Hilton Head 2010

August 3, 2010

Paul, Dominic, and Anna

Last week, my bride and I traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina and spent a week with her sister and brother-in-law, and various children and grandchildren.

I’m not a big fan of Hilton Head for a number of reasons, but the thing I dislike the most is all the private property between the public roads and the public beach and waterways. Unless you rent a place with beach access, there are very few easy paths to the sand and surf. We were fortunate in that the house we rented was next to Bradley Beach Park.  However, had we not rented a house in that area, we would’ve had difficulty recognizing that there was a parking lot and walkway to the beach at the end of the road. There is a sign, but one that can easily be missed.

The beach was nice – everyone else in our party was fine with that – but I wanted more. I love crab and crabbing. Crabs do not spend time in the surf; they dwell in the marshes and streams away from the waves. Trying to gain access to those back-water salt marshes is next to impossible; they are surrounded by private property.

The only place I was able to find was a large bay between Hilton Head Island and the mainland. It wasn’t the optimal place to catch crabs, but it was better than nothing.

The first day I tried, a family had already laid claim to the best spot and I had to go to the end of a dock where the water was much deeper.

A side story: In many states, the use of crab traps is perfectly legal and that’s how we caught them during my childhood on our annual vacations to New Jersey. However, in Maryland (and this may no longer be true) traps were only permitted for the commercial crabbers. Everyone else had to tie the bait to a line and slowly draw the crabs close to shore where they could be captured in a net. Thus, when I go crabbing I’m prepared to catch crabs using both methods. Using the baited line is less boring than simply checking the trap every five to ten minutes.

So, as I’m walking to the end of the dock, a small boy of five or six asks me if I’m going crab fishing with my net. When I told him that was my plan, he said, “You’re never going to catch a crab with that net.”

Out of the mouths of babes! On that first day, he was absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, he could’ve said the same about my trap and would’ve been almost correct. I caught nothing with the baited lines. As for the trap, I caught one small crab – too small to keep – and one medium sized fish. That was a first. I’ve caught turtles in a trap, but never a fish.

The next day I arrived earlier and claimed the better spot, but the tide was wrong. Nonetheless, I caught one crab in the trap and two using the baited line and net method.

It can be done!

Unfortunately, only one of the three crabs I caught was big enough to keep. Eventually I gave up and released my sole captive. My feasting on fresh crab meat will have to wait.

When we first arrived at our rental house, we all made fun of the swimming pool.

Most of the pool is in this picture.

Our group consisted of nine adults and five children. There is no way we could’ve all fit into that pool at the same time. Yet it was perfect for the children. They were always close to a side that they could grab on to if they encountered any difficulties.

The shallow end was a series of steps down to about three feet. The deep end was perhaps four or five feet deep… just deep enough for a rotund grandfather to do a cannon ball without hitting the bottom of the pool too hard.

Most of the time, I simply borrowed my granddaughter’s flotation device and enjoyed the coolness of the water.

Chilling in the pool

The most difficult part of the vacation was trying to get the children out of the water. They all loved the ocean and the pool. By the end of the week, they looked like a bunch of prunes, but we did manage to get them to sit still for about 30 seconds for a group photo.

Dominic, Anna, Emma, Zack, and Ty

It’s plain to see the children enjoyed the trip to the beach, and I assure you that at least one adult also had a wonderful time. I’m sure my bride and the others also had a good time.

We definitely have to do it again… real soon!

Pollution – Gone With the Past

May 13, 2009

Whenever I hear someone complain about the pollution in this country I wish I had a time-machine so I could take them back to my childhood.

The confluence

The confluence

Pittsburgh is known for its three rivers. For many people, the thought process ends there. However, those of us who lived in the area know that there are many creeks and streams that add to the volume of those mighty waters.

Chartiers Creek was within walking distance of my home in Crafton Heights and we were given strict orders to stay away from it. Of course, that meant we’d go and play along its banks every chance we got.

I don’t think my parents were worried about us drowning so much as being contaminated by the filth that flowed through that creek bed. It was a mixture of raw sewage and chemicals that killed the heartiest of fish. Its waters had a similar effect when they finally emptied into the Ohio River.

We boys called it Turd-le Creek so it wouldn’t be confused with the Turtle Creek that flowed in another area of Western Pennsylvania. My guess is that Turtle Creek wasn’t much cleaner than Chartiers Creek and the many other streams in the Pittsburgh area.

Then there was the smoke. Pittsburgh long held the title “Old Smokey” for obvious reasons. The steel mills belched thick black smoke almost twenty-four hours a day. Added to that pollution was the smoke from the coke furnaces found throughout the area, the slag dump, and all the coal fired furnaces in the homes, schools, and many businesses.

Most women used clothes lines hung in their cellars rather than hang their clean clothes outside where they’d get dirty before they had a chance to dry. And motorists had to use their headlights in the middle of the day.

We grew up breathing that air and never gave it a second thought.

Fortunately, there were people who recognized the danger and forced the city to clean up its act. People like my parents were given deadlines to replace their coal burning furnaces with natural gas furnaces… or face heavy fines. Mills were given similar ultimatums. By the mid fifties, headlights were no longer needed during the day and laundry began appearing on clotheslines outside.

Litter was another major problem during my childhood… and it wasn’t confined to Pittsburgh. Candy wrappers, empty potato chip bags, and many other wrappings were simply dropped on the ground once they were emptied.

As a young boy looking for spending money, those who threw their empty bottles on the ground were greatly appreciated. We could collect two cents deposit for each twelve ounce bottle and five cents for each larger bottle. Considering it cost only thirty-five cents to get into the movies, it didn’t take long to gather enough bottles to pay for the pop corn as well.

Looking back, the thing I find most appaling is something my parents did when we vacationed in South Jersey. When our garbage can got filled to capacity, we’d drive through the salt marshes and toss the bags of trash out of the car windows into the marsh.

I don’t know if we did that because there was no place to take it – which was most likely at least partially true, or if there was somewhere to take it, but we couldn’t afford to pay for its disposal. All I know is that in hindsight, it was a terrible thing to do.

Unfortunately, there are folks out there who continue to do such things. I’ve often driven along country roads and seen trash that was obviously tossed from a moving vehicle.

Like the poor, I believe litterbugs will always be with us. All we can do is make sure we don’t add to the problem.

I almost forgot to mention the main point of this article. That is – no bad people might think the pollution is in the United States, it is nothing like what it was sixty years ago.

Those rivers in Pittsburgh held very few living things when I was a lad. Today, there are all sorts of game fish and every one of them is safe to eat. As for Chartiers Creek, it looks more like a clear mountain stream.

Pittsburgh has come a long way, and so have all the other parts of our country. Perhaps we can pass the lessons we’ve learned on to China, India, and a few other countries that have yet to learn we are only borrowing this planet.