Posts Tagged ‘Bonneau SC’

Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part III, with questions and answers by Tom Starland

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Twelve years ago, back in the year 2000, I came up with an interesting idea – I would interview myself so I could address some issues on my mind. No one else in the media seemed to be interested so why not do it myself. My ego isn’t that big that I wasted space in our printed papers to include such a self-serving piece, and they were too long to include anyway. So they were posted only on our website ( – where they are today (Archives – Special Features), and every once in a while someone comes across them and really learns something about this paper and me – if they can get through it all. In reading back over them I have to say, if anything I’m consistent. My opinions have stayed the same on most of the subjects covered, although some of the subjects have gone through major changes or disappeared all together.

The first interview dealt with a lot of the paper’s history. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in May/June 2000. You can read it at this link (

The second interview dealt with a lot of frustrations about how bad things in the visual art community were – in 2006. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part II, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in March 2006. Things were bad, but who knew the bottom was going to drop out in 2008. You can read it at this link (

A lot has happened in the six years since the last interview – the economy went to hell, funding for the arts has been under attack, we stopped printing our paper and became an electronic publication, and we got a new President. And, a lot of things have stayed the same.

So in our 25th year of covering the visual arts in the Carolinas, first in Charleston, SC, then the State of South Carolina, and finally in 1997, both North and South Carolina – it’s time for the third interview to take its place in an issue of Carolina Arts.

Q: Are you a little surprised that we are doing this for a third time, considering the bridges you burned in the first two interviews?

A: The biggest surprise is that they still couldn’t find anyone better than you to do this. Or, were you referring to the fact that we have made it through 25 years of publishing an arts newspaper?

Q: I see we are going to have the same banter of the first two interviews.

A: Smart-ass questions deserve smart-ass answers. And, in response to your first one – yes, I am surprised that no one has replaced us in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas. Some have tried or think they will, but they have a rude lesson to learn. And I’m happy to let them learn it.

The main problem is that there is not enough profit in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas while we are still in business and in 25 years we’ve learned to deal with that reality. And, yes I’m surprised we made it through the last six years – which have been a nightmare of change – a changing market, a changing medium, change, change, change.

Q: I take it you don’t like change?

A: I hate all change unless it is easy and benefits me. Who likes change that is bad? We’ve had enough of that in the last six years. If someone told me I had to change the font we use in the paper – I’d hate that, just for the sake that it is a change of what I’m used to, but if they said it would double our readership and be as easy as resetting something on my computer – I still would fight it, but eventually would embrace it, but I wouldn’t like it. First because if it was that easy to double readership by changing a font – that would make me feel stupid for not doing it long ago. Second, because it didn’t take that much effort to change for the better. But, not all change is that easy.

Q: So what changes have been good?

A: Well, the big change of not printing the paper and going online with an electronic version of the paper was hard, but it turned out to be the best change we ever made – next to starting out years ago picking Apple computers to work on. Our readership has gone from a possible of 10,000 (the amount of papers we printed each month) to an average of 100,000 downloads of the paper each month.

A lot of credit for these downloads go to the people and organizations which help us distribute the paper to their e-mail list and friends and contacts. They help spread the paper beyond our reach.

Not printing the paper has saved a lot of trees, landfill space, and money. Although entering our third year online, we are still paying off our printer for previous printings of the paper before 2010. We are also saving a lot on transportation cost, but I feel a little cut off from the art community we cover by not delivering papers to it every month. And, the time spent delivering that paper was consumed in more time spent on the computer covering more areas of the Carolinas. We’re operating a lot more green then before and that’s good for the environment.

We are also able to publish the entire paper in full color vs. a color cover and the rest in black & white or in the end just black & white like we started. I never liked covering the visual arts in black & white. The paper also has active links in it so that readers looking at ads can click and go to the advertiser’s website or click a link from an article and go to a website.

Our ad rates also went down while the size of the paper stayed the same. Which was good for the art community as a whole considering the decline of the economy and arts funding in the last six years.

Q: So what changes were bad?

A: All of them. Like I said I don’t like change. The biggest complaint we have comes from people still stuck in the 20th century. They say they like to hold a paper in their hands to read it. They say they have trouble downloading the paper which takes less than a minute on most modern computers with any decent internet service – other than dial up. And, now they say there is too much to read.

Most of these complaints are really about people not being able to deal with technology. I understand, I feel their pain – I’m one of those people. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to try something new. Linda, my better half, is an adventurous explorer when it comes to the computer. She enjoys telling me of things she discovers that can really make a difference and I have to be embarrassed into trying them – which turn out to be really cool things – real time savers. I hate it when she does that, but I also love the new tricks. They’re amazing.

So these folks who have a hard time adjusting to the new technologies – I know what they’re going through, but they are going to be left behind as the world changes – if they don’t change. Besides holding an iPad or any of the new tablets in your hands is a great way to read any book, magazine or newspaper.

Look, some of these folks who ask where they can get a printed copy make the mistake of saying they used to pick it up at some gallery or art space, but in the last few months it’s been hard for them to get by these places. We haven’t printed the paper in two years. These are not regular readers we need to be concerned with – apparently they didn’t read it that often to begin with.

The other change that is bad for me is the fact that doing this new paper and all the components that go with it – our three blogs, Facebook and now Twitter – has me chained to my computer. We’re providing more information than we would have ever dreamed of in a timely fashion – sometimes within minutes of receiving info from someone on the blogs and Facebook, but it all takes a lot of time to process. And, we are now covering all areas of the Carolinas that we hear from when we used to only cover areas where we got advertising support.

Now that’s a policy I’m still wrestling with. Ever since we began we have fought against being just another “you pay, you play” publication. You know what I’m talking about – a publication which only includes info about the people who buy ads. I’ve always felt that by including everyone, it makes the paper more interesting and informative. When we were printing the paper and delivering it we had to restrict our coverage to areas where we received advertising support and areas near those places. We did include everyone who sent us info on our website once we launched it in 1999.

