Our American Free Enterprise System

[Rooting through that box from the liquor store where I toss my writings and doodles, I found a bunch of cartoon sketches from 30 years ago.]

This one, called Understanding Our American Free Enterprise System, has a guy at a chalk board pointing out the larger size of a normal mouse brain compared to the way smaller mouse brain invented by a guy named Herman Stienway. The caption says Herman Stienway couldn’t build a better mouse trap so he built a stupider mouse.
— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Jonesville History: De Soto

Taking a lesson from the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, I’ve been gathering intel on my surroundings—most recently Jonesville history. Get this: Hernando De Soto strolled through here in 1540.

That’s right. It’s believed that Spanish explorer/conquistador Hernando de Soto passed through the Jonesville area in 1540 while leading the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States. He was the first European documented to have crossed the Mississippi River.

Here’s an excerpt from information gleaned from the Internet…

“…on Monday, the seventeenth of that month, they (with De Soto) departed from there and spent the night in a forest (near Jonesville); and on Tuesday they went to Guaquili (Spartanburg), and the Indians came forth in peace and gave them corn, although little, and many hens roasted on barbacao, and a few little dogs, which are good food. These are little dogs that do not bark (opossum?), and they rear them in the houses in order to eat them. They also gave them tamemes, which are Indians who carry burdens. And on the following Wednesday they went to a canebrake (Inman), and on Thursday to a small savanna (Landrum) where a horse died (probably of starvation); and some foot soldiers of (Captain) Gallegos arrived, making known to the Governor that he was approaching.”

Perhaps they slept in my back pasture, the one called “The Bottoms.” Who knows what all they did back there: Bonfires, howling late into the night, taking pot shots at the moon.

Just like me.

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Playing In The Sewers Cartoon

[Rooting through that box from the liquor store where I toss my writings and doodles, I found a bunch of cartoon sketches from 30 years ago.]

This one, claiming to be from a “True Facts” series, depicts a child on a tricycle facing a wall of alligator teeth. The wording says Each year thousands of New York City tricycle gangs perish mercilously while drag racing in the sewers. I must’ve meant to say “mercilessly”—meaning “without mercy.” O well.

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Notes on Folly Beach South Carolina

Folly Beach, South Carolina, is believed to come from an old English word meaning “clump of trees”

According to legend, six pirates chests were buried between two oak trees on Morris Island and were believed to still be there by the time of the Civil War.

  1. George Gershwin wrote the musical “porgy & bess while staying there, including the line “Summertime, and the living is easy”. And judged a beauty contest

1955 While renting a cottage on Folly, Elmer “Trigger” Burke (the man who killed Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe of the $1.2 million Brinks robbery) was arrested by the FBI at the corner of Erie & Center Street

The first surfers showed up in the 1960s (Pat Thomas).

Palm reading was banned in 1964.

— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


Little Train That Thought It Could Cartoon

[Rooting through that box from the liquor store where I toss my writings and doodles, I found a bunch of cartoon sketches from 30 years ago.]

Another nugget from my cynical side even way back then, this cartoon depicts the famous “Little Train That Could” American fairy tale (i.e. the Little Train That Could trying to climb a steep hill). However, in my version of the story the train falls over backwards and says “Aw crap!” and the cartoonist, Yours Truly, says that as an American citizen he resents the lie. At the bottom, it’s identified as part of the great childhood rip off series.
— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Jonesville History: Horseshoe Robinson

Today’s Jonesville History lesson connects the dots between Pineapple Hill in Jonesville and Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg.

Morgan Square was once the center of Spartanburg. The first jail, courthouse, businesses and taverns were there (as far back as 1781). Today it includes the original town clock and the 1881 Daniel Morgan monument, from which the square derives its name, but the shopping and restaurant district has expanded far to the east along Main Street.

Daniel Morgan, now the protector of Morgan Square, is considered by some to be one of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War. He’s credited with the British route at the Battle of Cowpens –now a national park, nearby and well worth visiting.

The confrontation at Cowpens was loosely portrayed in The Patriot starring Mel Gibson.

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Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot was based on South Carolina’s Francis Marion (aka The Swamp Fox”)

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The Upstate had its own “Swamp Fox” hero: “Horseshoe” Robinson.

The book about him is considered a bit more more fiction than fact. But one of its most exciting tales involves Horseshoe Robinson in Jonesville.

According to legend, Horseshoe Robinson was captured by the British and held prisoner in Christies Tavern in Jonesville. The ruins, on private property, are a short walk from Pineapple Hill.

