Friday, November 25, 2016

Red Wolves in South Carolina

Both the southern red wolf, and it's larger, heavier cousin, the gray wolf have a hard time surviving in the modern United States.  The red wolf was extinct in the wild since 1980 and efforts to bring it back haven't been very successful.  There is a captive breeding program at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge just south of where we live and we made a visit at feeding time.

A large forested enclosure houses three wolves at present.  The manmade den at the left is connected to underground dens dug in the earth.  Opportunistic vultures sit atop the fences awaiting feeding time and swoop down as soon as the keeper brings in the food.  Today's dinner was boiled eggs served in the shell -- the white things on the ground.
At the back of the enclosure, in the sun at the center, is a red wolf. Mostly gray, they have a reddish brown tinge to their ears and legs.  

Wofman Rob loves to talk about the wolves he cares for.  He told us there are only about 250 red wolves left in the U.S., almost all of those in zoos and government facilities, and many of those the result of the breeding program here in South Carolina.

The red wolves face two problems in being returned to the wild.  One is the simple fact that they are wolves and man doesn't like wolves and the other is their propensity to interbreed with coyotes.  In fact, some people say there is no red wolf species left because there is not one that doesn't have coyote DNA, however dilute.

Wolfman brought out three huge panels of photos he has taken of all the red wolves he has had in his care.  He names each one and describes their personalities.  Two years ago the first pups were born at Cape Romain and Rob is emotional about letting them go to other breeding programs in the US.  
He's a man who loves his job and told us he considers it "an honor" to care for the wolves.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Oldest Church in the 'Holy City'


Our first visitor in our new location arrived from Minnesota for the weekend, just in time to miss the first snow storm of the year.  We picked my daughter Sarah up at the airport in Charleston and spent the day exploring the beautiful city.

We walked around the harbor and the city for a couple hours and had some pork barbecue the South is famous for for lunch. Next stop was the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street, Charles Towne's  first church, built in 1681 within the walled city.
It's hard to get a photo of the front because it is blocked by trees. It's quite large and if you look closely you can see it extends way to the left behind the sign.

Charleston is known as the Holy City because of its history of religious tolerance and the many historical steeples that tower above the skyline.  The steeples were also very useful landmarks for guiding ships into Charleston, one of the most important ports on the East Coast.

The current church was designed and built in 1804.  The architect called for no steeple, and it was built that way. The lack of a steeple made the church the butt of jokes and drew so much derision a steeple was added in 
the 1830s.
From the back ...


In 1780, during the American Revolution, the church was hit by a British cannonball.  Thirty-six of its prominent members were captured and sent as prisoners to St. Augustine, Florida and then to Philadelphia.  During the occupation of Charleston, the British used the church as a hospital.


Entrance to the graveyard

"May Peace Prevail on Earth"

Each side of the signpost has the same words in different languages.  

The oldest graves are from the 1690s.

Art Work from the Grave Markers,
"Symbols that tell the stories of the dead and how they were thought of by their survivors"


If I lived in Charleston I think this just might be my church!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cold War Submarine Memorial

"Stealthy and unseen, our submarines were the 'eyes and ears' that monitored Soviet maritime operations in every ocean of the world."
I had never heard of the Cold War Submarine Memorial in Charleston until we stumbled upon this huge, partially buried thing. The "thing" is the rudder and sail of the USS Lewis and Clark buried in the ground with a grassy mound representing the deck of the submarine in between. The park is a memorial to the Americans and the British who patrolled the seas during the Cold War from 1947-89.
The sail alone weighs 60 tons and sits below-ground on a specially engineered platform to hold its weight. In the distance, behind the trees at the center of the photo, you can just see the sails of the beautiful Charleston bridge. 
All around the submarine is a park with a walkway and
information. The walkway gives you an idea of the size of the vessel the sub crews spent months at a time on. At the peak of the Cold War, as many as 40,000 submariners, their families, and civilian workers were stationed in Charleston and remained there for 25+ years of the Cold War.
All the ballistic missiles that armed all the U.S. subs were assembled in Charleston and loaded there. Besides the American subs, every submarine from the British Royal Navy came to Charleston to be loaded with nuclear missiles.
The paved walkways are lined with granite benches dedicated to each of the crews who served on the subs that patrolled the seas during the those years.
The families of the men who served are also recognized for the long, silent absences they endured and the sacrifices they made while their family member was at sea.

A marker commemorates the British Royal Navy Submarine Service that patrolled the sea alongside the Americans during the Cold War.

