Researching similarities between western Colorado, South Carolina
I toured a home this past weekend that was built in 1736. You read that right. It’s called the Tabby Home at Pinckney Retreat and is in Beaufort, South Carolina. Its walls are 22 inches thick, with the hardwood floors sloping off in all directions and a special concrete on the outside made from oyster shells, coincidentally called Tabby concrete. The story goes that General Sherman and his soldiers stumbled upon the house as they were marching south and were going to burn it down until they found a Bible hidden in the floorboards. It being a Christian home, they left it alone.
It’s a beautiful home and has been meticulously restored, but the setting is what really gets you. From the front porch, you look across the marshes of Battery Creek. In the same way the skies in western Colorado change from hour to hour, the water is always moving in the Lowcountry, from low tide to high and back again all in a day. Four hundred year-old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss provide valuable shade across the lawn.
The Lowcountry is beautiful and wet. It inundates the senses with strong smells from the marsh, the deafening chatter of bugs and birds, and the sweat constantly dripping down your back. You can taste the salt in the air. With so much water all around, it dawned on me that the Lowcountry is the exact opposite of western Colorado: flat and wet. The entire place functions at sea level around the ebbing and flowing of the tides. Fresh seafood pulled from that water is a vital industry. Agriculture abounds with roadside stands and long growing seasons.
My parents and I, along with my brother and his fiance, Anna, had traveled back to South Carolina to finalize plans for their October wedding and to attend a few engagement parties that Anna’s family and friends were throwing for them. The rehearsal dinner will be on the lawn of the Tabby Home and we’re hoping for cooler temperatures in October. The humidity that wrapped around us and filled our lungs shouldn’t be so heavy and I hope simply sitting on the porch swing won’t induce sweating like it did this past weekend.
Southerners do know a thing or two about hospitality, and the engagement parties were a great way to celebrate Anna and John who are loved by so many. We drank and ate our way through gracious homes with gracious hosts and few characters thrown in as well, and it was fun to meet so many new people under such happy circumstances. Brunch on Sunday included both a mimosa and a bloody Mary bar. Everybody wore linen or seersucker in a rainbow of pastel shades and I was told I wasn’t like most Yankees, which I think was a compliment. All the men wore boat shoes.
It’s possible that in the three days we were there, I ate my weight in shrimp. Shrimp salad, fried shrimp, shrimp and grits, and Frogmore stew. Fresh oysters, too. My brother and I downed a 10-pound bag of boiled peanuts in about 30 minutes flat. A can of Miller High Life was the perfect pairing as it mixed with the salty water that dribbled down my chin. Fitting into my bridesmaid dress could prove difficult.
When all the fun had been had, we boarded a plane heading west and made our way back home. Anna’s family will be coming out for Winefest in just a few weeks and we look forward to showing them some Western hospitality when they do. As we made our approach, I peered out the window at the Colorado River snaking through the valley and I was able to pick out the rows and rows of fruit trees and wine grapes that rely on that water — the lifeblood that keeps our economy going. And it dawned on me that despite the mountains surrounding our valley and the lack of water in our air and shrimp in our waters, western Colorado might not be so different than the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
It’s why we live here.