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A Bit about South Carolina

by  Christine Bruun

Our woods

We are transplants from the west.  Over the years we have come to appreciate South Carolina's unique qualities.  We've lived here for 13 years now.  However, we are still becoming accustomed to the diversities of not just South Carolina's people, but of its particular geographic regions. 

So, as you read this, remember that we have acquired a fondness for it, though we had to work very hard to accomplish it. 

South Carolina Has Not Always Been Welcoming 

If you have ever driven in South Carolina, it would not take long for you to see that the forests are thick with cedar, hardwoods, pine, vines, briars, and various other underbrush which makes it almost impossible to look very far into the wooded areas with any success. We would need a machete to be able to make our way for any distance before being attacked and entangled within the briars and the brambles that make up much of the underbrush in the wilderness areas. Now, we are talking about the Wilds of South Carolina.

Having lived here for almost thirteen years, I can assure you that the wilds of South Carolina can be an inhospitable place.  If the chiggers and the fire ants don't get you, the briars will.  We have locust trees with needles that are at least two inches long. We had to remove them from our property because of their propensity to rip us to shreds when we got anywhere near them. Just trimming them was a dangerous exercise.

My first encounter with South Carolina's wilderness was the day we found the piece of land we later bought.  The land developer, who escorted us to look at the property, made it very clear that he was staying in the truck while we headed out innocently to investigate the magnificent wooded landscape.  Thinking back, I am sure he knew exactly what adventure would be waiting. 

It was heavily wooded and congested with the briars and all manner of vines and overgrowth.  We had spent most of our lives in either Wisconsin, Utah, or Idaho.  We were used to the forests and geography of the great Rocky Mountain range, those northern state's penchants for harsh conditions, the rattlesnakes, not to mention the severe winters that blanket those regions with snow that melts in the spring to provide the precious water resources for the high desert environment.  We were, however, unprepared for the harsh reality of the South Carolina wilds.

As we made our way to the back of the 200 ft wide by 1000 ft. deep property that was bordered by a small 12 acre man-made lake, the briars and brambles reached out to grab our clothes and inject their spiny thorns into our tender flesh.  After reaching the lake shore, I found a log and preceded to sit and watch the waterfowl that inhabited the lake shore.  It was beautiful.

We saw a muskrat swimming around the tree stumps that rose from the lake near the shore where they had rotted in place after the lake was formed.   It was peaceful. We saw a heron, a crane, and many other water fowl scattered around the lake.  We even heard the forlorn cry of a late flock of Canadian geese as they flew over.  It beckoned to us.  We sat for a time just to listen to the sounds of nature that was to be our backyard.

We eventually headed back.  As we approached the land developer's truck, he waved at us.  We were so excited and we shared with him the adventure we had just experienced.  That's when he mentioned the snakes.  We evidently have a few that are highly dangerous and deadly here in the South. Some are rattlesnakes.  They would be the Copperhead, the Carolina pigmy snake, Dusky Pigmy snake, Eastern Diamond Back, Timber rattler, and the Eastern Cottonmouth (also known as Water Moccasin).  We were a bit taken aback by it.  We had not even thought about encountering a snake.  There are maybe 20 other species of snake in South Carolina, but they are harmless.

The next day I was suffering from small, irritable, itchy, painful blisters all over my legs, especially my ankles.  After talking to some of the local residents, we discovered that I had been introduced to chiggers in a big way. Evidently they hang on the tips of bushes and grasses and wait for something to walk by.  They also hang out on logs.  I was evidently prey. 

  Even after they instructed me to use nail polish to cover the blisters and suffocate the chigger, I suffered for several weeks before recovering.  Evidently I am especially allergic to them.  I still have the scars on my ankles from the incident.  Welcome to South Carolina!

In the west, sitting on logs is common practice--you can't do that in the South without suffering the wrath of the chigger.  We have since learned that we have to dress to protect ourselves with hiking boots, our pants over our boot tops and by placing an elastic around the pants and boot top to keep the chiggers out.  You also have to take a shower immediately upon going back into the house. 

The Joys of Living In the South

I must now tell you the joys we have experienced living here were varied and many. The day we arrived at our new house to take the final walk-through, a flock of crows and ravens arrived. In fact, a couple flew down to the driveway and waddled up toward the house as if welcoming us to our new home. That was a wonderful experience and we enjoyed their presence for months to come as they lived in the woods where the cleared area, that had been prepared for the house, met the woods.

I was able to observe them in their mating rituals and in their daily life. It was an educational experience that became almost spiritual. We didn't mind their loud voices at all and looked forward to seeing them each day.

The very first day we moved in, Jim was still working in Sumter, South Carolina, two hours away, so he couldn't be there until the weekend. We have a huge picture window in our living room that looks into the backyard and the woods. I was sitting on the floor serenely looking out of the window. Suddenly a mother turkey with 8 chicks following single file behind her, made their way across the backyard. I almost cried. I knew that this piece of property was special.

Carolina WrenGoldfinch at our feederIt didn't take us long to spot the flying squirrel that lived in an old rotted tree just on the edge of the forest. A fairly large box turtle ran across the yard. I had no idea they could boogie that fast. Our resident squirrels make life exciting here. The varied birds who visit our bird feeders not only lend their beautiful voices to the mix, but they bring a splash of color all year long. We see everything from Woodpeckers to Titmouse--from Indigo bunting to Carolina Wren—from Goldfinches to purple house finches—from sparrows to bluebirds, cardinals, and robins, from Purple Martins to doves, and mockingbirds with their duck quacking and their bell ringing oddities...the list seems to be never ending. The Carolina Wren has the most beautiful voice of all but the mockingbird never ceases to amaze me with its mimicry.

