Eons ago, the Lowcountry exported bounties of daffodils in the late winter and early spring.
Hands buried bulbs in Beaufort, Bluffton.
Acres and acres of golden goodness.
Workers picked the yellow flowers in bud by the bushel. The farmers then shipped them Up North and all over the nation.
We used to have a lot of truck farms.
Now, we have a lot of tourists.
In her 1991 book, Ebb Tide-Flood Tide Beaufort County…Jewel of the Low Country, Beaufort photographer Lynn McLaren captured Mary Owens and Rosa Green picking daffodils for sale and a little girl named Miranda bringing in her own crop. Each worker handpicked each stalk and flower. I have no idea what they were paid, but I am sure it was backbreaking work.
From Ebb-Tide Flood Tide, Beaufort County…Jewel of the Lowcountry, Lynn McLaren (University of South Carolina Press, 1991), p. 81
Ms. McLaren captured the waning days of large scale, for-profit daffodil farming in Beaufort County.
The Pinckney family in Bluffton owned one such daffodil farm. For years, their descendants, the Merricks, allowed folks to come pick, for a fee, after their harvest.
The family of John Trask, Sr., owned another such daffodil farm on Kane Island, just over the bridge from downtown Beaufort.
The Trasks invited schoolchildren to Kane Island to pick daffodils after the harvest. Blythewood Kindergarten and Beaufort Academy took literal field trips out to Kane to pick.
We have the pictures to prove it.
It was not unusual for Caroline Trask to call my parents’ house around my birthday and let us know we could go pick. We would load up buckets and boots and run out to Kane to pick.
The smell of clean yellow freshness reminds me of my birthday every year.
When my children were little, the Trask family had a daffodil day or two where they had a band, picking parties, refreshments. Glorious late winter days. Cool but not cold. Waving stalks capped with yellow which, to quote Wordsworth, were “[f]luttering and dancing in the breeze.”
We have a painting of my girls in the daffodil fields when they were much younger from one those very days.
Those days of simple living and floral beauty contrast to one other day from twenty six years ago today.
That day 180 degrees from those bucolic idylls.
Daffodilled drunken drugged debauchery.
The Daze in the Daffodils.
February 13, 1993, just a few days shy of my twenty-first birthday.
A bunch of friends from home decided we would all come for the party. We were all in college then.
In my contemporaneously scribbled journal, I noted ambivalence.
Going to that thing at the daffodil farm in a few weeks. Either way lame or way cool. Will see. Everyone coming home for it.
Waaaaaaay too cool.
Organized by one of the Trask grandchildren and a friend, well, let’s just say it was our own little version of Woodstock.
But without the acid, or may be with the acid.
But without the pot, or may be with the pot.
There was a 1-800 number.
That’s how we knew it was a big deal.
Allgood, out of Athens, Georgia, headlined.
F/k/a Allgood Music Company.
Songs I remember of theirs were “Funky House”, “It’s All Right”, “Ride the Bee”, which was the name of their album. Our friends who went to Georgia knew them as a regular house band at parties. They, too, were coming home for the day of Daze.
Allgood played at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, the Music Farm in Charleston, and other great small venues where we experienced new music.
Southern bluesy rock with a penchant for touring and channeling the Allman Brothers.
Where are they now?
According to Mr. Gore’s Internet, they are still on tour.
Beek Webb’s bluegrass band opened for them. Who? Local band with fiddles? Get me some Allgood.
If you remember it, you might not have been there.
College students descended upon Beaufort from all over the Southeast.
The Lady’s Island Food Lion ran out of beer.
I still have my t-shirt.
He never thought his Lake District poem would inspire such a trippy, stoned, muddy, drunken mess.
It had rained and the daffodil fields were a bit wet.
Sheriff’s Deputies directed traffic over the thin causeways, the only way onto and off of Kane Island. It’s amazing they did not arrest every last twenty-something there for public intoxication.
Local parent types arrived all decked out to drink their wine and listen to the music. They did not stay long. Most of them didn’t see what was coming. Most of them high tailed it back into town as the clouds of patchouli inflected smoke wafted over our heads.
For us Beaufort wastrels who showed up there that day from our various schools and colleges, we walked the fine line of speaking to our parents and their friends and partying with friends from college and friends of friends from other schools.
Half of the College of Charleston came down to Beaufort that day.
Half of them camped out at the Hunting Island State Park. My pal Hayes Williams and I almost drove out to Hunting Island that night. Praise the Lord that we did not. I would not be alive had we gotten behind the wheel on Highway 21.
Some of my current friends told me the story of being stranded on Hunting Island.
No cell phones.
Calls made at the park rangers’ station to no avail.
We have to go back, y’all.
All of the people on Kane Island that banner day between the ages of 20 and 26 were beyond messed up. Knee walking. Blind. D-r-u-n-k drunk. Wasted. Stoned. High as kites. Shi’fahss’d. Thick tongued. Seeing double. Seeing triple. Effed up nine ways to Sunday.
How’d they all get off of Kane Island?
We all drove.
No one should have been driving.
We all did back then.
We’d seen our parents do it.
Lots of times.
We’d be fine, too.
How there were no wrecks, arrests, deaths, beyond comprehension.
Our youthful zeal made us indelible. That and all the beer and cigarettes.
We did hear of one person turning over in a ditch. We did hear of another going off the causeway at that one bad turn leading up to Kane Island, but, that was not uncommon with our parents after a big night.
Hell, we had all pulled a couple cars out of the marsh on that one tricky turn.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. (From the Confession of Sin, Book of Common Prayer)
“I drive better when I’m drunk.”
“I’ve seen you drive drunk, and you’re fine.”
“Puhlease…I’m not drunk.”
“Oh, gimme the keys…I’m fine.”
We did that all the time, beyond comprehension.
How more were not caught, beyond comprehension.
How more did not die, beyond comprehension.
There but for the Grace of God goes almost everyone I have ever known, me included.
As proven, supra, I still have my ticket from the Daze in the Daffodils.
I cherish it as a reminder of a wild time with wild friends.
Absolutely gloriously wild.
The glory of youth is wasted on the young and on the young who are wasted.
As it is daffodil season, I am reminded of that messy Saturday in 1993, on this the day’s anniversary.
I am also reminded of the man who wandered lonely as a cloud in the Lake District sometime in 1804. At one point, I had to memorize his Romantic lark and recite it to a bored classroom.
I flash upon the inward eye, too. Then I remember being flashed in a daffodil field.
I smell burning rope and cheap boxed wine.
I see Marlboro Light and Camel Light butts thrown among the furrows.
I see the hippy shake, the high step, the Rubik’s cube dances.
I see the wind blowing the acres of daffodils under a partly cloudy sky.
Let us redeem the muddy debauchery of that bacchanal by turning to the ode to the Narcissus pseudonarcissus.
Let us think not of college girls hurling up their guts near the portable potties.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
William Wordsworth, 1807
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Today, in this vacant mood, I remain dazed by the daffodils.