“It is my fixed conviction that if a parent can give his children a passionate and wholesome devotion to the outdoors, the fact that he cannot leave each of them a fortune does not really matter so much.” Archibald Rutledge.
Archibald Rutledge was the first poet laureate of South Carolina and one of her most distinguished native scholars. Having spent our childhood in the beloved low country of South Carolina, my brother (Woody Thurman) and I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments in the quote mentioned above. Being reared in our family produced certain knowledge that did not need to be put into words. We ‘came to know’ by being involved in the lives of our parents. HOME was literally where our story began, and that story’s color and character influences our lives as much today as then.
Inherent truths gleaned from our “living” the life of the low country are:
- God is good and expects us to be.
- Parents and God love us and take care of us, and it is necessary that we ALWAYS respect and honor them.
- There is no question that is too hard for them to answer or that is inappropriate for us to ask.
- A gun is a good thing and all real men should have one and know how to use it properly. A man who does not handle his weapon well is not to be trusted.
- Hunting provides food for families to eat both in the present and future. Women and men learn ways of preserving game and cooking it so that it’s an anticipated joy when the meals are served from the game that had been caught on the hunt.
- Hunting dogs make the very best pets in the world. They are intelligent, obedient and playful. If a dog is a good hunting dog, he WILL make a good pet.
- Dogs are to be treated with respect and are never to be mistreated or shown cruelty of any sort.
- When we have enjoyed the outdoors and experienced the adventures that are there, we always leave it better than we have found it–making certain that we’ve cleaned up any mess that has been made and that there is no danger to the plants and animals because of our presence.
As pre-schoolers, my brother and I went with our Daddy to “work” the dogs and to watch them run and retrieve dummies. My daddy told me that I loved going and that even though I was a “feminine” little girl, I never wanted to be left behind. I learned very young not to ask questions when the dogs were looking for a covey of quail. I also knew not to throw anything when Daddy was working with their retrieving skills. My brother had his own gun when he was 5 or 6 years old and learned from my father the importance of knowing that the gun was NOT a toy and, when hunting, not to play with the dogs but to see them as part of the hunt.
People in our small town, Georgetown, SC, used to come over in the early evening to watch my father feed the dogs. Even their mealtime was a learning opportunity for our dogs. None of them were allowed to eat until Daddy gave the command. To people who didn’t understand hunting and the importance of the dog’s work, it was just entertainment to see the popular Southern Preacher work with his dogs, but we knew, even then, that the dogs needed to see Daddy as the leader–or the authority.
When I think about the way we lived our lives, I see more clearly why my brother is so good with animals. He learned from his father the right way to do things. He has added many years of study and practice to his vast body of knowledge, but those early years of seeing attitudes and behaviors modeled have had a huge impact on making a successful career from breeding and training dogs. Our father participated in the process for recreation and relaxation; My brother enjoys that aspect also, but he earns his livelihood from it as well.
Some of the joys of the outdoors in the low country are:
Early morning sunrises
Differences in light are a major source of wonder. First daylight is when those first rays of light start to make the area where one is standing take on shape and form and substance. Big daylight is when all the brightness of the new day is there and the refreshing beauty of the early morn is there before one’s eyes with the rays of the sun sparkling on the dew drops like diamonds scattered over the tall grasses of the marsh.
Smells are another component of the low country experience. The salt water marshes have a smell that is experienced no place else on earth. The fog rising in the distance lending its eerie mystery to the setting soon dissipates as the sun climbs higher into the sky.
One learns the differences in silence. When the sounds aren’t right, even children know that something is amiss. The sounds of insects and animals, croaking of frogs, splashing of a few brave fish breaking the calm of the glass-like surface of the water.
Oh,h,h, there’s never existed a hunger like that after a morning out exploring the land and deciding how the next few days’ hunting is going to be spent. Sometimes Daddy would stop on the way back to the campsite at a little store and let us have a grape or orange Crush and a pack of Nabs to take the edge off the hunger. A drink is never as cold as when it’s pulled up out of a cooler full of ice and water and scores of soda pop bottles.
Trusting one’s world amidst the beauty of nature and the honesty and honor of just plain good folks wove an incredible background for the tapestry of our young lives.