When we went totally online and didn’t have to print the paper or deliver it, we decided to include everyone the same, but as the amount of info increases we find ourselves doing a lot of work including areas (some very large areas) with little or no support coming from those areas. When it gets to the point that we can’t handle it all at the expense of those who do support us – we may have to make some cuts of those areas. And, that day may be getting closer and closer.

You see, there are a lot of folks who think the media has to cover them as a service to their readers or at least that’s what they hope. They think that by sending the media a press release and saying, “Thanks in advance for helping us spread the word on this important event,” is all they need to do.

Q: I hear and read you asking people to send you info all the time. Is that just a ploy to get them to eventually advertise with you?

A: I know it’s the stupidest thing I do. I want to cover everything and do encourage people to send us info about their exhibits – that’s the focus of the paper – exhibitions taking place in the Carolinas – commercial and non-profit. It’s my Catch-22 (Google it folks).

I want Carolina Arts to offer the most informative and inclusive coverage of the visual arts in the Carolinas, (which we do already – but we want more) but time is limited and we are a business. We can’t do it all for free – all the time.

Q: So you do hope people who are sending you info will advertise or as you would put it – support the paper.

A: You will never get a cold call from us asking you to advertise. We have no advertising sales staff. Yes, we hope the light bulb will go off in people’s head eventually when they tell us how we are providing such a wonderful service to the community that they will one day support us with advertising. They could just send us piles of money, but I’m not holding my breath. Advertising gives you something for your money. Each month we send out an e-mail to those who have advertised with us if they want to again. Eventually people are taken off if we don’t hear from them again.

As far as the time factor goes, here’s the deal. I can process a well written press release in minutes and prepare an image sent in a few more and it’s ready to be placed in the paper. After 25 years you get a system down pat. What takes time is when people send you a mess that is incomplete and you have to go back and forth collecting the info they should have sent to begin with. Some articles take weeks to process. I don’t mind that when it comes to supporters, but it’s a pain when it’s coming from folks who are not. And they seem to always be the most drag on my time.

We expect more from people who are being paid to do this – it’s their job, but we are often disappointed, and we cut those who are beginners some slack, but eventually expect them to catch on, but you’d be amazed at how little people can remember from month to month – year after year. And then there are those special few who actually read the paper, study it and deliver their press releases exactly the way I would have processed it. Folks, their stuff goes in the paper first and is always in the best spots – if there is such a thing.

But getting people to send us info about their exhibits is the frustration that never seems to change. It’s the biggest problem in the visual art community – a lack of communicating and when they do – a lack of knowing how to do it in a professional and timely way. And that goes across the board – commercial galleries, non-profit art spaces and art museums. Some of the worst are colleges and universities – which have better resources at hand to do this job.

Q: I can tell you are tired of this subject by the look you are giving me. How did you like The Hobbit?

A: You are a hobbit.

Q: So how’s your relationship going with the SC Arts Commission?

A: You are a stupid hobbit. Ask me something that matters.

Q: So what do you think is next?

A: Well, you got me there. I have no idea what change will come next. I just know I won’t like it already and probably after years of doing it – what ever it is – won’t understand how it works. And, The Hobbit was great.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the future?

A: I’d like to be able to tell my computer what to do. That’s probably already possible, but either too expensive or to complicated for me. But, that would be nice.

I’d like to get more coverage and advertising from areas we never hear from. I know exhibits are being offered everywhere, we just never hear about them and the people who are presenting them probably think no one wants to hear about them, but I do and I think our readers do too.

Every once in a while I get some free time to do some research on the internet and you’d be amazed at the great exhibits that are taking place around the Carolinas in places that rarely get regional coverage – much less local coverage. I feel sorry for those art spaces that are in the area of coverage of a major city – which has a bunch of non-profit institutions presenting exhibits. Try getting coverage for the little guy when space in most publications for the arts is shrinking and these big institutions are always pleading for local coverage. Oh, it happens when a big name artist is showing in a smaller space – that’s news to these papers, but what about the talented local artist? There’s no room for them in arts coverage in major publications.

Some would say that’s the natural process of survival. The cream will rise to the top, but that’s a bunch of bull droppings. I know a lot of talented artists who will never get their spot in the sunlight, and a handful of less than talented artists who always seem to get their 20 minutes of fame -over and over.

And, I could get rich if I just got a dollar for every time someone asked me “why” I was including this or that exhibit. I collect $5 in my head for every time they ask why I placed that same article next to their’s. It’s a dog eat dog world out there when it comes to media coverage. And some what it to be an exclusive club with restricted membership.

Q: Yet you say you have to beg for people to send you info.

A: There’s the rub. We’re still living in a world where print media coverage is still on top. Who know’s how long that will last – I don’t know, but that space is getting harder to come by. There are a lot of folks out there that don’t think an online publication is worth anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know coverage in our paper doesn’t compare to a local gallery space or artist getting coverage in a local publication that all their friends and neighbors will see. That’s an exciting occasion, but it also stops at the extent of that publication’s coverage – which is limited. An article in our paper has regional coverage which for an artist and gallery has the potential for growing their market. Coverage in our publication might get you a future show in another region of the Carolinas or a visit from a traveler who takes home some works off your gallery’s walls.

For folks under 30 – online media and social networking is their way of life, they don’t know much of anything else. For folks over 30 – it’s all so new and change is coming too fast for many of them. And, for most people the older they are the more they cling to the old ways. But, more and more older folks are seeing the light and are making the leap into the future and finding an amazing world out there. We’re hoping more and more of those folks who say they loved the old Carolina Arts will one day find us online and discover we are better than ever and that turning pages on a tablet is easier then re-setting the clock on their old VHS recorder.

