Attention Southern Writers and Journalists! Submission Call!

From Managing Editor of Twisted South Magazine:

“Twisted South is currently accepting submissions for previously unpublished short fiction, nonfiction, flash pieces/vignettes, book/album and music reviews, and historical essays. All work must exemplify an eccentric aspect of contemporary or historical Southern culture. Please limit your work to 2500 words except for flash fiction and book reviews which should be limited to 500 words. Book reviews should be on a book that showcases eccentric Southern culture or a Southern author. We like Barry Hannah, Rick Bragg, Flannery O’Connor, and Larry Brown, to name a few.

We’re looking for pieces that exemplify Southern culture whether it’s the sinister underbelly tales of obscure juke-joints to the cufflink charm of high-class aristocracy. We want pieces that speak to our readers in a voice that exemplifies the South’s hardships, triumphs, social attitudes, labors, humor and truths. If it’s eccentrically Southern, we want to read it.

Send submissions to: twistedsouthlit@gmail.com. Please include a brief bio of no more than 250 words with your submissions. Also, include the type of work you’re submitting in the subject line (short, flash, etc.). Simultaneous submissions are welcome provided you notify us as soon as the work is accepted elsewhere. Please allow 3-6 weeks for reply.”

Walking Beside Me

Daddy’s girl

My father was a lover of history, so many of our family trips were taken to historic sites. Never one to follow the tour, he would “follow” within earshot so he could gobble up the information recited by the guide while wandering around with child-like wonder.  It annoyed my Mom to no end as she was often stuck with two very active and curious children. As she describes it, unlike Dad who could in his ADHD hyper-focused way listen without actually being engaged, Mom learned more by staying with the tour group and frantically writing notes. But it was these trips to far-gone places in time that opened up for me an entire world of history, imagination and the characters that filled their spaces.

Dad preaching in his first and only church for 35 years. Founded in 1639, a perfect fit for a history lover.

It’s the trips I take with my own family that make me long for the days my Dad and I eventually merged in our love for history and would wander together.  I listened to him intently.  Hanging on his every word. I attribute my love for writing and history to him.  Whether these be inherited traits or learned, I know not, but my children love history and its many stories.  Their imaginations, like mine, like my Dad’s, swimming in the what was.  So when I told the family that we were heading back to South Carolina’s lovely Lowcountry and Rice Hope Plantation for an article, everyone literally jumped for joy!  This time I was sharing the experience with my Mom as this was as much a part of her history as it was mine.  Berkeley County was the home of many of our kin and the plantations they once proudly owned, the rice they grew for profit and yes, the slaves they exploited (a fact not lost on me). But this trip was more about its zany proprietor and her stories than my own family history.  Lou Edens, a colorful Lowcountry character who weaves Aesop fable-like stories and whom my Dad would have loved to talk with over a glass of wine while wandering the grounds of the sprawling plantation.

Lou Edens, the self-described zany entrepreneur

I love a good character and so when I first met Ms. Lou in June 2011 I was hooked. She tells fantastic stories and is a well-spring of historic knowledge about the area.  Not to mention she raised peacocks, emus, ostriches, gamecocks, chickens, has an escape-artist of a donkey and his valet, a sheep, owns multiple businesses and is a proud, self-made Southern belle. This post is not long enough to include everything she said, did or made a quick quip about during our visit.  Nor is the article I am currently writing about this charming woman.  You just have to experience the “Ms. Lou Effect” for yourself. But let me give you a little taste of what you can expect.

Rice Hope’s founding

We arrived late in the evening.  There to greet us at the door was Ms. Lou with a “Hi y’all! Welcome back to Rice Hope!” The house was decorated modestly for Christmas with a small table-top tree she referred to as the “grande fur tree of the manor”.  She showed us to our rooms, which the kids remembered and ran up the stairs to without hesitation. “It’s like visiting Mimi’s house except we have to pay!” the kids exclaimed. They were eager to get to sleep so they could wake in the morning and run the grounds looking for lizards and butterflies.  We hadn’t the heart to tell them that those creatures were happily sleeping for the winter but Mother Nature had many surprises for them despite the season.