In my opinion, if you have to be held prisoner, a tavern would be an excellent spot for that.

Anyway, our hero Horseshoe managed to escape through a secret trap door and, from there, ride away to many more adventures in that exciting moment of time, place and folklore.

# # #

Horseshoe Robinson was an early ancestor of the Robinsons in Union County and across the Pacolet River in Cherokee County. Crystal is one of these Robinsons.

The family name has also been spelled Robeson and Robison. (It’s spelled two different ways on the same road not far from Pineapple Hill: One end says Robinson Farm Road, the other says Robison Farm Road.

# # #

— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Anejo Tequila (my Austrian nun)

In the pantry this morning I happened to notice a fancy gift bottle of limited edition anejo tequila.  It was hidden behind the cat food. I’d forgotten it was there. It had been given to me by a client in Dubai. We were setting up to promote a new eco-resort in Romania where Uzi-toting bodyguards were necessary and where bribes had been handed out like Mardi Gras beads.

I find it amazing that, when you consider the situation at Pineapple Hill—the vacationing lifestyle in general and some of our freewheeling guests in particular—that bottle of tequila has remained as tightly sealed up as an Austrian nun, escaping every possible threat: from oyster roasts and birthday parties to New Years Eve and visits from Little Brother. Regardless of our mood swings—from full throttle-wide-open gleeful partying to sullen-deep/dark-hung over introspection—it remains virginal.

It has waited and waited and waited while, all around it, a plethora of rum, bourbon, vodka and gin bottles have rotated through like a hysterical mob of disoriented passengers arriving and departing Miami International Airport on the day before Thanksgiving. Its handsome bottle and stylish crystal storage case (“in case of emergency, break glass”) make it nice enough to be on display out in the open next to other special favorite things: a brass ship’s clock, a rare first edition of French-American ornithologist and painter, John James Audubon’s color-plate book The Birds of America, a WWII era mint condition officer-of-the-deck spy glass in its eye-pleasing wooden case, a larger-than-my-fist prehistoric shark’s tooth, a vintage Tiffany sterling silver tea set and flintlock dueling pistols.

Instead, it’s been in a butler’s closet on a shelf beneath the drinking glasses (tumblers, steins, and stemware) across from the canned soup, peaches and broth, canisters of flour, rice and beans, large cereal boxes and little tins of tea, and the aforementioned crunchy fish-flavored cat food morsels kept for Pineapple Hill’s never ending parade of strays.

My thought was to save that tequila for a special occasion—never remotely thinking it would last so long—but now so many have come and gone that I’m not sure what to do. It has crossed that invisible unspecified line that warrants preservation, much like the amazingly large lobster that makes the news now and then, so old it is pardoned and tossed back into the sea.

I don’t mean to cause a big stir about this bottle. I don’t mean to cultivate a death watch as if it were the oldest woman on the planet or the last living ex-president or the only surviving veteran of a war, but it bears mentioning because it’s on my mind today.

It has not been forgotten.

# # #

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

If grapes could talk (Labor vs Management)

This morning I found this photo of a handsome overhead arbor for grapevines and wondered if it would have been a better approach than stretching cable as I did at Pineapple Hill. My little  “test ” vineyard gets hit by deer every fall.

In business, hindsight isn’t always, as the saying goes, “20/20”. Sometimes hindsight remains blurry. Other times its way better than 20/20.

Creeping out on gravel, driving Pineapple Hill’s old but sadly not vintage Jaguar this morning, it hit home that if the grapes at Pineapple Hill had feelings, my grapes must be pretty miserable.

If my grapes could talk, there’d be a lot of serious “labor vs management” grumbling out at the strands of cable at night…

Firstly, there is the problem of Management’s lack of experience—not a good thing on its own and even worse when paired with totally unreasonably high expectations.

Management being me. Labor being the grapes.

Management demands that a dry wine grape variety succeed where usually only sweet wine varieties are found.

Management demands grapes that grow in bunches versus the native berry-like muscadine and scuppernong.

Management, of course, doesn’t really understand —and appreciate—what Labor is up against because Management has already moved on—mentally, physically and emotionally—to other matters (i.e., to whatever shiny object has next caught Management’s eye.

Management, in small business settings especially, must often address The World through a multi faceted, prism-like perspective of desires and fears.

Management often feels surrounded by snarling frothing rabid hyenas.