But getting back to the subject at hand – we offer a great opportunity for any art space that presents exhibitions to get coverage in our paper. And, for the time being – it’s free. All you have to do is get the info to us by deadline. I’d tell these folks all about how they can get the info about doing that on our website at ( under the heading “How the Paper Works” – a phrase I’ve written and spoken a million times, but they’re probably not reading this. At least I hope they haven’t been reading our paper all this time and are still not sending us info.

Q: What else do you hope for in the future?

A: Beside computers that do the work when you tell them what to do and for people to promote their exhibits in Carolina Arts? Well, how about Star Trek style transporters, and non-fattening, vitamin enriched, ice cream? I’m ready for that kind of change – where’s that?

Oh, I got one. I wish someone, preferably Apple would come up with something that replaces Facebook. If Apple does it I hope it works better then them trying to replace Google maps.

Q: Well, I was thinking more about the visual arts.

A: Do I get three wishes – that kind of thing?

Well, I wish more people would buy art and buy it at galleries, art fairs, artist’s studio tours, and even online and say they did it because ofCarolina Arts.

I wish Americans would realize that funding for the arts is like the government funding other industries – like corporate farmers, energy companies, and the defense industry. Stop using the arts as a political whipping post. And, the arts should stop wasting some of the money they get from the public by giving the money to artists who insult the public.

And, I guess my third wish would be that I wish the SC Arts Commission and Carolina Arts were BFFs.

Q: The SC Arts Commission keep popping up. What’s that about.

A: Is about me pulling your chain and making people read on hoping I’m going to drop a bomb on them, but I’m not. Like a lot of folks my age, my Momma told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone – don’t say anything at all. I don’t really want to be BFFs with them, they have enough of them already.

Q: Any closing statement?

A: Ya know, here’s another change. So much that I’ve talked about in these three interviews has stayed the same that there’s no reason to go over them again and again. But, here’s an answer to a question a lot of folks have asked me.

If I won the lottery tomorrow and they gave me $300 million in take home cash, the first thing I would do is call my cousin Joyce, who I promised would be my first call, and no I would not go back to printing Carolina Arts. I would definitely spend some money making it a better online publication, but I would not go back to print – ever. This is the future.

And don’t call me again for one of these interviews until another six years passes. I want to be surprised as to where we are then.

A Bike Ride on the South End of the Dike Around Lake Moultrie Near Bonneau, SC

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Here’s something to show that I’m not working all the time.

In the last month, as Charleston, SC, artist, Bob Graham would say – I’ve gotten back on my horse. That’s an inside Facebook joke.

Here at Bonneau Beach, SC, the headquarters of Shoestring Publishing Company, we live in what some people might think of as paradise. We live at the edge of Lake Moultrie and the Francis Marion National Forest – both man made in the mid 1930s by a government trying to pull Americans out of a depression.

The lake was built to provide hydroelectricity for rural Berkeley County and the forest was planted to recover land overworked by cotton plantations. Both projects created jobs for men where there were no jobs. Both projects still provide jobs, recreational opportunities, and a good chunk of undeveloped land. There’s a lesson there missed by today’s politicians, but we’re not going into that today.


Here’s a photo of the old hydro dam (Jefferies Generating Station) and the Pinopolis Lock which can move boats from the lake down to the level of the Tail Race Canal, which then runs into the Cooper River going down to Charleston. The area of Lake Moultrie and the Tail Race Canal in Moncks Corner is in the same area of America’s first summit canal, the Santee Canal, which began operating in 1800 moving crops from inland plantations to Charleston.

Here’s a drawing of the old canal

OK that’s your short history lesson of this area.

Over ten years ago I use to ride my single gear bike around my neighborhood on a route that took me ten miles. Eventually I discovered I could ride the length of the dike, holding back part of Lake Moultrie from our neighborhood over to Overton, another community on the lake toward Moncks Corner, SC, giving me a more interesting ten mile ride. The distance from our end of this part of the dike is about five miles to Overton. I was doing this ride almost every day when it wasn’t raining, too windy, too cold or too hot.

For some reason about a month ago I had decided to give our cars their once a year bath. During the process I got a look at my old bike stashed under the carport. The tires were both flat and it was covered in dust and cobwebs. After I finished the cars I got the bike out and pumped up the tires – they still held air – and cleaned it up and oiled the chain and gear. It didn’t look too bad – worn but still respectable.

The next morning I took it for a test drive and made it through a third of my old route. Man, when I got off that bike my legs were rubber and burning. It’s been awhile since I was knocking out those ten mile rides and I wasn’t 60 years old back then either.

It took about two weeks to get up to doing two-thirds of the route, but I was getting into the swing and getting used to the routine. One Saturday morning as I was making my first leg around my route and coming up to the spot where the dike begins – for some reason I went up that entry road to the entrance.

After 911, Santee Cooper, the power utility which manages the lake, got money from Homeland Security to build gates on the dike to prevent terrorists from driving a truck up on the dike and blowing it up or pouring poison into the lake. Oh, I guess I didn’t mention that the dike is wide enough to drive on and Santee Cooper’s security drives it everyday. Eventually they put a pedestrian gate in the fence as people who used to walk the dike for exercise complained and a bike can fit through it.

Funny thing, there are a number of lake access roads in our neighborhood that lead right down to the lake so anyone, any time of the day could ride into the lake and dump a truck load of poison into it. Of course those terrorists would be at great risk – after all this is Berkeley County and almost every household has an arsenal of guns on hand and every stranger has a hundred eyes on them when they enter the area.

So, I’m up on the dike – there’s a little breeze and it’s a wonderful morning. I’ll check it out a bit. I had been thinking about my old days of riding on the dike. By the time I hit one of the turns in the dike I realize I had gotten myself into something I hadn’t planned on and as stubborn as I am – I’m about to do something pretty stupid – I keep going.

