Election Day 2021

Today is Election Day in Lamar, South Carolina, and in several other towns in the region.  We have a competitive mayoral race, and I am up for reelection for the Council seat I currently hold.  Another Councilmember is running for reelection for her seat, but neither of us have any officially filed competition.

There’s also an election in Society Hill with seven candidates running—three for mayor and four for council seats.  I’m particularly interested in that race because of a homesteading-related issue at the center of it, with one candidate running largely to fight an ordinance limiting the number of animals he is allowed to keep on his property inside city limits.  Hartsville, home to the world headquarters of Sonoco, has five candidates running for mayor.

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Lamar Candidates Forum

Last night my little town of Lamar, South Carolina, hosted a candidates forum to give voters an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for Town Council and the Mayor’s race.  Our Town employees did an excellent job organizing the event, which was held in the Fire Department’s fire truck bay.  I brought some sound equipment and setup a very basic sound system for the candidates.

There are two Council seats up for election, which Councilwoman Mary Mack and myself currently occupy.  We’re both running for re-election, so we are officially running unopposed.  Residents will have two votes to cast in the Town Council race, one for each position.

As such, Councilwoman Mack and I were invited to tell voters a bit about ourselves and our visions for the town.  The main event was the mayoral forum, which was structured in a series of questions (nine or ten) posed to each candidate.  The mayoral candidates received their questions in advance, and the audience was not allowed to ask questions (although I think several people did after the forum formally adjourned).

Both candidates acquitted themselves nicely, differing mainly in the margins.  Councilwoman Inez Lee focused on cleaning up the town, literally and metaphorically, frequently invoking Franklin Roosevelt’s “First Hundred Days”:  we have a number of dilapidated buildings on Main Street that are eyesores.  James Howell, a local landscaper, focused on improving the town’s infrastructure and zoning to make the town more attractive to businesses.

All candidates for all offices touted the need to fix Lamar’s water system, so we sell our own water again.  We are currently purchasing around four million gallons of water each month from the Darlington County Water and Sewage Authority, paying rates that are onerously high for residents.

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More Georgia and South Carolina Backroads

As I noted in various updates about delayed posts, I was back in Athens, Georgia this weekend.  On the way over Friday, my GPS routed me a different way than usual, apparently due to a massive wreck on I-20.

The rerouting took me off I-20 at Lexington, South Carolina, taking me through painfully slow traffic in the bustling county seat before spitting me out on US-378 West, which wended its way towards the Upstate.

I then hit US-178 West towards Greenwood and Abbeville, transferring to various State roads.  I eventually ended up on SC-72, heading through Calhoun Falls at the South Carolina-Georgia border.

At that point, SC-72 became GA-72, which took me through Elberton and Comer, Georgia, before depositing me in Athens.

As many of my readers are not from South Carolina—or even from this country!—let me translate that for you:  I went through a lot of small towns in very rural parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

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TBT: Soda City Market

Earlier this week my little town of Lamar observed National Night Out, and the local neighborhood watch put together an organic, decentralized street festival to celebrate.  Regular readers know I am an avid fan of festivals, especially this time of year, and I look forward to visiting them—the weirder, the better.

With the proximity to National Night Out and the excitement of festival season in the air, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s TBT to a post about a much larger weekly festival, the so-called “Soda City Market.”  It’s been months since I attended, but it still holds a fond spot in my heart (and my stomach).

Here’s hoping that more of these open-aired autumnal festivals make a comeback this year.  After the long drought of The Age of The Virus, we could all use some fun.

With that, here is “Soda City Market“:

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National Night Out in Lamar

Last night the Lamar Neighborhood Watch organized an observation of National Night Out, an evening dedicated to supporting law enforcement and encouraging strong community building.  Most communities observe National Night Out in August, but Texas and other States observe it on the first Tuesday in October, when the weather is a good bit cooler.  August in the South is rarely a good time to host outdoor events.

My walking buddy neighbor helped organize the event, but he took a unique approach to it:  rather than having one person or a committee coordinating all of the participants, he invited residents to host whatever bit of entertainment and fun they could muster.  The result was a small but truly grassroots street festival.

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Walkin’ II: Early Morning Strolls

I’m currently cutting back on my calories and have so far dropped around ten pounds in the past two weeks.  I’d let myself get comfortable and complacent after a long, lazy summer.  Sure, I’ll loosen up a bit—both my calorie restrictions and my pants—for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but I’ve been doing pretty well regulating my daily intake.  It had grown, quite frankly, massive.

I mentioned this latest of my various weight loss odysseys to my neighbor, the man who takes Murphy out for me and—more germane to this post—who is the Zone Captain for our Neighborhood Watch.  My adventures in dropping unsightly pounds and inches inspired him to propose the Lamar Neighborhood Watch establish small walking groups, and yesterday morning, he and I met shortly after 6 AM to walk a short circuit downtown.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concealed Weapons Permit Course

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Last Saturday my younger brother and I woke up very early to attend an all-day concealed weapons permit (CWP) course.  We’d both been meaning to get our CWP for some time, and he stumbled upon an instructor in his area on Next Door.  Wanting to knock it out before college football season begins, we decided it was the perfect time to learn to be certified killing machines.

