Monday, November 15, 2004

Sweet South Carolina

Hey little guys :)

It’s Monday morning and I am on a train. I am going from Florence, South Carolina, to Washington DC, and as I go towards the capital of this nation, I pause, and think a little of the place I am leaving.

The Carolinas are not the rich bit of America. Sure there is money here, but there is also unemployment and grinding poverty. Look at the houses as you drive through, or ride by on the train. Trailers, park homes, tumbledown houses with old cars outside …. You see them in the old movies on tv ….. here they are where people live. Alongside are often new properties. Out in the country there are no apparent ghettos, just places where people put their homes. Professional next to labourer, rich alongside poor. It looks a bit odd, but it seems to work :)

There is something else here too. There is a spirit, and a cheerfulness. A welcoming of the newcomer, the foreigner, the Limey. From the girl in the Dollar store to the guy in the gas station … everyone has a smile and a few welcoming words. The girl in the store moans a little. She is 23 and *I was born in Kershaw, and I’ll likely die in Kershaw. Be nice to see someplace else first tho* All this delivered in the kinda accent that mangles what is left of English even after you average American has had his tongue round it for a while .. lmao

Then there was Junior. Junior is in his sixties, lives in a small house in rural South Carolina with his wife Edith. Junior has been a manual worker all his working life. Doesn’t have much, doesn’t ask for much; he seems happy. Junior breathes oxygen from a machine. When you are in the house, you can hear the constant hum of the machine running 24/7. It is a reminder that, without this noise, Junior will die as his lungs were ripped apart by tobacco. Kinda ironic as tobacco is one of the crops that give most employment to guys just like Junior, not too far from here.

Anyway, it would be reasonable of Junior to have a few moans and complaints. Not a bit of it. I spent about two hours talking to him and his wife, and he was a man full of tales, full of curiosity, full of life. Kind of makes you thankful for what you have. And don’t you all get to feeling sorry for Junior …. He wouldn’t hear of it :)

So my friend Ripley drove me to the station this morning. About 60 miles. After a few miles I could have sworn it had been snowing (damned sure it was cold enough). Nope, I had seen my first ever cotton fields. Kids you’d have loved it. Ripley stopped the car and let your daft old Dad pick up some cotton from the roadside. I guess I felt the same way we do when we first see the vineyards in France. Wow! It really is soft, just the way you would imagine it to be from the pictures we see on television.

Now I leave behind Ripley, and her friend Michael, and about 178 dogs (not really) and I thank them very much for their hospitality, their kindness, and for showing me a little of a world I never dreamed existed.

Washington calls ….

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