By the time I make it to the other end of the dike where Overton begins, my butt is killing me and I’ve got to go all the way back. I’ve already gone over six miles and it’s at least six miles back to the house. The sun is a lot higher in the sky and it’s getting hotter, I don’t have any water, I forgot my sunglasses and had the wrong hat on. I had my cell phone with me, but there is not a lot of coverage in that area. It was all coming back to me how I used to do these bike rides – I was prepared. And, I’m 60 now.

What really hit me smack in the face is the reality and memory of why I didn’t ride the dike when there was a breeze. When the breeze is at your back on the first leg of the trip – it’s in your face all the way back.

Now, don’t think that this experience wasn’t a wonderful event. I was out in nature and seeing all kinds of animals – mostly birds on this ride. There were wild turkeys, egrets, great blue herons, osprey, woodpeckers, Canadian geese, plenty of turkey vultures, cormorants, all kinds of small common birds – a bald eagle and pelicans – yes, pelicans on the lake. Of course there are plenty of turtles, dragon flies, and bull frogs in the ponds behind the dike. I hadn’t seen any gators or snakes yet, but I know they are there.

I still remember the day I was on the dike and came across a dead ten foot gator that a boat must have hit and killed. It had washed up on the rocks of the dike. The head and teeth were huge. I’ve looked at the lake totally different since that day.

Anyway, on the ride back I was up against that great breeze I enjoyed earlier, luckily to my side most of the way but in my face for the last mile and a half. Near the end the dragon flies were flying along side me as were the turkey vultures – they could smell – old man down. At one point two pelicans passed me floating in the air – heading in the same direction. I had this feeling of – look behind you – and when I did, there was a third one just above my head, just a little to my rear and on the left. I hit the brakes and stood there thinking – Hey guys, I’m not that old yet. My story is not over.

When I finally made it home – talk about rubber legs and I couldn’t sit very well the rest of the day. But I recovered.

So this Saturday, a week later, I was more prepared and I took my camera and all necessary items. So here’s a little photo journey of a bike ride on the dike. It was a little earlier, so there was some mist or fog, no wind, and I went directly to the dike to start off.

Because of the mist I had to wait until I was about four and a half miles into the ride before I could take my first photo.

This is a shot of the Overton neighborhood on the other end of this part of the dike.

This was a group of Canadian Geese getting ready for their morning swim. They were coming from the National Forest side of the dike to a little beach at the Overton end.

Here’s a shot of that beach. Santee Cooper has not filled this in with rocks to re-enforce the dike – I guess to give folks on this side a little beach area.


This part of the dike runs behind the neighborhood. I continued to ride the dike behind Overton till the end. The gate for people to pass through was 20 feet down the side of the dike to the left on another access road, so this was the end for me today.

Here’s a shot off in the distance at the smoke stacks of the Jefferies Generating Station. Santee Cooper now burns coal there – the hydro days are over. But, it’s a museum now.

On the way back, here’s a shot at a backyard garden area of one of the residences in Overton.


When I got back to that little beach I could see that the geese were swimming back to the beach so I got off the bike to see if I could sneak a picture.

Here they all are.

Here’s a shot at one of the public access parts of the dike. On Hwy. 52 which runs parallel to the dike for a while there is a picnic area, called the Canal, part of Francis Marion National Forest, where you can park and walk to the dike. And, where the general public has access to mother nature – some elements of that public always has to leave a sign of them being there.

This is also where the Palmetto Trail comes onto the dike.

The Palmetto Trail (not completely finished) runs from Awendaw, SC, on the Atlantic Ocean all the way up to where South Carolina shares a border with Western North Carolina at Oconee State Park – a 425 + mile trail. A small portion of it runs atop the dike on the northern end of Lake Moultrie. This part of the trail is mostly through the Franics Marion National Forest and around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.

Here’s a view of the back side of the dike. It should be noted that you can’t hear cars on Hwy. 52 passing by, but you will hear trains passing by on the CSX tracks that run between the lake and Hwy. 52. Those tracks run north to south. We see and hear Florida orange trains, coal trains, freight trains, and Amtrack – going by all day and night. When it’s quiet you can hear the trains blow their horns three miles away, but most of the time I just don’t hear it anymore after years of hearing them.

You can’t see it very well, but there is a bald eagle with something it caught and then came to eat it on top of this utility pole. I’m using a pocket camera which isn’t too bad, but it’s not like a real camera with a real telephoto lens. You have to look close, but it’s there. We see and hear eagles all the time in our neighborhood. The pelicans are the unusual sight around here these days.

Here is the two and a half mile marker. Someone has put half mile markers down for walkers I guess.

Here’s a shot looking back toward the way back home – well before several turns of the dike.

Here’s a shot looking back toward Overton.

Here is a shot at what I call big bird poop – full of seeds.

Here’s a shot at the results of big bird poop. Birds are great pollinators. They eat the fruit off of plants and bushes and the next thing you know, you have plants and bushes growing in the rocks – growing everywhere.

Here’s a shot at the intake of water from the lake for the Rembert C. Dennis Fish Hatchery located between Bonneau and Bonneau Beach. They raise a lot of the fish to restock the lake – which now has two dams on the rivers flowing out of the lake to the ocean. There’s a fish lift on the dam at the Santee River.

Here’s the intake pipe.

Here’s looking down the backside of the dike to the hatchery.

Here’s the last turn of the dike. You can see the Bonneau water tower in the background. Lake Moultrie now provides good drinking water for the region – thanks to Homeland Security – keeping those terrorist out of our lake.


Here’s a couple of view of a little protected cove near the entrance to the dike on our side. At this point I spotted something down in the rocks I want to get a closer look at. So, I get off the bike and jump down off the road level of the dike.

Here’s a view from down in the rocks.

Here’s a sign of a former dike bike rider. I guess they didn’t make it home one day.

I am never surprised at what I find in these rocks along the dike. Anything that can fall out of a boat, be tossed out of a boat, or blow into the water from someone’s backyard – you’ll find washed up on the rocks, not to mention all the junk the fishermen leave there. And, mother nature contributes too.