Anna swinging, the ducks in the background, those little black dots on the water

The next morning we were awakened by the smell of breakfast cooking (tomato pie) in the kitchen and children frantically dressing to get out on the grounds for exploration.  We gave Mom some extra time to get ready and wake up to the world she was about to experience. Meanwhile we took the children outside to run around and get their sillies out before breakfast. The sight that awaited us was truly one right out of the pages of National Geographic.  There are on the river were literally thousands of ducks who had come to stay for the winter.  They were all conversing with one another and when a bunch of them decided to take off at once, the sound was like that of a car engine starting.  It was amazing.  I told Ms. Lou later that I wasn’t sure what the black masses on the river were at first, to which she replied, “I thought they were weeds.  But then they started talkin’.  I didn’t know weeds could talk!” The ducks covered every inch of the ancient rice fields that lay beneath their webbed feet.  Suddenly I heard my daughter cry out, “Look! A bald eagle! No, TWO!” And sure enough, gliding above us were two bald eagles. Paul and I believed them to be Ospry but when I asked Ms. Lou about these birds she said that there were many eagles that nested in the area, especially when the ducks migrated in.  Food is abundant both in fish and the occasional isolated duck.

Freshly picked tangerine from a 200 year old tree

It was finally time for breakfast.  The kids hurried inside for they knew they would get a delicious meal and a few stories from the Grande Dame herself.  Ethan had presented Ms. Lou with a Mr. Snail story (a character who enjoys life inside Ethan’s vast imagination) when we arrived and wouldn’t you know it but she had a dream about Mr. Snail that night!

“I had a dream about a snail last night.  He saw a beautiful tangerine tree in the garden with ripe fruit hanging from it. So he went to pick one to eat it for breakfast but he found that he was too small to reach up and pick it.  Suddenly a little boy and girl came by and saw how sad he was.  They asked him if they could help him.  He said, yes, I can’t seem to be able to reach that lovely fruit. The little boy reached up into the tree and picked a tangerine for the snail.  He thanked them and peeled and ate the tangerine and was so happy.”

As she finished the story, both kids hanging on her every word, she walked out the side porch door, plucked a tangerine from the 200 year old tree in the garden and presented it to Ethan who happily ate it. “I’m keeping the seeds to plant them at home, Mom!” A history lesson woven into a fable to thank a little boy for his generous gift of a story; from one storyteller to another.

200 year old camellia (said to be the largest in SC) with peppermint striped flowers

When you wander through the house and the lush grounds covered in centuries old live oaks dripping with spanish moss, you begin to feel the presence of the many people who populated it throughout its long history.  The ghosts of the past are everywhere shading themselves under the trees, working the rice fields, hunting fowl, lounging on the porch.  My Dad would have been in absolute heaven.  We were the only guests that weekend and Ms. Lou makes it clear that the house is yours while you stay with her.

As I interviewed her, she proudly talked about the rich history of the Lowcountry, her people and the camellias that graced her garden.  One camellia is said to be the oldest bush in South Carolina at 200 years old and 10 feet high. Mom remarked that Dad would have been out here either bargaining to buy the property or plotting his next gardening move at home in Roswell. But Ms. Lou is not parting with Rice Hope.  She and my Dad were of the same mindset, history is meant to be shared. She bought the property when it came up for sale in 1996 because as she said, it looked like a good business opportunity. She had been selling furniture to the previous owners for years. “I had a booming BnB in Mt. Pleasant so I thought, why not a Town and Country theme, with the overflow from the beach property coming to Rice Hope.”  Whether or not that venture is paying off is definitely not the point. She loves this old plantation and its history.  It’s part of her now.

White camellias

But wait, one more Ms. Lou story!

“I live between two Heirs properties which were part of the old Seaside Plantation.  After the war, plantations were divided up and given to the slaves.  Each family was given 40 acres and mule.  Many of the families still live on their properties. Anyway, the family next door has built about 5 homes. They party it up all the time over there.  Music, dancing, fighting. I had 31 gamecocks at one point…until last Easter.  Every morning my chickens come to my back door for a sort of communion.  Easter morning we had our little communion and then they headed next door to watch the show. That family had all the grills out, loud music, singing they were celebrating the risen Lord all day. The next morning as I went to feed my chickens I noticed I only had three left. Those people had eaten 29 skinny gamecocks! I wasn’t upset, I was tired of buying corn.  I’m back up to 15 now.  New Year’s is coming so I am sure the neighbors will help me thin the flock.”

