occasionally you will see a boat on the horizon and the birds in the sky are being framed by the sun.
Once we finish with the beach that day, we head back to the house just off the water and relax for the following hours. Soon, however, my sister and I will take my aunt and uncle’s dog out for a walk, either going to walk down the beach with the afternoon sun on us or we will go to the marsh and visit with the fishermen and the shade of the trees. Then we have dinner, and my sister and I will take a night walk to the local dairy shop. We stop on the beach and eat the ice cream we purchased while we watch the water and laugh and joke. We stroll through the neighborhood and the quiet and peaceful atmosphere until we come upon the small house.
The next day we have the same morning routine, either lace up our sneakers and go for a run or grab a bike out of the shed and head down to the marsh. We watch the crabs for a while and then go to the docks and say hello again to the fishermen. The occasional boat passes by on its way to open water through the marshland across from us.
Occasionally a bird will dive down and return with a fish or crab dangling from its beak. With the sunrise facing us one can only wish to grab the scenes’ beauty from a camera. That feat is impossible, however, because one of the most special points is not based off the eyes but more from the feeling. With the birds calling and the sound of the fisherman’s reels and rods, there is the feeling of peace and friendliness.
We soon head through the wooded area once again, but the air is not filled with a peaceful calm. It is filled with a more excitement air, one of exploration and the feeling as though you walked into a different world from the scene you just left behind. We arrive home and grab a lunch then head to the beach.
The second day, the waters are harsher. The waves becoming a good three-and-a-half feet tall only to fall under itself and soon becoming smaller as it reaches the shore thinning out to nothing. This day we sit on the beach and relax, hearing funny stories of my father’s childhood and parts of my mother’s. We all go swimming, and by three o’clock we are ready to go home.
Riding in the back of the designated beach truck, one cannot help but to want to cleanse the salt from your body. We arrive home and everybody takes turns washing up. Then we sit on the gazebo eating boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes and pimiento cheese. From this overlook, one cannot help but be relaxed. Soon we get antsy and my sister and I head of to do some more exploring.
The third day is the Fourth of July, and while my aunt, mother, sister and I go shopping, my uncle and father go deep sea fishing. As I tried it once, I will never go again. Once they arrive back from the seas, they share with us what was caught, and then my father and uncle prepare the fish to be cooked. While older television shows play in the living room, my aunt and I start preparing the side foods to the meal. The meal always consists of at least fish, fried green tomatoes and yams, as well as whatever else was chosen for the meal. We sit and eat on the deck and watch from afar the fireworks that light up the warm summer night.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.