We have a herd of at last five deer that come right up onto our back lawn to graze. They are beautiful creatures and we love to watch them as they make their way to their morning destination and then back through our property in the evening. We have gotten to know the local opossum and raccoon population up close and personal as they forage on our deck in plain view through our sliding glass door.

Ruby Throated HummingbirdWe have a thriving population of ruby throated hummingbirds that come to our deck to feed from February through October. It is not unusual to have them buzz our heads when we are out there disturbing their ability to feed at their leisure. We watch them fight with each other over feeding stations and discovered that they actually chatter, something we did not know before we moved here.

AnoleWe also have a thriving population of tree frogs, toads, lizards, butterflies, and dragonflies. We have two lizards that are dominant in our landscape. They are the blue tail and the Anole with its bright red disk under its chin that inflates when it is looking for a mate. We even have a frog that sounds like a puppy barking. One year we had tree frogs that hung out on our sliding glass door to the den. It was where the light from the house would attract the insects. It seemed that every time we would open the door they would hop into the house and we would have to chase them down and return them to the outside. It was educational and fun at the same time.

Of course after we got our cat, she would bring in all sorts of creatures for us to play with. She seldom killed them, just wanted to play with them. We were always rescuing bunnies, moles, mice, bull frogs, crickets, etc. I got to see my first mole the other day. They are kind of cute little creatures, though most of the residents here don't like them. We saved it after the cat dropped it on the carpet under the dining room table and returned it to the wild. That is what we do with most of the creatures we discover in our house.

We have a resident owl. One night I heard a thud right outside my bathroom window. I opened the window and looked out. The huge owl rose to flight with a fairly large rabbit in its claws and flew away. These lessons are sometimes the hard ones. Nature has a way of working that sometimes is not a pleasant thing to have to deal with.

We also have a resident red tailed hawk. When we tried raising chickens it became a hawk feeding production mill. Between the dogs and the hawk, it was an experiment in futility. We wanted free range chickens. They were free alright...for the hawk.

I think we had more problems with people not respecting our autonomy and our land than we ever did with animals, except for the dogs, which often are allowed to run free and cause problems. I think that is one of my pet peeves, the dogs.

So, despite the harshness of the South Carolina geography, we learned to embrace its beauty along with adapting to its harshness. There are two things I do miss, however, and that is sitting on the lawn or on a log. Trust me! DON'T!

Why not South Carolina?

South Carolina is a land of lakes, rivers, swamps, and mountains.  It has old geology.  We have a lot of limestone, quartz, gold, and a variety of other minerals and precious stones.  We have limestone caverns.

95% of the region ranges between 1800 ft. down to 150 ft. elevation.  Only the very northern tip of South Carolina ranges above 1800 ft in elevation.  Most of the sightings seem to be located in the central and southeastern region of the state.  Of the 46 counties that make up South Carolina, only 16 have not reported sightings according to the BFRO website.  I know of one additional report from Chester County that they do not have.

We are surrounded by states with their very own Bigfoot sightings.  I remember flying to Missouri on one of our field investigations and looking out at the scenery below.  I realized quickly that there was a ribbon of trees and various undergrowth that seemed to flow all the way from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the Missouri airport near the border between Arkansas and Missouri.  Despite the highways, railroad lines, freeways, and such, there was this continuous tree-covered area where Bigfoot could easily wander for a thousand miles unseen. 

Vast swamps that fill the low places were water collects along the many rivers and lakes that dot the landscape of South Carolina, changes the solid ground into ooze and muck.  These swamps are not only home to Bigfoot, it is one of the favorite haunts of the infamous feral pig, also known as wild hogs or razorbacks.  These are aggressive animals and pose a serious threat to man and beast. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (one of many states who are experiencing the feral pig problem), these animals can run up to 30 miles per hour and are good swimmers. They live about 15 to 25 years.

In South Carolina, the residents hold Party Dog hunts.  According to Citizens for South Carolina Wild Bears, the hunters are responsible for releasing the hogs into the wild to train their dogs as well as for sport.  The feral hog is just one of the many food sources available to Bigfoot.  While there are few, if any, predators who would take on a feral pig and win, I would assume that Bigfoot would have the capability of hunting them and utilizing them for a food source.

Other plentiful food sources would be fish, a spoil of a state rich in water.  The basic inland fish that South Carolina serves up are: Crappie, perch, trout, black bass, large mouth bass, bream, striped bass, and catfish.  The numbers are plentiful and with all the lakes, streams, rivers, swamps, and other water sources, just as there are in the Northwest, fish can serve as a viable and plentiful food source to supplement the Big Man's diet year round.

Bigfoot has been seen fishing for salmon in the Northwest streams much as the bears do.  Therefore, the next logical step would be to conclude that the South Carolina Bigfoot would do the same, though they do not have a salmon run to make use of.

There are many edible plants in the southeast; Elderberries, cypress, live oak acorns, pecans, deer tongue, Balomy, wild rice, wild carrot, wild parsnip, burdock, yellow pond lily, water lily, arrowhead, wapato, duck potatoes, yellow and white marsh marigold, American cowslip, ranuncula, purslane, winter cress, hard stem bulrush, arrowroot, blackberries, cattails, chicory, chestnuts, dandelions, muscadine, strawberries, roses, chickweed sassafras, persimmon, mulberry, hickory nuts, nettle, and wild onions, just to name a few.  And don't forget wild honey.

There are plenty of food sources from the many varieties of edible plants in South Carolina.  A far as meats are concerned, take your pick.  There are feral pigs, the large deer population, wild turkey, muskrats, otters, mice, foxes, rabbits, bear, and other animals and birds available to Bigfoot.  South Carolina could plausibly sustain a rather large population of these creatures.


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