Saturday, June 5, 2010

Huger (Prounounced Hu-Gee) Recreational Area

I want to go camping. I want to go back to Huger and camp there. I want to go back, period; back to being a kid, back to being a pain in my parent's backsides occasionally, back to having nothing to worry about besides what time the Ice Cream man was coming and how many more days were left before summer vacation started. Vacations meant camping and travel and fun, and swimming and picnics...
We spent a LOT of time at Huger. From the time that I can remember, we camped here on the weekends, frequently.

The picture above is borrowed from
There is another photograph on that site of the picnic tables that dot the recreational area. The one above however brings back so many memories and that is where we are going today. This is Huger and what you see is the boat landing. There is a concrete ramp that extends probably 5 or 6 feet past the edge of the pilings that you see. The water in the picture is brown, and when I was little, the water was brown, and that is because of the tannins in the water, leached from oak leaves and other decaying plant life in the bottom of this creek. You can't see it here, and it might not be here any longer because if it were I think we could see it in the upper left area of the photograph, but the Boyscouts decided to build a bridge across the creek. One weekend there was nothing, and the next, a rather shaky, improvised facsimile of a suspended bridge was strung between the trees. Cross it?  Thank you, no- I'll stay on solid ground. I wish it were still there though.
 I guess it would have been impossible to keep it since I am sure that even the best of rope bridges rot away over time. They re-built the bridge, further up the creek however, and this is the picture of it. You can get a good idea of how
wide the creek was (not)... and how beautiful the area is.
(Thank you for the use of the picture)

