A few years ago, I was active through a rural association in South Carolina alleged Denmark aback I chock-full at a characterless red brick architecture alleged Jim Harrison Gallery. I knew of Jim Harrison, a acclaimed Southern artisan and author, but had never met him. At the time, he was best accepted for painting rural landscapes and littoral scenes, generally accumulation Coca-Cola adumbration into them.
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On that abatement day, I went central the arcade and begin Harrison, columnist of “Jim Harrison Cookbook” and “The Coca-Cola Arts of Jim Harrison,” chatting with a customer. The arcade is small, so I couldn’t advice but to eavesdrop as he told her how he started his career by painting roadside Coca-Cola signs. He went on to become one of the South’s best admired artists.
Aback he declared that he had about 20 cats, as a accepted crazy cat adult myself, I listened added closely. The accent of his words was apathetic and deliberate, as befitting of a Southern gentleman. As he batten to the adolescent woman, I looked about at paintings and postcards and prints afore selecting one as a Christmas allowance for a friend.
Later, aback I stumbled aloft Harrison’s obituary, I remembered that day and anticipation of his hardly graveled but buttery articulation and my appointment to his arcade with its scruffy board floors and big windows that accustomed affluence of light. In the years aback his afterlife in 2016, the arcade has remained accessible and is absolutely possibly the better draw of Denmark, citizenry about 3,000.
I’m a road-tripper, consistently accept been, and that’s how I begin Denmark in the aboriginal place. Denmark is but a fragment of a array of communities, baby towns and counties that accomplish up a South Carolina biking amphitheatre alleged Blood Country, a name added befitting of Kentucky or Virginia or some added horse-centric state. Yet there I was, circuitous the aback anchorage in chase of Americana, South Carolina-style.
Here’s how Blood Country endless up. The four counties of Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell and Bamberg, breadth Denmark lies, accomplish up the 2,462 aboveboard afar of Blood Country in an breadth adherent amid Augusta, the Georgia home of the Masters, and Columbia, South Carolina’s basic city.
Aloof east of the accompaniment band at Augusta, Ga., and into South Carolina at North Augusta — the Savannah River separates the two Augustas — is breadth I larboard Interstate 20 abaft to analyze from canton to canton the melange of baby towns and their galleries, aged shops, roadside aftermath stands with baskets of alpha peaches and strawberries, festivals, acreage homes and actual sites dating from Colonial America to the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond.
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My admirable adventure began in Aiken County — the absolute canton is almost the admeasurement of Rhode Island — breadth I met two accompany who would accompany me on the Blood Country girlfriends’ getaway.
Our aboriginal stop was Redcliffe Acreage Accompaniment Historic Site, a architecture abode completed in 1859. As we say in the South, it aloof ain’t a home afterwards a magnolia tree, and Redcliffe is graced by 150 of them. The antebellum home housed ancestors of the Hammond family, who dabbled in backroom and cotton.
Aback I asked Theresa Hipps, abettor esplanade ranger, how the abode was so named, she answered simply, “Because it’s on a red cliff.”
Below the Mason-Dixon, a red adobe bluff is as athletic of a actuality as any aback it comes to the foundation of a home, which attests to why Redcliffe has lasted so continued in South Carolina’s fricassee-hot summer calefaction and humidity. The Greek Revival house, in the association of Beech Island, is an architectural gem, and if you abstraction that array of thing, it additionally gives acumen into the Southern acreage arrangement of the 1800s — and that includes the use of slaves, like it or not.
Afterward, we fabricated a quick stop to see the actual exhibits at the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta afore blockage into the arresting white-columned Rosemary Inn Bed and Breakfast. While the quiet and affected Rosemary, additionally in North Augusta, isn’t antebellum — it was congenital at the about-face of the 20th century — it is antebellum-style and awash with aeon furniture.
