Charleston may lie on a peninsula, but culturally, it’s an island. We’ve got our five-star hotels, our nationally-acclaimed restaurants, and our carriage rides, but get outside the 526 beltway and the world-class-city-feel slips away into firework stands, two-lane roads, trucks adorned with the number 3, and the great outdoors.
South Carolina is country, and that means good ‘ol boys, guns, and plenty of opportunities for redneck fun. Whether you’re an artsy-fart urbanite, a popped-collar frat boy, or a displaced Yankee with the plain good sense to move South, the Lowcountry is prime pickin’s for some old-fashioned, low-budget, rustic recreation.
Get outside this summer and try something new, whether it’s four-wheeling in the Francis Marion National Forest or hauling a 30-pound catfish out of Lake Moultrie.
We’ve put together this guide to help you out in that pursuit.
What's a redneck picnic without watermelon, Wonder bread (white), and Duke's Mayonnaise? Lunch in July doesn't get much better than a few slices of local tomato with a healthy dollop of Duke's. In celebration of their 90th anniversary, we selected a couple of our favorite recipes from DukesMayo.com. Yes, that's a mayonnaise chocolate cake.
Duke's Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuits
4 cups self-rising flour
cup Duke's Mayonnaise
cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup jalapeÒo, minced
2 Tbsp. sugar
Combine all ingredients and mix into a smooth dough. Place 1/3 cup dough into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Duke's Chocolate Cake
6 Tbsp. cocoa
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Duke's Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 tub chocolate icing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
Sift cocoa, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a medium bowl, mix well. Combine mayonnaise, vanilla and water in an electric mixer at low speed. Once smooth, slowly add in dry mixture until just incorporated (do not over beat). Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks and frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.
Fashion is very important to
the proper redneck. Wearing
Matt Kenseth's 17 or
even Tony Stewart's 20
is acceptable, but the
preferred attire is either Dale
Earnhardt, Jr.'s 8 or a 3 for his late father. Although many
otherwise qualifying rednecks choose to sport Jeff Gordon's 24, doing so will undoubtedly earn you
the scorn and disdain of your
Number One: Peeing in the ocean, pool, or shower is nothing new to humanity. Boat owners might even be appreciative of guests bypassing the head to stand on the side of the boat or jump in the ocean because septic tanks can be messy and unpleasant to deal with. Just be careful to note which way the wind is blowing and who's standing behind you when and if you find yourself peeing off the side of a boat this summer. A surprise like that could ruin an SPF-15 wearing kind of a day rather quickly.
Littering: Be a hippie. Leave
Attire: Redneck casual. Wear boat shoes or go barefoot, but foot protection may prevent a gash from ending the romp early for a hospital visitation.
Drinks: Cans work best. Go with Busch beverages, or Natty Light if you're rehydrating from the previous evening. Drinking adult beverages is legal on a boat for those of age, but make sure the driver stays sober for everyone's sake. The Coast Guard, DNR, and local police are out there looking for troublemakers. Boating under the influence can lead to a one to five year suspension of privileges if convicted. Remember: freedom isn't free.
If fishing from a modern boat isn't redneck enough for you, or you simply can't afford to spring for a vessel or a guide, there's always noodling. Find a muddy bank with some protruding tree roots in a pond, river, or lake and hop on in. Reach around under water for a hole (catfish love to back up into them). Shove your arm on in there. When you feel something clamp down on your arm, grip tight to whatever you can hold and rip it on out. Voilá Catfish a lá fist.
There's also gigging, if you want some redneck fishing fun closer to home. Get a spear.
Okay, get a sharp stick. (A pitchfork will work.) Take a jon boat out into the creeks late at night (behind Morris Island is good). Use a spotlight to search for flounder on the sandy bottom, all you'll see are the eyes.
When you find one, stick it to 'em. That's gigging.
And if you're in the mood for some real off-shore fun, there's always a charter for wahoo, tuna, and marlin.
Monsters of the shallow: Stalking catfish on Lake Moultrie
Water to the east, water to west. Charleston is surrounded by rivers, estuaries, and the ocean, which means fishing galore. There’s plenty of country-folks winding their jon boats through tidal creeks in search of trout and redfish, but when it comes to the big daddies, there’s nothing redneck about a 40-foot yacht cruising out into the Gulf Stream.
Fortunately for the camo-set, there’s big freshwater and ample pontoon boats half an hour up the road. 60,400-acre Lake Moultrie sits atop Moncks Corner and has turned out world-record bluegills, stripers, and more than its share of monster bass. The big catch, however, is out in the middle of the huge lake, lurking in the flooded hills and shallow valleys of the manmade waterway.
Capt. Don Graham knows how to catch a catfish. He’s privy to their hangouts, what they like to eat, and how to cook ‘em proper. Hooking a piece of cut herring onto the line, he’ll admit that catfish are a little fickle; “Sometimes they like a little head, sometimes they want some tail.” With those words of wisdom, he hooks up four rods with a little of each, then sets the boat adrift through a submerged valley and waits for the bites.