Still, it provided hours and even days of imaginative " What if?" scenarios. What if a band of pirates lived in the woods over there? What if no pirates lived over there but what if they buried treasure over there? What if some prehistoric dinosaurs lived over there in the land that time forgot? What if some spooky old cemetery was over on the other side and ghosts roamed in the shade of the thickly draped mossy oaks... Thinking back on that, it was a prelude of sorts to the movie Bridge to Terabithia... Pure imagination running wild, indeed. What if? We played all over this recreation area, my little sister and I. My brother was 7 years older and he went fishing with Daddy. Jo and I swam in the creek, never venturing to the edge of the concrete ramp because there was a deep dropoff at the end of it. We had enough fun there, however. After we'd spent the day splashing and playing, we'd hobble, dotted with  "Ouch!", "Ow", "Eep!" our way across the graveled road for about 30 yards and head over to our tent for lunch. Vienna Sausage on white bread with a good coating of Duke's Mayonnaise tasted like heaven! Sometimes we'd get potted meat sandwiches, or bologna, and now and then peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches too. Mama always mixed them together - it tastes better and spreads easier and today I still like mine just like that.
After lunch it was back down to the water for some more swimming and waiting for Daddy and Thomas to come back from fishing. One afternoon they puttered up after fishing and had a stringer full of little Bream and Redbreast, and a couple of small catfish. I wanted to fish when I saw all of that. There was nothing that would satisfy me but to fish. While Daddy went over to the camp area to clean the fish, Thomas set me up with a cane pole, a worm, and a "bobber" and I fished right off of the little dock area, right in the corner you see in the picture. The creek had a little current and twice my hook got caught on a little stump or something under the water. I'm sure my brother was frustrated at having to free the hook and re-bait but he had patience and didn't complain. The third time I dropped the bait into the water it landed almost right straight down from where I was fishing. The water was brown, as I said, and even though the water was rather shallow there, I couldn't see the bottom. The bobber went down, and came back up. Down again, and then back up, and then down. I pulled it but I couldn't get the hook free. I was surely hung on a log. My brother said "Sucee (susie but with the c sound), that's a fish!" I didn't agree. " I'm hung!" He put his pole down, (he was fishing too) and came over. "You caught a fish," he said. "Pull it over to the side of the railing and you'll see..." So I did, playing tug of war it seemed, gradually making my way further over and finally around the little rail (It was not as high or as long as it is in the current picture). Now I could see and the water was a little shallower and clearer and sure enough there was a fish on the line. It looked as big as a boat to me and my brother had to remind me not to let go of the pole because I surely would have, in my excitement and eagerness to go and get Daddy to show him. Thomas helped me pull it out of the water and guessed that it weighed about 5 pounds. For a 7 year old girl, that is a HUGE fish.
I got to help clean it, and was chief overseer as Mama battered it in flour and cornmeal, salt and pepper, and then fried it. Hushpuppies were made of the left-over batter, mixed with some buttermilk and egg, and deep fried to a golden brown goodness. No sugar in them, people. If you eat a hushpuppy and it's sweet, it ain't southern. Mama made coleslaw too. No packaged stuff - no one had invented that yet. We had to help with that. We grated the cabbage, grated the onions, mixed in the apple cider vinegar and the mayonnaise, added salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. We dined like kings that night on paper plates, drinking Piggly Wiggly soda out of paper cups, and using our real silverware from home because nothing was more frustrating than trying to eat and having your plastic fork snap off.
You're not supposed to camp there, now. Sad. We spent at least a couple of weekends there every year.
One weekend we were camping there and when we woke up on a Sunday morning and stepped out of our camper (we'd graduated to a little pop-up camper from the giant gold tent we used to have), we were greeted by about 6 sailors who had slept in sleeping bags all around us.  Mama fixed breakfast for all of us, and we learned their names, and where they were from. They were on shore leave and had decided to go camping. Dennis Davidson, Hoyt, Hank Degraffenried, Little John, Big John Faulkner, and Harry. John Faulkner was from Michigan, Little John was from New York, Dennis was from Georgia, Harry was from Oklahoma, Hoyt was from Florida, and I can't remember where Hank was from. As the day went on it was time to pack up and head home. The guys were planning to hitchhike back, just like they'd got there, but Daddy wouldn't hear of that. We packed all of us into the station wagon and dropped the guys off at the gate to the Navy Base - just a couple of miles from our house. We went back and picked them up for church later that night, and from then on I had a bunch of new brothers.
They came to visit often, and we adopted them happily. They slept on blankets with pillows all over our floors in the house and they played ball with us, told us about their families back home and we knew that they missed their homes and families. But for that whole summer we were their family and over the next three years, whenever their ships were docked in the Charleston Navy base, our 'brothers' were home and we had them with us whenever we could.  One day they arrived and whoever had driven them to the house got out of the car and opened the trunk of his car. The boys carted in bag after bag of groceries. In a whole year I had never seen so many groceries! Gallons of milk, not one, or two but at least 6, packages of bacon, sausage, hamburger, roasts, cans of beans, bags of rice and sugar, boxes of tea bags, at least 5 loaves of bread, 4 or 5 dozen eggs... I thought they'd robbed a grocery store. They'd actually pooled their money they told us, around 100.00 or so, and had been to the grocery store because they wanted to repay us for all of the many meals Mama had cooked and fed them. In 1968 can you imagine how many groceries $100.00 would buy? Daddy did not make $65.00 a week! This was 6 months worth of grocery money at least!
We kept in touch with all of them for years. Harry married someone from the church we went to, Dennis Davidson ended up in Georgia and wrote to tell us of a man he had met in the church there, and had thought it was my Daddy, Tucker Christopher. When he was introduced to him he found out that it was Daddy's brother, Robert Christopher.  Little John went back to New York and John Faulkner stayed in Charleston for awhile, dating a girl he met in church, and when they broke up he went back home I guess. We lost track of them all over time. I hope they were all happy, and that they're all grandpa many times over. I hope they think of us as often as I think of them.
Huger holds special memories for me. Like the time I was swimming and my brother started screaming at Jo and I "Don't move! Don't move! Be still!" And so scared were we that we didn't move, even when he ran back over to the rail of the dock there, and aimed a pistol at us. Then he fired it! Then we DID move and began to cry as we ran out of the water. A water moccasin (cotton mouth) was swimming right for us, less than 10 feet from my back, and surely would have gone under and possibly bitten one of us if he had not killed it. I'm glad he was a good shot! Otherwise you wouldn't be reading about coleslaw, hushpuppies, sailors and camping at Huger Recreational Park in Huger, S.C.