Afterwards a banquet of abundant tapas at Manuel’s Bread Cafe — the card changes but we had aces adorable pork wings, cheese, braised beef ribs and annihilate ravioli — it was accessible to abatement comatose aback at the Rosemary.
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Afore hitting the wide-open anchorage of the blow of Blood Country, we visited North Augusta’s Colonial Times Living History Park, breadth I met Benjamin and Deborah Franklin (doppelgangers of the founding ancestor and his bride), watched the Great Escompteur (Eric Scites) imitate a fire-breathing dragon at the Faire Wynds Circus, and abstruse how a spinning caster works. Events actuality change from division to season, but all-embracing the esplanade is an excellent, accurate and, I ability add, absolutely agreeable glimpse at the lives of South Carolina’s aboriginal settlers.
In Blackville in Barnwell County, the three of us chock-full for cafeteria at Miller’s Bread Basket for a meat-and-three (that’s a meat and three vegetables to the apprenticed first-time visitors to the South), complete with absurd craven and shoofly pie for dessert. The Amish-Mennonite restaurant is best declared as Pennsylvania Dutch with a Southern touch.
Our leash spent the afternoon added or beneath meandering the boondocks of Barnwell and Barnwell County, casual what is believed to be the world’s alone vertical sundial, and again authoritative a stop at God’s Acre Healing Springs and demography time to apprehend its sign, “This actual acreage has been deeded to God for accessible use. Please admire God by befitting it clean.” We obliged, of course, account added that the Native Americans believed in the accustomed healing admiral of the bounce and brought blood-soaked Revolutionary War soldiers actuality to drink.
At Barnwell’s Little Red Barn Pottery and Art Gallery, housed in a century-old building, we met buyer and potter Elizabeth Ringus and browsed the accumulating of face jugs, handwoven shawls, quilts and added fun doodads.
“Everything actuality is fabricated actuality in South Carolina by a South Carolina artist,” she said as she acicular to a face jug. “I like authoritative face jugs. They are like my children, and aback I advertise one, I kiss it goodbye.”
As we bade her goodbye, sans kissing, we arrested into the Willcox Auberge in Aiken for two nights. The Willcox, an Aiken landmark, is a posh, appealing and affable Colonial Revival auberge congenital in 1898. My allowance had a fireplace, but the day was too balmy to alike anticipate about accepting a fire. Our leash again trekked to Rose Hill for dinner, breadth I dined on shrimp and grits, a restaurant basic begin on airheaded statewide.
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The abutting morning, afterwards a stop at the Aiken Canton Actual Museum, we set out to do article I had never done and never advised doing, and that was activity to a polo match. It’s the action of kings and queens and princes and princesses and all address of their kinfolk, none to which I can affirmation title. Aback I abstruse anyone can watch for a baby access fee, this old barbarian babe was in.
And it was at Aiken Polo Club’s Whitley Acreage that I assuredly abstruse why the breadth is alleged Blood Country. These association booty their horse antagonism boss seriously. The abundant acreage and candied grasses of the amphitheatre accept fatigued the blood set aback the Revolutionary War, and polo has been played in Aiken for able-bodied over a aeon alpha with a bout in 1882.
Horse antagonism followed in the 20th century, and now a mix of stables, fields, horse parks and training advance hosting added than a dozen altered disciplines of polo — foxhunting, dressage, jumping, and amphitheatre amid them — are brindled throughout Aiken and the afar four-county area.
The bout at Whitney was fast and exciting, and I was afraid the horses didn’t cruise over one another. At half-time — I didn’t apperceive there was such a affair as half-time in polo — my accompany and I followed the army to the acreage for the abiding attitude of appropriately stomping the divots in a Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” moment, bare Richard Gere. It was a accomplished catastrophe to our break in Blood Country.
“Even if you don’t accept horses, it’s a allotment of the ability of Aiken,” said a adolescent adult from Aiken alleged Haven. “It’s a allotment of who we are.”
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