Archived Opinion

When in Edisto, it’s jungle rules

When in Edisto, it’s jungle rules

Edisto Beach, SC – Not more than 15 minutes after we finished lugging all of our stuff up two flights of stairs to our vacation rental overlooking a lagoon in the Wyndham Resort, Tammy spotted two turtles, an alligator, and a rat snake as big as my arm winding around the house, and then weaving its way up the lattice-work to the deck where we were all standing, watching in disbelief. 

Alex was furiously consulting her iPhone to confirm that this was indeed a rat snake, gentle and essentially harmless as long as you’re not a rat, and not some type of snake that might murder the entire family well before our week here is up, which would be a total rip-off. 

The snake poked his head a good six or eight inches through the deck posts, moving up and down and side to side like a boxer or disco dancer, tongue testing the humid July air for any funky smells. We all stood there checking each other out for a few minutes, then he coiled back and entered the house where the HVAC hoses go. Home sweet home, most likely. 

“Fantastic,” Tammy said, as the last few inches of a five-foot snake vanished into the house before our eyes. “We’re going to spend a week living with a snake.” 

“Good,” I said. “No rats here. Just keep an eye on the dog.” 

As we unpacked the cooler, filling the refrigerator with raspberry jelly, a carton of eggs, ice cream sandwiches, lunch meat, and some sad, saggy past-their-prime plums that somebody might eat, we saw a big sign that said, “Please don’t feed the alligators.” 

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We have been coming to Edisto Beach every summer for 16 years now, and every year seems to have its own particular theme, like a Shakespeare play or a high school prom. This year, the theme is evidently “Jungle Book.” 

I will confess to you that I am not exactly “to the manner born” when it comes to the beach. Scorching hot weather makes me sluggish and irritable, like some sort of enormous bee, and I prefer to breathe the air rather than to wear it.  

Even so, I “married in” to a lifetime of beach vacations because my life partner believes and behaves as if she is only fully alive if she is drifting aimlessly on a pool float in the Atlantic like a handful of shark bait, while I sit under our teal canopy reading a novel and looking out every so often to make sure she hasn’t fallen asleep and taken a turn toward Portugal. 

My dad’s favorite parts of a beach vacation were air conditioning, fried flounder, and checkout. I love all of those things, too, and believe that it is insane that people crowd the beaches in the hottest months of the year instead of opting for early spring or late autumn, when the temperatures are more reasonable, but I will admit that I have learned to love a lot of things about being here. 

I love having not only the time to read something other than freshman essays, which are lurking for me around the corner even now like a street gang, but being in a context where there isn’t much to do except read, especially on the beach, where there are very few distractions other than when the pelicans are feeding, which I’ve never been able to resist watching and making war movie sounds when they dive into the water for fish. Tammy loves that. 

For whatever reason, our annual trip to Edisto is the only time my son and I ever play tennis, although we have cutthroat tournaments when we are here, usually in front of an audience comprised only of confused deer watching from a nearby backyard. 

It’s also the only time we ride bicycles. We rent them and then explore the island on the bike trails, putting the theory that you never forget how to ride one to a severe test. For years, we thought we’d start riding some back at home, but we never really have.  

We’re the people who buy the elliptical machine, and then end up using it only to hang a stray jacket or an old sheet until we finally admit who we are and put it up for sale on Craigslist or in the corner of the basement, that sad museum of failed projects and abandoned dreams. 

But not this week. This week we’re all athletes. Bike riders. Tennis stars. Jet skiers. Putt putt champions. We are living with the rat snakes under our feet and the gators at our doorstep. Who’s wilder than we are?

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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