You’ll find dead fish, dead animals, dead animal parts, animal bones (turkey vultures) and parts of trees. What’s amazing is when you find a huge tree trunk that must weigh tons – washed all the way up to the top of the rocks. That shows how strong the storms are on the lake with such a shallow bottom.

Here’s a closer shot of that little cove – closer to water level.

Here’s the turtle shell I spotted from the top of the dike. A boat must of hit it and cracked its shell in half and then it eventually washed up on the rocks where – as Rudy Mancke, of ETV’s NatureScene says, birds turned turtle into bird. If it had been whole I would have taken it home as a real prize.


This last shot is looking toward the end of my ride on the dike.

It turned out to be a two and a half hour ride. It takes a lot longer when you’re stopping and taking pictures – especially if you’re going to climb down off the top of the dike into the rocks. And, it took a lot longer now that I’m 60 – but, my legs were less rubbery this time, but my butt was still sore. TMI – sorry.

That’s an adventure here in what some people call paradise. We’ll get back to the visual arts – real soon.

P.S. – I received an e-mail from Willard Strong of Santee Cooper Corporate Communications clearing up and correcting a few things I wrote in my blog entry – some based on “myth” I guess. I want to make these folks happy as they provide my electricity and I like my air conditioning.

Here’s what he offered: First, “the hydro days are over” is not accurate. Santee Cooper’s hydroelectric operations (and Pinopolis Lock operations) have been going on continuously since Feb. 17, 1942, when the first unit at the Pinopolis Power Plant (renamed Jefferies Hydroelectric Station in 1944 for Sen. and Gov. Richard M. Jefferies). The five units at Jefferies Hydro (totaling 128 megawatts of generating capability) are still in service. Also, there is not a “museum” at the hydro plant, although there are old pictures on the wall of a room there. Tours are available. (Side note: There is the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center inside the gates of the Old Santee Canal Park, formerly the Old Santee Canal State Park, Santee Cooper assumed operation of the park over a decade ago).

Also, the “fish lift” you refer to is on the Rediversion Canal (not the Santee River) at the St. Stephen Powerhouse, constructed and owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1983. As you may know, this is called the “Cooper River Rediversion Project,” although the Cooper River was never really diverted as the Santee River was, the Cooper’s flow was altered by Rediversion, as it was by the original diversion of the Santee River. This 14-mile long canal between Lake Moultrie and the Santee River is technically not part of the original Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project (constructed from April 1939 to December 1942), and is not part of Santee Cooper’s federal license to conduct hydroelectric operations. However, it is now an integral part of this fairly complex lake system. There are three hydro units at the St. Stephen Powerhouse and Santee Cooper receives the 84 megawatts it is capable of producing and Santee Cooper actually controls it remotely (turning it on and off when needed or when there is enough water to run it) from our energy control center at the Moncks Corner headquarters.

You, as a publisher, please indulge me on two style notes: We officially use “Tailrace Canal” (I know the S.C. DOT made signs on the bridge with two words and “Tail Race Plaza”). “Tailrace” is actually a generic word in dictionaries. The other is “Canada geese,” sounds awkward to say, but my trusty AP Stylebook says that’s the way to do it. If you’re interested in more history about us, we have “Powering Generations, History of Santee Cooper 1934-2009,” released last year and published by The R.L. Bryan Co. in Columbia. The book is available for purchase at the Berkeley County Museum. I am the museum’s board chairman. It’s only $25, a bargain by hardbound prices of today. Hope this helps you understand more about us. If you have more questions, I’d be happy to assist you.

Best regards,

Willard Strong
Santee Cooper Corporate Communications
Corporate Headquarters
1 Riverwood Drive
Moncks Corner, South Carolina 29461

Death of a Snowman by Tom “AM” Starland

Sunday, February 21st, 2010


The Incredible Shrinking man – a Blog-O-Drama

He started his journey one gray and dreary Friday afternoon, but before his arrival – these are the facts leading up to that point.

We were expecting rain and forecasters had called for chances of snow by the end of the day – a story we had heard many times before, yet most people’s hopes were always shattered with a million glances at the sky and their outdoor thermometers. Friday started much the same except there was no rain – dark gray clouds, but no rain. By 3pm small flakes of snow began to fall, but the temps were still at 34 degrees and every individual flake disappeared as it hit the ground or any other surface. A quick check at the Weather Channel showed rain covering our area. This was unusual.

I had over 25 years of experience with snow from my days of living in Michigan – a state where they say if you don’t like the weather – just wait ten minutes and it will change. I knew the signs of snow well. I also knew the horrible things that come with snow – things many of us northern refugees never speak of – we don’t want to revisit the pain.

My son Andrew claimed it must be colder than 34 degrees as it was snowing, but I told him it can be much colder high up above in the clouds to cause snow flakes to form and fall, but the surface temperature was much more important for accumulation, and accumulation is the name of the game for folks in these parts.

We saw snow falling in our small community on the eastern shores of Lake Moultrie – Bonneau, SC, just last year in November. For over four hours big fluffy flakes fell from the sky, but all committed suicide upon touching the ground. There was no accumulation. Accumulation hadn’t happened since the Christmas of 1989, over 21 years ago – after Hurricane Hugo devastated our area and the greater Charleston, SC, area as well as anything in it’s path up through I-26 to Columbia, SC, then on through I-77 to Charlotte, NC, and beyond, roaring at over 100 mph. We decided to visit relatives in Rhode Island for the holidays that year – and to enjoy some snow with our then two year old son. Later we learned we missed the longest sustained snowfall in recent Charleston history. I didn’t feel like I missed a thing.

By 4:30pm, the snow was still coming down, but the thermometer still read – 34 degrees. I told my son – we’ll see what happens after the sun goes down. If there is going to be any accumulation – if – it will show signs on the top of the cars in the yard – at least those that had not been driven that day. The cold hard steel is a good breeding ground for accumulation.

