Bluffton, S.C.

I grew up in the little town of Bluffton, S.C., population 463.  A sleepy little town where the pace of life was slow.  Situated on a salt water estuary, the May River, fish and shrimp and crabs were there for the taking.  Two schools, grade 1-12 (one for white students, the other for black students), one class per grade.  2 gas stations, 1 liquor store, 1 general store, a post office.

That town, of course, no longer exists.  Today Bluffton and the surrounding area has about 30,000 people.  There are plenty of restaurants, places to shop, everything you might need.  Except for the slow, sleepy pace of life.

In many ways, Bluffton was the ideal place for a boy to grow up (suspending our disbelief for a moment over things like small town education limits, segregation, bullying, the Russians—little things like that).  By age 9, on many summer mornings I packed a lunch, headed out on the May River in our wooden bateau, got home at dark.  Falls and winters, I went out squirrel hunting after school every single day that I could get away, wandered by myself in the woods until it was too dark to see the sights on my rifle.  Yes, at age 9.  Impossible to imagine letting our kids do those sort of things now, but that’s how life was.

Bluffton finds its way into Avalon, S.C. in two different ways.  First, the actual town of Bluffton, as it is today has a part halfway between supporting actress and cameo appearance (first mentioned in Chapter 13).  Bluffton has a thriving artist community, and the selection of funky galleries along old Main Street shows up in the novel.

But Bluffton is also the model for the little town of White Sands, where most of the “action” (using the term very loosely) takes place.  White Sands has a restaurant, which we didn’t when I was growing up (the pioneer “Squat and Gobble” was still a few years in the future).  But life sort of revolves around the boat ramp, just like ours did.  Planters’ Mercantile, our general store, is faithfully recreated at Hanson’s.

“Sabrina, where do people shop for groceries around here?”

“Oh, I’ll take care of all that once we’re married, darlin’.  But for now, you can get most anything you need at Hanson’s.  Selection’s not so hot, but there’s one of everything that’s essential.  Otherwise, you go to Beaufort.”

Here are a couple of pictures of the May River for you to appreciate.

bluffton 1This is the river across from the boat landing, showing a small island in the foreground (much smaller than Avalon, S.C., which is out in the sound).

Bluffton 6When the tide is out, the islands are mostly surrounded by marsh.

Bluffton 4A view of a creek through the mossy oaks, similar to what Rick enjoys every morning from his back porch.

(this post first appeared in on 1/22/13)


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