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Lee Scott

Who needs crosswords puzzles to stay sharp?

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By Lee Scott

There are numerous reports out today stating that seniors can stimulate their brains by completing crossword puzzles and playing games. These are called mental workouts and they push people to challenge themselves. 

However, it has come to my attention that I will never have to do another crossword puzzle again to keep my brain functioning.  All I have to do is drive a rental car, go into a new restaurant or use a public restroom.  

Let me explain. 

It happened recently with a rental car. Instead of a normal key, I was given a key fob. All I had to do was push a button to get the car started. Right away, I knew I would have to figure out where everything was in the car. 

The radio was placed nicely in the dashboard as normal, however, the controls were on a panel between my driver’s seat and the passenger seat. That meant instead of glancing straight ahead to change the station, I would have to look down at buttons and figure out how to change the station. I challenged myself to set it up before I left the parking lot. 

Crossword puzzle question: “What is a ten- letter word for frustrated?”

Answer: “Grrrrrrrrr!”

Then as I was driving away a voice said, “In one half mile take a left on Beach Road.” Oh dear, it was a navigation system. And she was talking over my newly programmed radio station giving me the weather update at precisely the same time. I pulled over and discovered the button controlling my radio, also had a NAV control switch. I shut her off.  

Crossword puzzle question: “What is a three-letter word for navigational system?”  

Answer: “Map.”

Next a stop is at a restaurant for lunch. There was obviously an automatic door, I know because it said, “automatic door.” But the question was: Do I walk right up to it and wait, or is there a button to push? Can I just push the door open?  

Then there are the public restrooms. Are you familiar with those sinks where you are not sure if you are just supposed to stick your hands under the faucet for water or are you supposed to push a button? Same problem with the soap dispensers? And do not get me started on those air machines where you stick your hands in and watch as your skin starts to flap.   

Yes, you can forget about the crossword puzzles. We now live in a world where automatic machines challenge us every day.  

At this rate, my body will run out way before my mind.

Welcome to summer in the Sea Islands

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By Lee Scott

The other day while chatting with a friend on the phone, she wondered what I was up to and I said, “Enjoying this beautiful day.”  

“Where are you?” she asked. 

“At home,” I replied. 

To which she answered, “It is pouring rain here.” 

We only live about a mile apart.  

Welcome to summer in the Sea Islands! It happens a lot during these hot July and August days. When the weatherman says “50 percent chance of scattered showers,” he really means it. Scattered means it is going to rain somewhere.  

You may have noticed it when leaving sunny Beaufort and driving down to Bluffton. You start to see cars coming at you with their headlights on and windshield wipers going. Sure enough, rain. 

I have found it raining on one side of Sea Island Parkway, only to drive over Cowan Bridge and not a drop of rain has fallen. Sometimes it is torrential rain too, with the tires throwing off water higher than the car windows and I know if I can just get over the little bridge I will be out of it. 

Which brings me to planning a picnic or an outside barbecue. Relax. Do not cancel your summer party. It is probably going to rain at some point, or somewhere, but it just might not at all. 

It happened to us the other night while preparing to grill on our back porch.  We were looking out our window at the blue sky when we started to hear thunder. Then the waving American flag at the end of the dock shifted from the south to flying from the west. I looked out the front door. Sure enough, something was coming.  

We began our thunderstorm prep. We put the umbrella down and moved the dinnerware back into the house.  

It started to get dark, the wind howled, there was thunder and lightning, and then, nothing, not a drop of rain. Within a half an hour any evidence of a storm was gone. We should have known. 

We try to track some of these storms on the weather radar. If the storm is west of Hilton Head, they seem to skim Beaufort and miss us altogether. (although Edisto might get hammered). But these summer pop-up storms have a mind of their own. Let’s face it. When the thermometer hits 94 degrees there is a good chance that a storm will build up somewhere. 

The question is always, “Is it going to hit my house during my summer barbecue?” 

The answer is: It might. It might not. Let’s just say, you have a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms today.

The ‘staycation’ is the best vacation of all

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By Lee Scott

Every year, millions of Americans plan their annual summer vacation. This adventure usually involves car travel, plus hotels or rental property. It might even mean visiting amusement parks or relatives. 