Management is tired. Management rewarded itself with too many sessions on the pool lounger this week and is nursing a sore shoulder. Management rewards itself with pool lounger time  because Management needs stress relief and networking and besides, if you can’t slip out away on a pool lounger, why even be in Management?

It’s true that, on Pineapple Hill, Labor faces awful working conditions and is expected to succeed in blazing hot sun with a minimum of water whilst totally exposed to the threats of Pearce’s disease, fire ants and hungry deer.

But Labor is counter positioned (i.e. “at odds with”) the realities of Management’s goal: (i.e., testing several different grape varieties to see which does best with the least amount of effort or expense).

Management’s attitude is one of water seeking “the course of least resistance” as it runs downhill.

Happy grapes, schmappy grapes.

Consequently, I doubt my grapes include Management in their prayers at night (other than to pray that Management someday “gets a clue” or, sweeter, is replaced by better management).

Labor wants the cables tighter.

Labor doesn’t just require more pruning, the pruning must be strategic if  Labor is to deliver greatest ROI.

More than anything, Labor needs Management to be more careful when leveraging the weed wacker and lawn mower. There’s a been a run of terrible on-the-job accidents lately.

And it doesn’t help matters that Management, despite the carnage, passes by Labor in an air conditioned British import, waving to Labor and smiling, eyes all a twinkle, as if to say “keep up the good work fellas”. No condolences or a promise to do better. Nothing.

If grapes had tempers, mine would be rounding up torches and pitch forks.

# # #

I’m going to run the numbers to see which is cheaper: Spending more to help Labor …or buying sturdier door locks for protection against Killer Grapes.

# # #

Management spends too much time on the porch sipping wine and not enough among the vines growing wine.

# # #

Management does not want to be a prisoner in its own home, constantly fearing retribution from Labor. Utopia, Management realizes now, requires a trip to Lowes for fertilizer, some irrigation hose, and more of those ratchet thingies that tighten cable.

# # #

Management  also realizes it can probably do better than saying “ratchet thingy” –I’m sure the tool, whatever it’s called, has a better name.

Management realizes it must “man up” and take more responsibility—perhaps buy a book on grape growing. Perhaps take a class.

# # #

Management hopes to never again have “clueless” and “Management” used together on Pineapple Hill anymore.

# # #

IF grapes had feelings and could talk, of course.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

More on Pirates: FYI

  • The great or classic era of piracy in the Caribbean extends from around 1560 up until the mid 1720s. The period during which pirates were most successful was from 1700 until the 1730s.
  • The term buccaneer is now used generally as a synonym for pirate. Originally, buccaneer crews were larger, more apt to attack coastal cities, and more localized to the Caribbean than later pirate crews who sailed to the Indian Ocean on the Pirate Round in the late 17th century.
  • From this became derived in French the word boucane and hence the name boucanier for French hunters who used such frames to smoke meat from feral cattle and pigs on Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).[2] English colonists anglicised the word boucanier to buccaneer.
  • Although a few historians have claimed, with no evidence, that homosexuality was universal among the buccaneers, it is recognized by most that matelots shared women as well as their chattels, and that buccaneers were frequent and enthusiastic patrons of female prostitutes. It is nevertheless agreed that a substantial minority of buccaneer matelots were likely homosexual.[8]
  • When buccaneers raided towns, they did not sail into port and bombard the defenses, as naval forces typically did. Instead, they secretly beached their ships out of sight of their target, marched overland, and attacked the towns from the landward side, which was usually less fortified. Their raids relied mainly on surprise and speed.

[These facts were stolen from one or more places. That’s what pirates do.]
— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple HIll

Jerry The Sniper

[I found this short story in the liquor store box where I keep my discarded writings. This snippet was inspired by a real life Miata ride down state to have a barrel threaded for suppression—that’s “silencer” most of the world. I’d have added it to Blue Rubber Pool had I known it was there.]

My beloved CZ 75 Semi Compact was perfectly balanced for suppression according to Jerry The Sniper.

Going with a different platform for 9mm suppression required having another barrel threaded at a time when my regular source for that work was in jail. The Colonel suggested a low-key guy that happened to actually be located in South Carolina, not far from Ft. Jackson. “You’ll like this kid,” the Colonel said. “He’s an innovator. I had him build a couple of specialized machine guns for me and what he came up with was totally evil.” That word, coming from the Colonel, could have any number of meanings, some good, some not. You could never tell at first glance. So I figured, what the hell, check it out, why not? I rang up the kid and, two weeks later, took a high ride in the convertible to check him out and retrieve the barrel he made for my CZ-75 Semi Compact, an usual pistol that would quickly become my new favorite.

