I am a proud South Carolinian.
I grew up in a small town. Both parents worked. I went to public schools, and I can read and write.
I was 12 before I saw a town larger than Walterboro. My senior trip was a bus ride to Charleston.
We played baseball and football in a field near our house. We caught snakes in an open ditch. I knew boys who didn't wear shoes until we went to high school. My parents sold their car to build the house I was born in.
We attended Swallow Savannah Methodist Church because it was close to our house and we could walk. I put up the hymn numbers before church services. My mother put grape juice in little glasses for Communion. My father sang in the choir. I was baptized in sweet iced tea.
High school ring
I played junior varsity football and drums in our championship band. My high school ring had a Fighting Tiger on one side and a Confederate flag on the other.
On summer evenings, a truck came through our neighborhood spraying a noxious fog to kill the mosquitoes. As little boys, we rode our bikes through the poisonous soup for the fun of it.
My parents didn't go to college, but my great-grandfather graduated from The Citadel and my grandmother from Coker. My mother was from Bamberg.
I was sentenced to two years at Anderson Junior College because I didn't have a comma in my SAT score. Then I studied abroad, graduating dead last in my class from the University of Georgia, and got a job with a newspaper in Columbia. I came to Charleston after my first divorce.
No Lake City
I've lived in the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry. I've been to races in Darlington, Camden and Elloree.
I used to shag at the Pad. I learned to water ski on one ski. I remember the textile leagues. I knew Columbia before the zoo. I've been to Carolina-Clemson games and remember the Bronze Derby. Almost all my wives have been South Carolinians.
I wear Weejuns and eat boiled peanuts. I've been on the Salkehatchie, Savannah, Santee, Wateree, Congaree, Pee Dee, Ashepoo and Combahee rivers and a lot of creeks in between.
I know about the Coburg Cow, The Clock, Big John's, First Week, the Rocket at the State Fair, The Beacon, and the Big Peach outside Gaffney. I knew Pawleys Island before it was arrogant and Edisto in the good old days.
I've been to the Newberry Opera House, rode the roller coaster in Myrtle Beach, hitchhiked through Orangeburg after the shootings, loaded watermelons in Yemassee and know there is no lake in Lake City.
For all this, I am grateful and consider myself blessed to live in the Palmetto State.