Finding Fall On Pleasant Hill Road

To The Editor:
Most of my life has been spent within a quarter of a mile of Carmichael’s Cross Roads in the Pleasant Hill community of Dillon County, and living here has definitely been “pleasant”—quiet, safe, and rewarding. As with everything else in life, some changes are to be expected—most subtle, some obvious. These changes have occurred in Pleasant Hill but, perhaps, to a lesser degree than in other communities.
Not so many years ago, the landscape here was a patchwork of farm fields anchored by the homes of relatives—most all of whom were descendants of or closely connected to the Carmichael and McIntyre families. On these farms were also the homes of many others who worked year-to-year on the land to provide for their own families through their own hard work. Today, most of these homes have disappeared from the landscape or still stand dilapidated, but the vast fields remain primarily intact as a testament to descendants’ dedication to family roots, of the sacrifices made to survive hard times during our nation’s wars or after natural disasters, and of deep respect for all those who lived, worked, and died here.
Only a few years ago, someone said to me that Pleasant Hill Road “is the most boring road to travel.” This person could not have seen the landscape on either side or sensed the calming quietness—proof of tunnel-vision and sensory deprivation. Seen from an outsider’s perspective, Pleasant Hill Road is wonderful. Visitors from Spain, Italy, Brazil, Venezuela, and Germany have been astonished by the green acres of trees and open fields that dominate this seemingly unchanging “boring” countryside. This changed only a few years ago.
In 2019, a noticeable and bold change occurred when Bryan and Beth Pittman, creative entrepreneurs by anyone’s definition, embarked on a unique venture. For the past four summers, those of us passing by their family farm on any given day could easily spot Bryan, Beth, or their friend and partner Ronnie Smutherman hard at work preparing the two small fields near their home for a spectacular fall event unlike anything found in Dillon or the surrounding counties.
Recently, I stopped to talk with Bryan Pittman about this unique project. When asked to explain the genesis of his and his wife’s project, Bryan explained, “I planted pumpkins for our children the first three years we lived here with some success. When I found out my first grandchild was on the way in 2018, I made the decision to plant a small pumpkin patch for him. I have always loved pumpkins, mums, hay, cornstalks, and this time of the year because I was raised on a tobacco farm and fall was a time of celebration. The best time of the year for a tobacco farmer is the fall.”
Then in 2019, that “small patch” of pumpkins expanded to the current three acres which are closely supervised and tended by Bryan, Beth, and Ronnie. The planting of the seeds of twenty-five pumpkin varieties and ten varieties of miniature gourds usually occurs on Memorial Day Weekend, just about when the surrounding acres of corn have “tasseled out.” The first harvest of pumpkins begins the first week of September. Bryan told me, “We have traditional orange pumpkins and many hybrids that are a variety of colors such as: buckskin, pink, blue, and white as well as swan neck gourds and various miniature gourds that are multi-colored. The sizes range from as small as a silver dollar (if you remember those!) to a seventy-five pound pumpkin.”
All of the things that Bryan Pittman fondly associates with his favorite season are on full display during the months of September and October—the pumpkins and gourds, the hay, the wheat straw, the cornstalks, and, of course, the spectacular mums. He, Beth, and Ronnie have planted between 1500 and 2000 mums carpeting the ground in a full range of bright colors and in combinations.
Proudly standing between the pumpkin patch and the mass of full-blown mums is one of the few remaining tobacco barns from a not-so-distant past. That barn now serves as the centerpiece. According to Bryan, this aging barn was built of timber in the 1930’s and had fallen into disrepair after almost a hundred years of weathering typical late summer storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Badly battered, it had lost sections of the roof, portions of the walls, and was noticeably listing to one side. The tier poles were visible from some distance along the road—like an exposed skeleton. Bryan and Beth had to make a decision, and they made the right one. During this summer, Bryan, Ronnie, along with friends and neighbors began the carefully planned process of stabilizing and restoring the old barn by using lumber from dismantled barns and buildings that once stood elsewhere on the farm.
In explaining this decision, Bryan stated, “Beth and I wanted to preserve the history of her family’s farm. We also understand the importance tobacco had to the local economy. Being raised on a tobacco farm, I learned how to hand-string tobacco, then we went to electric stringers, then to bulk barns” and adding, “Beth and I would like for it to serve as agro-history. We want it to serve generations to come.” (A personal note: On the Pittman property, the old commissary still stands as a testament to the history and significance of the farm.)
What these creative, energetic Pleasant Hill neighbors had envisioned four years ago has now expanded to include vendors from all parts of the Pee Dee Region on Saturdays, wagon rides, and entertaining activities especially designed for children: climbing a wheat-straw pyramid, playing corn hole, pumpkin tic-tac-toe, and enjoying playing in the “corn boat” (an old wooden fishing boat completely filled with golden corn shelled from the cobs!). Without doubt, this venture has attracted many visitors to Dillon County and to the Pleasant Hill community—some from the surrounding areas, but mostly from Robeson County just across the line in North Carolina. Many repeat visitors have come from Horry, Florence, Richland, and Marion counties, and a few New Yorkers and Floridians who, after having discovered the attraction on the Internet, have left I-95 to enjoy the colorful display and to relax a while under either the shade trees or the tobacco barn shelter on a beautiful local farm.
We are very proud of our neighbors and congratulate Bryan, Beth, and Ronnie for creating a perfect setting for celebrating the beautiful colors and the bounty of fall!
Gerald and Alicia Berry
945 Pleasant Hill Road
Hamer, S. C. 29547

Print Friendly, PDF & Email