Ditch Bank Beauties

We live in a highly mobile society, and therefore it is unusual for a person to spend most of his/her life living at one address. But when I grew up, most people I knew, as a rule, lived and died while staying in the same community in fact living in the same house in most cases.  While I did wander from my roots, I can claim some permanence of address since I now have gone full circle and live basically where I was born or within a few feet. But things have changed considerably.
When I was going to the Hamer Grammar School in the 1930s, there were no paved roads around except the one going to Dillon and by comparison to today’s Interstate, it was more or less a paved two lane path.  The road that passed in front of where I lived was the main road to the Hamer Mill Village, unpaved of course, but it was in better shape than most county roads since it was the beneficiary of the coal (ash residue) ‘clinkers’ from the Mill’s coal fired boiler. Still it did have its drawbacks especially for one who went barefooted most of the warm months of the year.  Coal clinkers have very sharp, hard, irregular edges. Too, the road was built in a naturally low place and it had a tendency to be filled with mud holes and deep ruts when the rains came although on either  side of the road bed, there were ditches which helped to drain the water to nearby Hayes Swamp.  That was then; today it’s a whole new ball game.
At one time across the road from where I live, the LEE&LEE store was located.  This meant that the ditch was tiled part of the way for access to the property, but there was a stretch from there to US301 that still had the rather wide and deep ditch, necessary to drain the occasional overflow of accumulated rain.  Like most ditches then, it became overgrown seasonally with small brush which presented idyll farm workers with a job during the off season when they used axes and bush axes to clear manually the ditch of the unwanted growth.  Then there were not machines to do this back breaking work like we have today, and the work was usually done in the winter time to add to the workers’ discomfort.
When I returned to Hamer from the big city, the ditch had been somewhat tamed, but it still was less than a welcomed addition to the landscape.  It was maintained much better than earlier, but it still lacked any semblance of being attended to with the thought of it being a thing of beauty.  That is where I came in.
The small farm across US301 in front of the Hamer Post Office was once owned by a former pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Dillon, the Rev. Dr. Fred J. Hay who liked to dabble in farming.  He would drive out in the afternoons and check things out, perhaps check on his livestock although always with his preaching clothing on.  He and his wife, Mildred, loved flowers and began a row of daylilies (genus Hemerocallis) adjacent to the highway.  And they multiplied and multiplied and then some more.
Later the farm changed hands and since the lilies were not particularly being cared for, they were overwhelmed with grass and brush; I received permission from the owner to dig up some of the bulbs and transplant them in a site begging for some element of beauty, the ditch bank in front of my home.
I worked clearing the site and using my dibble, I transplanted literally hundreds of lilies that stretched all the way in front and beyond 127 Elkins Road.
Since there were two different varieties of lilies, I planted two rows, one blooming after the other so providing blooming beauty for several weeks. They are appropriately called by some by the name ditch bank lilies or less charitably as outhouse lilies.
Today in season the lilies provide a trail of beauty for me and those motorists who use this much traveled road.  Gone are the briars, the saplings and the other works of Mother Nature, instead now is a glimpse of orange floral beauty where once only a ditch bank reigned.
“‘Tis true, gold can do much, But beauty more.”     Massinger
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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