Dad writing up one of his sermons, stories he told to help people understand God on a human level.

This fascinating woman isn’t a Hollywood starlet. She doesn’t wear the latest fashion.  She doesn’t drive a fancy car.  But she is full of pride, history and stories that will captivate you.  You have to be willing to listen. I wander through life now much like my Dad did.  He taught me that you have to listen while you wander then share what you have learned with others through stories.  My Dad is the subject of many of my stories because I have learned so much from him.  I think he and Ms. Lou would have been great friends. As much as the trip was about her history, I quickly realized I was listening to my own and reliving my past, the ghost of my Dad walking beside me amongst the camellias.

Rice Hope Plantation: Welcome Home

Rice Hope Plantation Est. 1696

If you’re from the South, no doubt you have an “eccentric” in your family. Maybe it’s your crazy old Granddaddy telling tall tales on the front porch or your favorite great Aunt with her funny hats and odd antiquities collection. Whoever it is, every Southern family seems to have one and it turns out if you don’t, you can adopt one for the weekend at Rice Hope Plantation in Moncks Corners, SC.

Located 45 minutes outside of Charleston, Rice Hope Plantation and the surrounding area offer visitors a glimpse into plantation society when rice was king and the birth of South Carolina pride took root in the land. When you stay at Rice Hope you’re treated like family entering a world firmly rooted in the past. Cell phones and internet barely exist here, the Southern accent is slow and meandering like the Cooper River and storytelling is an art form much less a Southern tradition.

Ms. Lou Edens and her family run this little piece of history and will make sure you feel right at home during your stay. She is salt-of-the-earth, gracious, cooks your breakfast Southern style, and will tell you stories of when Berkley County was the crown jewel of South Carolina high society. Like most who live in Moncks Corner, she is related to or knows (knew) most of the plantation descendants in the area. It’s all about family here including the grandchildren who scamper about the property and Ms. Lou’s own children who help tend the grounds and manage the 40 room mansion. Just as it was in the days of old, plantation living is still a family affair.

The home reveals itself as you drive in

When you arrive, Ms. Lou greets you at the door with a hardy, “Welcome! How y’all doin’?” in her delightful low-country drawl. Instantly you are put at ease and know that this BnB is just a bit different than those you’ve visited in the past. She then takes you into the house for a short tour and brief history of the plantation before she whisks you upstairs to your room. The 5 guest rooms are homey and comfortable reminiscent of that favorite old Aunt’s house complete with antiques, 4 poster beds, portraits of the long gone, a doily or two, and a resident ghost, Mistress Chicken (listed as an amenity). But the real treasure of this plantation is Ms. Lou, her stories and the history behind the house she lovingly hosts her guests in nightly. Many guests have said they simply spent time visiting with Ms. Lou in the parlor listening to her stories and asking questions. For those guests seeking an experience rather than a place to lay their head at night, Rice Hope and it’s colorful proprietor offer more than just a warm bed and a hot meal. For “well-behaved” and dare say imaginative children, Rice Hope is giant natural playground with trees to climb, wide open spaces to run, and lizards and other critters to chase. And of course, there is Ms. Lou with all her eccentricities talking about the birds she loves including the peacocks she once raised and the ostrich eggs she paints as ornaments that absolutely charms children.

Rice Hope may not be the 5 star hotel in Charleston but it offers so much more in charm, history, and that feeling of coming home to family. Fresh air, a rambling river, tales of days gone by and even the ghost of little Mistress Chicken can all be found here wrapped up in low country living and southern hospitality. The house is old and in need of some repair but if you can look past the water stains on the ceiling and creaking staircase and floors, you will be captivated by a world that has been nearly lost to time. This truly is a place to step away from the modern world, slow down and take it all in.

Live Oaks and Spanish Moss

Established in 1696 by Daniel Huger, Rice Hope (or Luckins as it was known) is one of the oldest plantation homes in the county. While the original home burned in 1840, most of 1795 formal gardens were restored and the property is filled with live oaks and 200 year old camellias. The present structure was renovated in 1929 by Senator John S. Frelinghugsen of New Jersey and was used as his hunting lodge as were so many abandoned plantations at the time.

Rice Hope Plantation

206 Rice Hope Drive

Moncks Corner, SC 29461

http://www.ricehope.com/  

For reservations or information call 843-849-9000