After one cat strikes his friends tend to follow, and it’s not uncommon to find everyone aboard reeling away together. Once netted, Graham skillfully unhooks the fish, explaining that barbs on the fins are razor sharp and filled with bacteria. He informs his guests that if they ever find themselves cut open by a cat fin, they should rub the fish’s tail on the wound. It contains an anti-bacterial that kills the pain and prevents infection. Down-home-know-how.
Most days, Graham claims to pull up at least a 20-pounder, if not a 30 or 40. Commercial fishing and trot lines (a string of hundreds of baited hooks left in the water to pick up later) have decimated the big cat population, but there’s still enough out there to fill the walls of Canal Lakes Landing in Cross, S.C. with polaroids of monster catches. Although we didn’t catch any giants, the 15 whiskered-fish that City Paper reeled in last week were enough to leave us smiling all the way to the kitchen.
Moultrie has five species of catfish, but the most common are channel cats and “blues.” Ask the regulars at the landing which tastes better, and you’ll find that opinions are strictly a matter of taste. Get some oil popping in the pan and toss in your filet (battered in corn meal and flour, of course), and the species are no longer distinguishable. Five minutes later you’re on your way to redneck culinary heaven. Hell, it beats the heck out of eating mullet. --Stratton Lawrence
And if you’re in the mood for some real off-shore fun, there’s always a charter for wahoo, tuna, and marlin. Try Captain Jack’s Charters on Folly Beach.
If you somehow missed it in the news this year, an 11-year-old in Alabama shot a 1,051-pound hog, topping the feral Hogzilla killed in Georgia last year. Wild hogs are abundant in S.C. as well, although the hippopotamus-size variety have yet to be reported.
Mark Campbell regularly hunts feral hogs in the Lowcountry and claims the biggest he's heard of in these parts is 400 pounds. He uses horses and dogs to track them in the morning, often as a service to farmers suffering from hogs eating their crops, primarily corn. After the dogs corner and pin the hog, he ties its legs, or shoots it if taking it out alive is infeasible. "I use a .38 caliber, but some people use .44's", says Campbell. "It's whatever caliber they feel comfortable with. It doesn't take a whole lot."
None of the meat goes to waste. Campbell processes it and gives it out to friends and family or hosts a barbecue. Hunts are typically either on private land or on MeadWestvaco forestry plots. As that land gets sold off, the new families moving out to the 'EastEdisto' development might get some surprise house guests. Better get a gun.
Shoot ‘em up style
Bad day at the office? Wife on your case? Kids driving you nuts? If you just can’t find a way to relax, why not head out to ATP Gun Shop and Range in Summerville to blow off some of that pent-up anger? They stock an impossibly vast selection of guns to rent and take out on the range.
Crazy enough, no license or special training is required to shoot up the range. Seemingly anyone who wanders in off the street can pop off a few rounds (provided they’re 18 and can legally handle a firearm — 21 for handguns). Just provide your driver’s license, your social security number, and some kind of proof that you possess eyeballs, and you’re set.
As for what weapons they’ll let you grab off the wall, there are shockingly few limitations. This fact cannot be overstated: they’ll let you shoot almost any gun you can think of, basically anything short of a ballistic missile. So go ahead, run through the lyrics of your favorite rap songs and name any gun that comes up.
We selected four. The first was a Smith and Wesson .22 pistol – kind of a pissant gun, sure, but a good one to start off with if the only things you’ve ever shot are basketballs and home videos. We graduated to a Glock 9mm, and then came the big boys: an AR-15 assault rifle and an AK-47. The AR-15 is the civilian equivalent of the M16s carried around by our soldiers. The AK is a good one to try out, if only because it seems to be the international weapon of choice for celebratory gunfire.
They also have an archery range, and you may be wondering, “Does this include crossbows?” My friend, of course. And they’ll let you shoot those too, if you’re so inclined.
The friendly staff at ATP will walk you through the process of loading and shooting your weapons. Then you hang up your target — a sheet of paper with one of those outlines of a person. And yeah, you may shoot for the numbered target areas, but no one’s gonna stop you if you try to see how many bullets you can put through the outline’s head. --Josh Rosenthal
Have to be able to legally handle a firearm
Under 18 must have parent or guardian
ATP Gun Shop and Range
1340 College Park Road
If you like the shooting but don’t need all the firepower, you can always paint your friends blue in full-on paintball combat. Charleston’s got a solid facility.
Whether you call it rootin', muddin', or just going off-road, most folks have at least one memory of a rambunctious drive through the woods. Literally minutes from the highway traffic of Mt. Pleasant, the Francis Marion National Forest offers over 100 miles of unpaved backroads to cruise at your pleasure.
The four essential elements of the backwoods booze and cruise. . .