In all seriousness, the course was extremely informative—and sobering.  Owning any firearm is a huge responsibility, as misuse of the weapon can result in injury and death—including to yourself!

I’d always understood that in the abstract, but taking the course and handling a firearm really drove that home.  Our instructor really pounded into us two things:  situational awareness and practice.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Homesteading in the City

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Recently I’ve taken subscriptions to Backwoods Home Magazine and its sister publication, Self-Reliance.  Both magazines are treasure troves of information on how to be, well, self-reliant.  Backwoods Home focuses more on handy projects around the homestead and garden, sprinkled with articles containing recipes for canning veggies and baking homemade bread.  Self-Reliance seems to cover many of the same topics, just maybe with fewer recipes.

A major emphasis of both publications is establishing and maintaining a functioning homestead that is as self-supporting and sustainable as possible.  The authors often acknowledge that such an ideal may be impossible to realize in its truest, Platonic form, but point out that it is still an ideal worth striving toward.  Besides that grand ideal, though, the publications are very practical—how does one go about doing all of the tasks and completing all of the myriad projects that maintaining an independent homestead requires?

The goal of near-self-sufficiency is maximal liberty—if you can grow your own food and raise your own livestock, who cares if your employer mandates The Vaccine for work?  You can just live off your land, at least until you can find a job that doesn’t force you to inject yourself with an experimental drug.  That requires a great deal of hard work and focus, but the reward is freedom from the whims of the workplace and the world.  We all know corporations and even smaller employers are growing more woke by the day; in the case of big corporations, following the popular “morality” of the day to keep up appearances is more important than the well-being of their employees.

As someone who would like to raise a few crops and maybe some chickens on my little half-acre, a local story here in Darlington County, South Carolina, caught my attention.  A couple in Society Hill, the Dukes, has around thirty-one animals on their forty-four-acre property, which sits within the town limits of Society Hill.  Their livestock includes “chickens, goats, cows, horses, hens, a duck and a rooster.”

The Town Council for Society Hill passed an ordinance limiting livestock to six chickens and two “equines”—horses, mules, donkeys, etc.—on property within town limits.  The Dukes were apparently in violation of an older ordinance from the 1970s that limited livestock numbers on property within town limits.  I’m not sure what those limits were, but it seems Society Hill’s Town Council believed it needed to update the ordinance.

There are multiple issues here, which are reflected in the Council’s 3-2 split on the ordinance.  The Dukes claim that the current Mayor of Society Hill, Tommy Bradshaw, is targeting them because Dwayne Duke seeks to challenge Bradshaw for mayor.  The Dukes also claim that their animals are used for emotional support therapy for trouble kids.

Neighbors, however, fear that the Dukes plan to turn their home into a petting zoo of some kind, and there have apparently been repeated complaints about the livestock (no one wants a rooster waking them up at the literal crack of dawn).  Even before the new ordinance was passed, the Dukes were already in violation of the older ordinance, which was nearly fifty years old (a reminder to town governments to update their ordinances periodically, lest they be forgotten from lack of use).

So, who is right?  Should the Dukes give up their livestock—and their chance at homesteading freedom?—so their neighbors can get some peace?  Or should they be allowed to keep the animals they raise?

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Supporting Friends Friday: The Music of John Pickett

The local music scene in the Pee Region of South Carolina is surprisingly robust, with some truly stellar musicians.  The creative heart of this scene rests in several open mic nights at local coffee shops.  Currently, the two big open mics to have resumed are at The Purple Fish Coffee Company in Darlington, South Carolina, and at Crema Coffee Bar in Hartsville, South Carolina.  The Fish hosts its open mic on Friday evenings, and Crema hosts its on Tuesday nights.

The other major open mic—probably the most enduring of the current Big Three—was at Lula’s Coffee Company in Florence, South Carolina.  Lula’s, however, has not resumed its legendary Thursday night open mic night—an open mic so artistically fervent, it inspired an entire book of poetry—much to the chagrin and bafflement of its most devoted performers, yours portly included.

But before there were any of these establishments, there was Bean Groovy, a now-defunct coffee shop that used to occupy a magical little bit of strip mall in Florence.  I know the former owner of Bean Groovy—himself a studio engineer in the distant past—and despite some attempts to reopen the establishment at other locations, it’s never made a return.

Nevertheless, Bean Groovy was where I got my start in local music in the Pee Dee, way back in the hazy, halcyon days of circa 2012-2013.  It, along with The Midnight Rooster in Hartsville (still in business, but it’s shifted from being a quirky coffee house into a frou-frou upscale dining establishment) were my old stomping grounds as I broke my way into the region’s open mic scene.

It was at Bean Groovy sometime in probably 2012 or 2013 that I met one of my best friends, John Pickett.  John is an excellent guitarist and singer, and he possesses one of the best ears for music I’ve ever encountered.

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