By 5:30pm, signs of slush were showing on the tops of two cars in the yard. Could it be happening? Were all the planets coming into alignment – as the weather forecasters claimed would be needed for the elusive accumulation effect. Checking the thermometer – it read 33 degrees.

By the time the unseen sun was setting on the lake out front, patches of white were showing on the tops of cars and other surfaces above the ground, but I knew that wasn’t enough to ensure ground accumulation – the real deal. But, it was enough to encourage me to dig out the digital still camera and plug in the digital movie camera to charge its internal batteries. Maybe there would be something to record on tape – perhaps a final message to loved ones or a final sign-off for humanity – who knows.

At 6:30pm I started dinner. My wife Linda would be home around 7:30pm after a 12-hour shift at the local 911 dispatch office. She called at 7:05pm and said snow was on the roads and they had been dealing with accidents all over the county for the last few hours.

I chuckled – Southerners just can’t drive in snow – much less rain for that matter. They just don’t know to slow down and they have no experience or memory of what to do in adverse weather conditions when behind the wheel of a car. They think they’re driving a snowplow. Elevated viaducts and bridges freeze up before other parts of the roads as the cold wind blows under them.

Linda had to pass over the dreaded Tail Race Canal bridge before she got home. My thoughts were – will I ever see her again? But, I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t help to call her attention to the dangers she faced.

I said, “Surely the Highway Department in Monck’s Corner would already be spreading sand on the bridge,” – they don’t use salt much in the South – they save it for cooking vegetables. But, she said they had no reports of that activity at work, so she said she would be taking it slowly. I just hoped some Yahoo wouldn’t ram into the back of her on the way home.

As I opened the door to look outside after turning off the phone – it was there – accumulation! There was about an inch on the ground and it was coming down hard. I started to have flashbacks to dark times in Michigan – then I came out of it when I heard something boiling over in the kitchen.

Linda finally made it home with stories of cars scattered along the sides of the road, and now there was at least two inches of accumulated snow – maybe more. We ate what could have been our last hot meal and then someone – I think it was our son – yelled – “Let’s go outside and play in the snow!” Oh, if he only knew what I know – he wouldn’t be so eager to venture into what some folks call – white death.

So like moths drawn to a bright light – we dressed for winter conditions. I told my son he would need more than flip-flops on his feet to deal with what was lurking outside.

As we opened the door, our faces were instantly pelted with stinging white flakes of cold moisture. You’ve heard about acid-rain? This wasn’t anything like that at all, but my brain was exploding with memories I had hoped had long faded to oblivion. And, the next thing I know a ball of solid ice whizzed past my head – missing me by millimeters. I heard the woosh and it was all coming back – my winter nightmares had found me – deep in the heart of Dixie.

Before I knew it – my misguided son was rolling a ball of snow around the yard – bigger and bigger and bigger. Did he know what he was doing? Did I transfer some weird wolverine genes to him?

I looked over towards the direction I last saw Linda and shouted to her fuzzy figure, “Do you see what he’s doing? Is this what we raised him to do? Tell him to stop!” but I could see – she was too far gone herself – she had this strange grin on her face and had her arms raised to the sky as if manna was falling from heaven. I asked myself, “Am I the only one who knows what’s happening here – what could happen? Has the world gone insane?”

I could hear little children screaming in the distance. They were probably lost – strayed too far from the safety of their front doors into the white wilderness – never to be seen by their parents again. Innocent fools.

I think I blacked out for a period of time or could have gone snow-blind, but the next thing I remember, I was helping my son lift this big mass of snow onto another massive boulder of snow and before I knew it – he was there – standing in front of our home. They called him – Snowman, but I knew him by other names – like “He who shall not be named” and “Mr. Fezzywink”.

He stood there silent as the pyramids and almost as big.

Friday evening around 8:30pm

I asked, “What do you want? Why are you here?” He said nothing. He just stood there and starred at me with the blankest look on a face I’ve ever seen – except for Sarah Palin at a news conference. But, that wasn’t funny now and he didn’t catch my thoughts as he didn’t laugh either.

I shouted, “Is this about global warming?” He said nothing. I replied to his continued silence, “I’m a believer you know.” I had seen the movie, The Day After Tomorrow. I knew global warming doesn’t mean the earth will heat up – it cools down – in fact freezes over. He just starred back at me. The silence was maddening.

I starred back at him and asked, “Is this about Girl Scout cookies? If it is, I can buy a few boxes – if that’s what you’re selling,” but he just stood there as silent as the SC Arts Commission about one of my blog entries.

Well, I had enough. I was cold, wet and had already missed an episode ofTwo-and-a-half-Men I may have already seen a dozen times and there were better things to waste my time on – inside. He can stand out here all he wants in this continuing onslot of falling snow. If he’s not going to talk – I’m going to walk.

I went inside gesturing to the others to do the same – someone had to be a voice of reason – as I reached for the doorknob -an ice ball hit me square in the back. I didn’t even look back, I wasn’t going to give whoever it was the attention they so desperately needed.

In my younger days I would have closed the door behind me, ducked down out of sight, and quickly run to another door leading out to the back yard and sneaked up behind my attacker with two handfuls of payback, but I was much wiser now – I just turned and locked the door. We’ll see how they like spending the night with our silent friend. Unfortunately the person at the door was my better half, my voice of reason, and the person I would rely on to proof this blog entry – so I opened the door and two people slipped in. After a quick count, I knew we had all returned safely. I lifted the blinds on the door – our tall silent visitor was still there – giving me his back now.

OK. We’ll see if he’s still there in the morning and if he is – he’ll be talking or he won’t be staying long. Like Michigan, the weather in South Carolina can change on a dime. It could reach 60 even 70 degrees during the winter on any given day. And, even if it is 40 degrees – if the sun is shining – it can seem like 50 degrees. This isn’t going to be like 1989 – I saw the extended weather forecast.