The kid’s shop is in an uninteresting metal building that can be seen from the highway but, turns out, can’t be accessed from the highway without untangling a mess of winding, scatter-brained back roads that from the air probably looked like strands of paint slung at the canvas by a retarded artist. “Evil” certainly described the kid’s directions at least. Wicked and brutal worked too. And that was a bad thing, not a good thing at all. I’d been tuned for a no-brainer high ride with speakers blasting reggae and a fistful of marijuana pinners readied for time release perfection. What I got instead was a nightmarish stop/start zig/zag maze of paved and unpaved roads dodging between trees and billboards hiding small town sheriffs. Several times, I had to slow down to barely a crawl because my low-slung convertible kept bottoming out. I was a flippn bundle of nerves by the time I found the kid’s shop.

Still, to his credit, it was right where he said it would be, hiding in plain side along a highway just a hundred yards off as the crow flies yet on a completely different galaxy in terms of getting there by car. The Colonel must come in by chopper, at night, with the lights off, assuming he’s even made the trip (I suspected he never had). The place was totally stealthy …on the radar screen  …yet NOT on the screen …if you know what I mean. It was pretty freaky even by my own standards. I don’t mind trekking through boonies in other countries but for some reason USA boonies (and South Carolina boonies particularly) creep me out. There’s a tendency to let one’s guard down due to the suggestion that one is “at home”.  Deliverance made as big an impression on my generation as Jaws did.

The kid’s shop had green metal sides with a green metal roof and no windows. Just a single, standard-sized door painted the color of dried blood. It was locked. There was an unobtrusive doorbell buzzer button next to it. I pressed it just once, heard the familiar small motor sound of a 1980s vintage surveillance camera stir. Noticed the camera tucked high up in the eave of the building and then heard the “click” of the door lock releasing as, at the same time, I heard a tinny voice say: “enter” through a barely working speaker. At another time or another place I might have leaned into the speaker and ordered a cheeseburger with fries but I wasn’t in the mod for kidding around. My brain was hurting from the ride in and I wasn’t looking forward to the drive our. I just opened the door and stepped in and closed the door behind me. I heard the lock shut tight. “Hope this isn’t a mouse trap,” one half of my brain said to the other. I has certainly stepped in to some sort of cage.

The entry room to the kid’s shop stopped abruptly at a counter. There was just a long thin strip of floor bordered by 10-foot steel walls topped with chain link all the way to the rafters. There was even a chain link ceiling. There was nobody there, just a lot of signed insisting that “Magazines Must Be Removed From All Weapons And Breeched Must Be Open. No exceptions. This means you!” But given the mood I was in, and the fact that I’d just walked into a place much resembling either a jail cell or the towel dispensary at my old high school gym, I chose to ignore them. The tinny voice said “Be with you in a moment” and then the place was client but for some the faint, muffled sound of at least two different voices drifting up from the other side of the steel walls and drifting down to me through the chain link ceiling. I leaned into the speaker and said “I’ve got to take a piss” then, a few seconds later, heard another surveillance camera swivel on an outdated little motor. It was located up in a corner or my cage, on the other side of the counter. “I said I’ve gotta take whiz,” I repeated right away. “Been in the car all flippn afternoon.”

But Tinny Voice was ready for me. “Shitter’s broken,” it said.

“No problem,” I told it. I leaned into the counter to reach through the small opening in the chain link counter. As I did, the camera swiveled for a better view. I grabbed a Maxwell House coffee can full of pens and dumped the pens on counter. “I’ll just piss in this.”

And without waiting for a response, I whipped out Andre The Giant and peed into the can. As I did, a steel door on the other side of the counter opened and in walked the kid wearing a plain gray cotton tee shirt and desert camo pants. He was in his late twenties with that “beyond my years” look of having seen some action. The grin on his lips and in his eyes told me it hadn’t been so much action to have to charred his sense of humor. As I pushed the can over to him through the opening at the counter (piss sloshing around inside), he said: “The Colonel said to expect this sort of thing from you. C’mon back if you don’t mind waiting while I finish up with another client.” Without waiting for an answer, he pressed a button on the wall behind him and I heard the lock click free on the door to my left.