We Come Unseen
"The links of history were never stronger than during the Cold War when we stood shoulder to should against a common threat."

The beautful blue glass is part of the British memorial. 

The last memorial on the walk is for the crews of two American submarines that were lost at sea.
In 1963 the Thresher was about 1300 feet below the surface when a piping joint gave way.  The sub sank and all aboard were lost in a matter of seconds.
The USS Scorpion was scheduled to return to port on Memorial Day1968 to gathered families and waiting fanfare. It never arrived. What really happened is still a mystery or a secret but there is some evidence that there was a confrontation with Soviet warships that sank the Scorpion.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Total Frustration and a Veterans Day Parade

The frustration is this.  Two days ago my blogging app for my iPad, which I have loved and used for years (Blogsy), overnight ceased to exist.  I have tried the two other available apps for iPad and neither one will work.  I can say that with confidence after two days of great effort and waaaaay too much time. 
 So here I am on my laptop, which I haven't opened for almost two years, on Blogger, which is a big fat pain in the neck to get pictures on. 

Anyway, the parade. Friday was our first Veterans Day parade in our small town and we enjoyed it.

It was the first event held downtown where we saw blacks and whites come together.

It began with veterans in old cars, fancy sports cars, and on motorcycles.

This guy had the nicest, happiest smile. 

The law says segregation has ended, but the schools here, by virtue of their location, are pretty much still segregated.  Also, many white kids attend private academies where blacks are excluded by cost. This is a black elementary school marching band.  Elementary schools Up North don't have marching bands.
And here is a white marching band with one brave black young lady out front carrying the banner.

In Minnesota, this would be a farm wagon pulled by a pickup.  Here it is a boat full of Cub Scouts. 

A couple little guys were carrying a handmade sign thanking veterans for their service to our country.

Black veterans' group ...

White veterans' group
Descendants of veterans of the American Revolution

Candy for the kids

 My favorite veteran!
I also want to thank all those who commented on my last post.  I do appreciate your commiseration and comments.  I think this was one of those watershed events in history where the ground is shaky and will be for a good while.  Life goes on.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

World, I'm So Sorry

I'm also angry, sad, scared, and stunned.  Donald Trump does not represent the America I thought I lived in.  
How can a bigoted, lying, racist, vulgar, uneducated man who insults and assaults women become President?  
Racial minorities comprise 40% of the population.  Women make up 51%. Where were they yesterday?  Do supporters really think that a billionaire who pays no taxes is going to make their lives better?
And beyond what he can do in our country it is frightening to think of this man with no manners or moral values unleashed upon the world.
Paul Krugman is an economics professor at City College in New York and a columnist for the New York Times.  He wrote this last night and I want to share it here.

Our Unknown Country

We still don’t know who will 
We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time.

We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time. 
We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.

It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible. I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.

It It does truly feel like the Earth shifted under our feet last night.  We will go to the beach this morning and walk and try to find equilibrium and center of gravity.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Benne Wafer, Anyone?

Slaves introduced new foods to the American colonies when they arrived from Africa that were to become staples of the Southern cuisine. Okra, collard greens, peanuts, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, and sesame seeds arrived on the slave ships in the 17th and 18th century and were first grown here in the slaves' gardens.

Four hundred years later they are still popular foods in the South especially and everyone has their favorite recipes.

I think the very best way to eat sesame seeds are in cookies called benne (" Benny") wafers. You can buy your benne wafers in shops around Charleston for Christmas giving but the best benne wafers are homemade. A few simple ingredients and a quick stir add up to cookies that you can't believe.

Benne is the Bantu word for sesame seeds, grown here in the Lowcountry from the 17th to 20th century.


It is an annual plant that grows to 4-6 feet tall and produces white flowers that become seeds rich in calcium, vitamins B and E, iron, zinc, and protein.

The seeds provided much needed nutrients for the hard working slaves.

To make the cookies, raw seeds are first toasted to a golden brown.


Benne Wafer

Yield: 2-4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. butter, softened (if you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Toast the seeds in a frying pan on the stove or cookie sheet in the oven. Stir and cook until golden brown.

Beat brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Add egg, flour, baking powder (and salt if needed) and beat. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.

Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper and drop small balls of dough. Cookies spread a lot so leave plenty of room between.

Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Cookies are done when edges just begin to brown.

Allow to cool for a minute or so on the parchment, then remove to racks.

(Basic recipe is adapted from

If you are thinking ahead to Christmas, benne wafers make nice gifts and an unusual addition to Christmas cookie plates.
One Charleston shop calls them "History You Can Taste".

Bet you can't eat just one!