Linda had to work Saturday and she was bemoaning the missed opportunities to play more in the snow the next day. I guess she could see the look on my face as she asked, “What?” I asked, “You want to play more in the snow? What! – with him?” Was this stranger here to take my woman?

We had left the outside lights on so we could see how long the snowfall would last so later I walked to the nearest window and peered outside to see him standing there. I thought to myself, “We’ll see how you feel after a sleepless night – bright lights will keep you awake and I might even encourage our son to crank up the Rock Band.” If I learned anything from the Bush administration – if – it was to treat your captured to bright lights and rock & roll. I might even waterboard him in the morning or would that be “snowboard” in this case?

By 11pm, we began to settle down for the evening (you can only take so much of an Olympic Opening Ceremony) and one more glance outside showed that the snow was still coming down. Maybe we will get the six inches predicted on the late news. As a 911 dispatcher Linda doesn’t get snow days. When a hurricane comes she doesn’t get to hit the roads like the rest of us – she has to pack her bags and move into the operations center. She had called for a patrol car to pick her up in the wee hours of the morning to take her to work. The roads would be like driving in a bumper car ride at the local fair for the poor folks who had to go to work on this Saturday morning.

It was a restless night, I got up just after 3am and went to the window – I think it had stopped snowing, but my eyes were blurry so I couldn’t be sure. When I woke the next morning just before 7am I jumped to the window like I was a kid racing to the Christmas tree to see what Santa had brought.

Wow, what a sight – it was what some call a winter wonderland – right here in Bonneau! The skies were clear and I quickly dressed and grabbed my cameras to make sure I got this all on the record – as it wouldn’t last long. I woke our son who may have just gone to bed a few hours before so he wouldn’t miss the sights and we both started to explore this new world outside. Our visitor was still there as silent as ever, but he was all fluffy now. His new look didn’t fool me one bit.

About 7:30am Saturday morning

About an hour later Saturday morning

We quickly discovered we had gotten almost 8 inches of snow and it was all the good kind of snow – snowball snow – good packing snow. And, yes, several times that morning I just caught a projectile heading towards me in time to dodge out of the way – my old instincts were returning from the fog of former wars.

As the amazement of this winter scene faded we realized that it was cold outside – very cold and our feet and pant legs were wet once again. This was a morning for pancakes. So we returned inside and I started the process – staring several times outside – wondering about our silent sentinel friend outside in between flipping cakes. Was he really a friend or what I expected – a foe? What did he want? Was this a sign? A harbinger of the future? I didn’t know, but I did know we wouldn’t have to put up with him for long.

After all, I had work to do – Friday was deadline day for our March 2010 issue of Carolina Arts and it was now a race to pull the paper together and hand it over to the printer. So most of my day was spend at the computer, plus the Winter Olympics had started Friday evening and I listened to some of the events in the background as I worked. Off and on I would need to go downstairs to the kitchen to get something to drink, have lunch, prepare for the next dinner – as I passed by doors and windows downstairs I could see the snow was fading and the wind was blowing the snow out of the trees. By sundown Saturday the scene outside was a whole different picture and the man standing just outside our door – he didn’t look so fluffy anymore. In fact, he looked more to his true character – dirty – with bits of leaves and small sticks covering most of his body. And, he didn’t stand so tall – so confident – so demanding.

I asked, “Would you like a cup of hot tea or cocoa?” to get a rise out of him. He said nothing. “The weatherman says it’s going to get cold tonight – down in the 20′s,” but as I said it I thought I saw a slight smile on his face and realized – that was a factor in his favor. The colder the better for him. Regaining my composure I added, “That’s OK, don’t worry – the highs tomorrow will be in the 50s and bright sun – all day.” He just stared back and I went back inside to cook another wonderful meal for my family.

But, Sunday turned out to be a partly cloudy day and I discovered that this wise guy had chosen just the right spot to stand in our front yard – in shade most of the morning, an hour of sun and then it slipped (the sun that is) behind a massive tree in our yard and again only an hour of direct sun during the late afternoon. And, like most days – an hour before sundown – the sun slipped down below a bank of clouds across the lake.

Yet, it was not totally a perfect Carolina day for this star of the silent screen. He was shorter, filthy as ever and his arms were beginning to droop.

Late Sunday afternoon

I instructed him, “It’s not just the sun that is your enemy my good man – it’s the temperature too”. The 50 degrees had taken its toll. I wouldn’t have to put up with his glaring stare for too much longer. Before I returned to the warmth of our home, I asked him one more question – “Why does the Porridge bird lay its eggs upside down in the air?” He said nothing. My final reply of the day was, “Well then, you better stay on the yellow rubber line.”

I was having flashbacks. That was a line from a Fireside Theatre album from my college days. This guy was really getting on my nerves.

I think it was Monday or Tuesday when this silent stranger lost his head. It didn’t fall off – it just shrunk away. There was no hope of him talking now. His message, whatever it was would remain unknown. I didn’t care – I just wanted him out of here. He was blocking my parking space. Friday night as the snow collected in that large tree in our front yard I moved two of our cars out of the way of possible falling limbs – even in a good rain shower we lose branches – left and right.

By Wednesday morning it looked as if this joker’s head had returned, but on closer inspection his middle had shrunk away to what looked like a head. He was going fast. There was a growing pile of leaves, bits of twigs, and whatever else came off the ground as he was being made – all around this mound of dirty snow, yet behind his dirty covering – the snow was as white as can be and still – snowball ready. There was also a wet puddle spreading out from around his bottom base. Our stranger was hemorrhaging his life’s blood.

Growing a second head – very clever

A day later, someone asked, “Are we just going to leave it there?” I thought to myself – gee, this guy has hung in there for five days after his arrival. What can we do – pitch him on the burn pile in the back yard, take him to the edge of the lake and give him a burial at sea (the lake does drain into the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston), or should we call 911? Who was I to make such a decision? You never know – it could snow again tomorrow, but I knew it wouldn’t. I finally decided – lets just see how long he lasts. After all, the Olympics were taking place – lets see if this guy has the stuff of Nordic champions. Does he have the endurance to go for the gold?