We both stepped into the massive space at the same time but through separate doors. The shop was a combination of workspace and storage lit by just a few strategically located florescent lights hanging from the rafters and small, brighter lights at selected work counters and tool and die machines. In addition to the familiar equipment of a metalworking shop, there were bins of different bits of metal including bins of different steel tubes from which rifle barrels and suppressor would be made. And different counters held different projects in various stages of completion –SBRs, suppressors, and a several odd looking weapons such as the “evil” ones the Colonel had mentioned. It occurred to me that he may have even been making some of them for the Colonel and that some of them may eventually find their way into my possession by way of the Colonel. There was other eye candy too. The kid had a nice collection of posters that, in addition to weapons and accessories for the black ops set, included some vintage Playboy pinups and bright scenes of bikini clad island girls posing on white sugar sand beaches beside nearly transparent turquoise water.

I followed the kid to the back of the shop –zig-zagging through machinery and rows of shelves to get there much like I’d had to zig-zag through his fucked up directions to the shop. Maybe there was something to that. Maybe the kid’s calm under fire exterior presence concealed a clusterfuck of emotions inside. I tucked the thought away for future study as snaked our way through dark aisles and then rounded a corner into an open space with better light.

There was a guy waiting there, wearing full camo with hair high and tight and boots laced and polished as if on his way to or from a “back-in-the-states-temporarily” assignment at Ft. Jackson. I had the feeling he wasn’t on a rotation; had the feeling he only came back for just a few days at a time between long stretches of being in far away, fucked up, radio-silent places. The soldier leaned over a table with his back to us, giving us just a quick look as we approached then returning to focus on the table top –a rifle and various parts arranged on it with great care as if a tricky transplant were underway. The kid went around to the other side and picked up where’d they’d left off before my interruption. There were no introductions, nor would there be. My presence alone was introduction enough, a symbolic “he’s okay” vote of confidence that spoke volumes in this line of work. Names and further details were customarily left out. Everybody around the table just them operated on a “need to know” basis. It was a very efficient and effective way of getting by.

The rifle was a “reach out and touch someone” M14 that snipers often carry and Jerry was having some “personal preference” tweaks made beyond the norm in terms of what Uncle Sam would normally provide. I stood by quietly, trying to offer the professional courtesy of reduce my presence to that of barely a shadow. We all knew the etiquette of our situation. In his late 40s, Jerry was getting up there. Most of the guys he served with were half that – probably too young to notice his spot-on resemblance, in my opinion at least, to The Who’s Roger Daltrey. It was uncanny. He had Daltrey’s high energy eyes the color of blue mountain stream found only near active glaciers. He had Daltrey’s confident but down-turned mouth and square chin and, too, those long thin dimples that gave his face and square jaw line and chin it’s deeply chiseled. Also like Daltry, Jerry carried his compact, medium-sized frame ramrod straight and seemed to be like an engine idling for now …but ready to break off into full throttle on a second’s notice or into an easy jog that could be sustained even in hard terrain with the ease of a mountain goat.

His “high and tight” haircut, hard jaw and firm chin made Jerry’s head as rectangular as a shoe box –a Saturday morning cartoon super hero comes to mind—but what really made an impact on me was his voice: a hoarse, sleep deprived-sounding baritone that he had a way of spitting through his teeth. It sounded to be on the very edge of cracking, straining toward a preference for whispering—as if life depending on not being heard. I easily imagined that for Jerry that was usually the case. His words came out as if having been pushed through clenched teeth with great difficulty under uber levels of chaotic stress.

Jerry was complaining that earlier tweaks to his weapon had given it an unusual fire signature that, last time around, had nearly gotten him killed. “I need to get back to something that sounds less like an AK,” he told the kid. “My own guys were calling in air strikes on me.”  The veins in his neck strained a little as he told the story and of course the kid and I didn’t make a peep listening. Jerry’s voice need total quiet and no interruptions. Jerry’s voice needed all the help it could get. He spit it out through clenched teeth with a ramrod straight spine and rectangular head –yet the eyes were like marbles, like walls built up to create an appearance of calm at all times, under all circumstances. The eyes were the real story. The eyes kept the vibe from throttling too fast and getting away. The eyes kept the air around Jerry steady while his story of a shit storm played out around him.

Jerry’s accounting of what trouble had been caused by the odd sound of his rifle barrel bouncing off the rocky terrain of Afghanistan’s mountainous area near Pakistan was told with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake.

And at the end of it, there was a pregnant pause to which Jerry finished by asking us both “How fucked up is that?”

On one level it was a question with too large an answer. Yet on another level, it wasn’t a question at all.

# #  #
— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill