For the past 40 years, Leroy Lowder has lived just outside Summerville off Bacons Bridge Road.
For almost half that time, he raised rabbits to be sold to customers who fancied a taste for hare. Fancy restaurants in downtown Charleston also served his rabbits at tables with starched, white tablecloths under subdued lighting.
His company was known as Rabbits Ltd. His company is still known by that name, but his days of raising rabbits are long gone. However, he’s still trying to tempt your taste buds.
A hand-painted sign at the entrance to his dirt driveway simply explains what you’ll find if you travel the quarter mile to his front door. Frog legs, bison burgers, gator, rabbit. It’s all for sale. The only additional information on the sign is a phone number.
Lowder has no website, no advertising campaign. It’s a mom-and-pop operation that keeps Lowder and his wife of 60 years, Joanne, busy enough.
For the 16 years Lowder was engaged in raising rabbits, one day a week was dedicated to processing 60 to 70 of the animals. The butchering, cleaning and packaging of the meat occupied every Saturday. He finally decided he’d had enough of that.
The Lowders decided to sell frozen rabbit, along with a variety of other meats. Since 2001, he’s been placing orders for buffalo, frog legs and alligator. Those items aren’t commonly found in most frozen food sections at the grocery store.
Each week, distributors deliver the various selections to his front door. The buffalo is from Nevada. Frog legs and alligator originate from the swamps of Louisiana. The rabbit has a shorter hop from Fountain Inn.
Ninety percent of his customers are locals from Summerville. Generally, they call or just stop by and tell Lowder to let them have a little of this and a little of that.
His biggest expense? Electricity. The inventory is kept in four, 21-cubic-foot freezers.
Joanne is not much of a fan of all that’s on the menu. Lowder says his wife often says she’s not interested because “the more I chew it, the bigger it gets.”
Lowder says that’s why he frequently gives his customers a few cooking tips. For instance, bison is best cooked low and slow. And did you know alligator is best if soaked in buttermilk for 25 minutes? Supposedly, it breaks down the enzymes and has a tenderizing effect.
When it’s time for a meal, I like what I eat and eat what I like.
None of us are probably as adventuresome as we could be when it comes to food. Maybe we should look beyond the cows, pigs and chicken that frequent our plates.
This is not to suggest we grab a pellet gun and start hiding in parking garages looking for pigeons.
When I asked Leroy his favorite meal, he quickly replied it would be a whole rabbit, with the chest cavity opened and layered with strips of bacon, then cooked in a smoker for six hours.
As we gather around turkey with all the trimmings in just a few days, there’s plenty to say grace over, as they say. But if you need to spice up the table with something a little different, I know somebody near Summerville who has a few items for sale in his freezer that may make all of you feel like Pilgrims.
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com