As you head across the Isle of Palms connector, it's always cool to see the Atlantic in the distance when you hit the crest of the bridge. But for the locals, the most visible landmark occurs as your eyes shift to the right, up Hamlin Creek. Is it a bird? It's been called a pelican and a stork, but it's actually a giant plywood pink flamingo. It's been sitting at the end of Dick Glave's dock since 1991 and is now part of the expected scenery.
Glave, 72, put the flamingo along the creek just to make people smile. He's not fond of grumpy people and would prefer if folks would "lighten up" as they go through life.
In 2011, Glave lost his wife, Gene, to breast cancer. They were married 46 years. She was a pediatric nurse at Roper Hospital and an actress in local theater productions. She wasn't too crazy at first about the flamingo. Eventually, she grew to embrace its symbol of hospitality and goodwill and would even offered suggestions for additional ways to enhance the wooden bird's personality.
Birds of a feather
The pineapple is generally regarded as a welcoming symbol. For the people along Hamlin Creek, Glave's flamingo serves that purpose. Barely a quarter mile from the Intracoastal Waterway, boaters often use the creek as a secondary thoroughfare. Some who pass by will ask if they can tie up and take a picture.
Glave decided to use holidays to further enhance the flamingo's curb appeal. Again, Glave's own love of life would be on display.
At Christmas, there's a wreath around the bird's neck along with a blinking red nose. During Thanksgiving, a pilgrim's hat sits atop the flamingo's head.
Uncle Sam's hat sits proudly above the beak on the Fourth of July. He tried a bonnet on Mother's Day, but it didn't quite work.
He makes these various head dresses with his jigsaw in his workshop out of thin plywood.
An effort to create rabbit ears during Easter was another idea that didn't quite come together.
Is he ever afraid somebody might vandalize it or steal it? He says it's so heavy and cumbersome, it would take two or three grown men to even attempt to move it.
After a storm one year, the flamingo lost its head. Glave took it to his workshop for repairs and told those who wondered that the bird was in the hospital. The plywood surgery took almost two weeks and people began to worry that the creek's most famous celebrity had flown the coop. Soon, all was well, and life along the creek returned to normal.
Love life, live life
It's amazing how a simple, plywood bird can bring smiles and enjoyment to people's lives. Not only does this flamingo change the landscape and add a landmark for those crossing the connector, it also provides a sense of belonging and believing.
Not too much bothers Glave. What does get to him a little is people who don't enjoy life. His daily goal is to "live every day like this is it."
His three boys are all grown and since his wife died, he admits he's "tired of being around here by myself." He counters that loneliness by traveling. He's recently visited Australia and the Fiji Islands. This week, he went to Pinehurst for the U.S. Open.
Whether Glave is home or away, the flamingo remains on the dock to welcome all who pass by. Whether you've thought it was a pelican or a stork before now is unimportant. What matters is what this pink piece of plywood represents.
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com.