Not a good Thursday for our visitor

By Friday afternoon – this one time pyramid of a man – was nothing but a small misshapen ball. His arms lay scattered at what was once his sides. Yet, there was enough snow there for a few snowballs. I told the group standing around the door inside our house looking at what was left of this once menacing figure, “Do you realize that by 8pm tonight – we will have had snow on the ground in our front yard for a full week?” It was amazing. A little disgusting too, but amazing. This is South Carolina – coastal South Carolina – the Lowcountry!

Hanging in there for TGIF

At 8:30pm Friday evening – a full week later

My hat’s off to you little man. Actually my hat was off of him too, but I now admired this silent visitor for his endurance. Yet, I wonder what his mission was. Did he come to warn us? Did he come to scare us – like the Republicans? Or did he just come to show us what Mother Nature can do.

Early Sunday morning

By noon Sunday – a 65 degree day

Look, he was no Jack Bauer – a man of action, but he lasted for a longer time than I’ve watched 24, American Idol, or Fox News for that matter. But, I hope it’s another 20 plus years before anymore of his kind come around here. I lived in Michigan, I know what winter is like – South Carolina is no Michigan. And, I’m glad of that.

Sunday around 3pm – may he rest in peace

He left this world as we know it – Sunday afternoon – almost nine days after his arrival.

Morning After Snow in Bonneau, SC – Feb. 2010

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Well, as you can see, it was a winter wonderland – the morning after. It was well worth the 20+ year wait.

The only problem – it took some time to find the cord to download images from the camera into the computer.

Here’s our evening snowman in the morning.

This is looking out our front door.

Another view across the street.

Simply amazing!

I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years for this to happen again, but then again, I hope we never have another winter as cold as this one.

Snowing in Bonneau, SC – Again in 2010

Friday, February 12th, 2010

This strange winter has delivered just about all the things I lived with back in Michigan, so many years ago – except the days when it’s 60 and 70 degrees in between.

Today it started to snow at about 3pm and it hasn’t stopped yet at almost 11pm. We went out after dinner and made this snowman. I can’t wait to see what it looks like outside tomorrow morning.


This isn’t Washington, DC, but it’s just as strange to us here in South Carolina.

Hurricane Hugo the Art Critic

Monday, September 21st, 2009

It was 20 years ago today – no this is not the opening to The Beatles song,Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it was 20 years ago today that Hurricane Hugo struck just north of Charleston, SC, in the middle of the night and then proceeded to rip a path through South Carolina – all the way up through Charlotte, NC, at 100mph. Pictures from space showed the size of Hugo covered the entire state of SC – it was a big mother.


The joke back then was that weather forecasters used to say that when a hurricane hits the mainland its strength tends to fizzle out – not this time. We live in Bonneau, SC, in Berkeley County – about 45 minutes northwest of Charleston – at least 30 feet above sea level – so we had no worries about storm surge that far inland. The only problem was Hurricane Hugo didn’t know about that fizzling out thing. But, we still had an office in downtown Charleston on East Bay Street, a half a block from Charleston harbor – so we had big worries about our office space. We were still running IF Labs, a custom black and white photo processing business and were two years into our new business – Charleston Arts, a newspaper about the arts community in Charleston. That’s right, back then we covered all the arts.


Linda and I had been through some close-call hurricanes when we lived in downtown Charleston. She was from Myrtle Beach, SC, and had been in hurricanes all her life – I was a transplanted Yankee from Michigan and from what I saw of them – they were kinda cool – Mother Nature’s fury and all that. Of course we were renters back then. We used to go down to the Battery in Charleston and watch the waves crash against the wall – during those close-call hurricanes. Hurricane Hugo was directed right at us, a more powerful storm, we now were home owners, had a two-year old son, and with an office almost on the harbor – this was different – not so cool.

We did all the things you are suppose to do in preparation for a hurricane and then waited. We didn’t think about evacuation back then – remember we were 30 ft. above sea level, 45 minutes inland and the fizzle factor, but we learned a lesson that night.

Long nightmare short. During the middle of the storm a very large pine tree in our backyard decided it might be safer to come inside the house – entering through the roof, we ended up huddled in a hallway with a mattress over our heads singing children’s songs to drown out the noise until we all fell asleep. The next morning we could not recognize our neighborhood – couldn’t even find the road in front of our house. Life as we knew it a few days before would be over for years.

You don’t want to hear about dealing with insurance companies, FEMA, and waiting in lines for everything – it’s not a pretty story.

Our office in Charleston? It took a week or so before we could even get into Charleston to check it our, but amazingly enough we learned where we were located in Charleston was one of the highest points in the city. The historic building had walls that were nearly two feet thick and we just suffered a little bit of leaking around a couple of windows – no real damage – except there was no business for our businesses.

Our Oct. 89 issue of Charleston Arts was at our printer – they lost the roof of their building and that copy of the paper. We ended up doing a few 8 1/2″ x 11″ pages, copied at Kinkos, of info about the storm and its impact on the art community which was shut down for almost a year. Our headline was – Hurricane Hugo the Art Critic.

The final word is – we survived, recovered and learned some lessons about insurance, good neighbors, FEMA, and hurricanes that fizzle when they hit mainland. The next hurricane with Charleston’s name on it – we went as far as Alabama to get out of its way. And, a Thank You! shout out to the workers who drove up from Jacksonville, FL, from Florida Power and Light who came and restored power to our community in a few weeks instead of the months it would have taken our local power company to put things back together – and an upgrade on equipment too. They worked long hard hours to give us power.

Hurricane Hugo was no Hurricane Katrina, but when it comes to hurricanes – there are no good ones. I’m glad we have had none come our way this year – knock on wood till November. An experience like that should be good for a hundred years.