A 4-wheel drive vehicle
Case of gold-top Busch beverages (not to be drunk in the car or by the driver, duh)
A good map (for Francis Marion, get the Coastal Expeditions map or the S.C. Gazeteer)
Plenty of Skynyrd, .38 Special, and Charlie
Daniels for the CD player
Once you're out in the woods, there's plenty to see. On a cruise through Hell Hole Bay last week, we crept up on two feral hogs snorting around in the path. There's more deer than you can count, and plenty of hawks, eagles, herons, and turkey to satisfy any amateur bird, just remember there's no shooting animals on federal land.
Most of Francis Marion is recent growth forest, on our 70-mile cruise we never spotted a pine tree thicker than two feet in diameter. We did spot seven smoldering brush fire, no word on whether these were the result of lightning strikes or controlled burns.
If you decide to get out of your car and trek into the wilderness, make sure to bring your snake boots, copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlers are basking in the heat this time of year.
Here's a little scavenger hunt for anyone going muddin' in the forest. Pinpoint Rapture Road, Keep Out Lane, and Swamp Music Drive on the map for us, and we'll find some sort of musical prize for your next off-road ride.
If you’ve got access to an ATV or dirt bike, there’s narrower, gnarlier off-road trails in the National Forest. If you’re keen on getting outdoors but looking for something mellower, work on your neck-burn on a tube trip down the Edisto River, or explore Wambaw Creek in a canoe. Keep that tube with the beer cooler tethered close!
Wambaw Cycle Trail and Wambaw Creek Canoe Trail
40-mile off-road trail, 9 mile paddle
Maintained by the U.S. Forest Service
Wadboo Creek Canoe Trail
Maintained by Santee Cooper
Moncks Corner, S.C.
761-8000, ext. 5327
Carolina Heritage Outfitters
Canadys (on the Edisto River)
Life gets a little more interesting when the sun goes down. Camping can be combined with any of the aforementioned activities, and the forests and beaches of the Lowcountry offer plenty of opportunities to sleep out under the stars (or in the old pop-up).
Dark is also the best time to shoot fireworks. We strongly encourage you not to shoot off fireworks at a campground (and please NOT IN THE WOODS. We're in a drought). But in the right time and place a few roman candles, whirl-i-gigs, and bottle rockets can be a hell-of-a-time.
Ahhh, Southern culture.
As one friend in Ladson said, "I'm not a redneck, I'm a
country girl. I take my
Christmas lights off my
doublewide over the summer."
Redneck or not, we like to have fun, and there's not much better than a catfish fry and a critter race. We raise our cans of Busch high, and center our scope on a wild hog. Y'all have fun this summer, ya hear?
While you've got everyone together. . .Critter Racing
If traveling to Darlington or Charlotte for burned rubber and mullets isnt your bag, theres always racing to be had at home. J.K. Bruenn, kingpin of the local critter-racing ring, tipped us off to his formula for Saturday night fun.
Purchase five rats at your local pet store, each with distinct markings and coloration (You dont want to put numbers on them thatd be inhumane). Make sure the store has a generous return policy.
Invite 30 friends to come to your house for a party. Tell them to bring five bucks.
Go to Bi-Lo and buy a keg of beer for 90 bucks. Start drinking when you get home, while you set up a ten-foot track for the rats to run. Use a couch, plywood, or coolers whatevers lying around.
As friends arrive, let them place five dollars on the rat of their choosing. Six people to a rat.
Once everyones good and liquored up, release the rats at one side of the track. First to make their way to the other wins.
Six winners each make five bucks. Everyone gets a free party. Return the rats to the pet store the next day to get your deposit back.
Depending on whats available at the store, gerbils, hamsters, and mice can all be substituted. Rabbits and guinea pigs are too expensive, and turtles are too slow. People get into the critter races, says Bruenn. Anytime Im having a party, I go ahead and pick up some rats.
The Big Bang Theory
Jeff Ott has fireworks in his blood. His father Tom founded Wild Bill’s and Crazy Tom’s Fireworks back in 1977, and Jeff continues in the family trade. Wild Bill’s and Crazy Tom’s is open year-round, so they’ll supply your ballistic needs for New Year’s, the Chinese New Year, Arbor Day, or We’re-Disaffected-Adolescents-Who-Feel-Like-Blowing-Some-Shit-Up Day. That’s a sacred holiday where we come from.
Jeff set us up with the Genghis Kahn fireworks assortment, a hulking collection that comes in packaging about the height of a third-grader. It contains all manner of explosives, from rockets to so-called artillery shells. You’ve got to figure that any firework with a name that sounds like actual weaponry is pretty serious business. And indeed, the artillery shells do not disappoint. They come about as close as you can get to professional fireworks on your own, especially if you set off a couple at a time.
Our favorites were the more unusual ones. The Mammoth Smoke produced a thick cloud of deep purple smoke, and the Megabanger Moon Festival ejected little parachutes from each shell. We also may have thrown lit firecrackers into the lake and watched them explode underwater, but neither the City Paper, nor, we assume, Wild Bill’s and Crazy Tom’s, condones the handling of lit material.
Jeff says his favorites are the Saturday-Night Special, which is a 500-gram firework cake, and Third Generation, a reloadable artillery. Check those out and send dogs cowering for miles around.--Josh Rosenthal