At the time of the long sought-after vacation, the car is loaded with food, clothing, children’s toys/electronics, beach chairs and other miscellaneous needs. 

Then after a fun-filled holiday it is time to load the car again and return home; sometimes exhausted and sunburned.  

And, for many people, it means heading back to work the next day. 

Ah yes, the annual vacation!

It did not take me long after starting a full-time job, while raising kids, to figure out that my all-time favorite vacation week was my “staycation.”

This was an entire week off from work where I could just stay in my own house for more than two days without being sick. Oh, the joy. Putting on shorts and T-shirts every morning, going to the pool and catching up on my reading from the pile of books stacked next to my bed.

What a treat to sit on the porch with a glass of iced tea and not have anything to do or have anywhere to go. 

The extra money I might have spent on hotels and restaurants went towards enjoying my own home and town. Seven days of not having to get up early, commute to work or go to bed exhausted. 

For the most part, we spent the sunny days at the pool. My kids could play with friends and I could unwind. On the rainy days, we would close the curtains and put in a Beta tape (yes, I did not have a VHS) watch some movies like “Goonies” and eat lots of popcorn with butter. We would treat ourselves to ice cream cones and pizza. By the end of the week, I would be rested up and more prepared for the work week ahead.

Looking back, I think the kids might have thought it was boring. They liked the trips to Disney World and the beach. 

But now they have children and jobs of their own and it does not sound so boring after all. I think they appreciate the cost of a staycation versus a normal vacation also. It is quite a difference. 

Even though I do not work full time anymore, I still require a staycation. One or two weeks where there are no projects in the house, no outside commitments and no long drives on the interstates. Just time to sit around in shorts and a T-shirt and read the books stacked up next to the bed.

My kids are so jealous! 

Remember those who served this July 4

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Lee Scott’s grandchildren look at the plaques on the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Lee Scott.
Lee Scott’s grandchildren look at the plaques on the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Lee Scott.

By Lee Scott

Two years ago, I wrote about going to visit my father at Arlington National Cemetery. This year, for the first time, I took my four grandchildren. Their great-grandfather is buried at the Columbarium in Arlington. 

As we sat there on the bench looking at Dad’s headstone, the questions started.  

“Why is he in such a little box?” 

“What about a coffin?” 

“Who are all these other people?” 

“What does Tec SPC mean?” 

I turned to my daughter, Faith, and daughter-in-law, Pam, and said, “Your turn.”  

They answered their questions and told stories about my father. After a while the kids started to walk around and look at all the names of other soldiers. They were curious as to the ones who died young and the ones who were very old.

Then they came back to me and asked, “Why is there a cross over great-grandpa’s name?” I explained that he was a Christian.  

“But why,” they asked, “are there so many different crosses and what are these other symbols?” 

I got up and looked. They were right. I had never noticed before. 

I started to point out, Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal. Then I realized I did not recognize other symbols.   

Pam found a list of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved “emblems of belief” that are available. As the kids walked around they found Judaism, Hindu and other faith symbols.  

We all discovered it does not matter which faith symbol hangs over the name. The soldiers’ common bond was belief that the United States of America was worth defending and despite their differences, they came together. 

On the way back home to Beaufort, I drove by the Beaufort National Cemetery on Boundary Street. Turns out, you do not have to drive all the way to Arlington to visit a National Cemetery.  You may have noticed burials going on there sometimes.   

I went into the cemetery and met John Williams, a retired Marine and one of the volunteers. He explained that in the cemetery there are soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War along with many others who later served to defend America.    

So, before you attend your Fourth of July barbecue and before you attend the fireworks, you may want to visit Beaufort National Cemetery. It is a good reminder of all those soldiers who have served their country. 

And while you are at it, try to take some children with you. It is important they understand early about what fighting for our freedom means. But, be prepared, you may have to answer a lot of questions. 

Happy Fourth of July! 

A $20 tomato provides a lesson in gardening

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By Lee Scott

One day, a few years back, a gardener who was helping with the yard work gave me some good advice about lawns, gardening and fishing. He followed up with “you have to be really dumb to starve here in the Lowcountry.”  

He was referencing all the good vegetables you can grow and the fish available.

This year, we finally decided to plant our own vegetable garden and we discovered, we are not too smart, because we have now officially grown a $20 tomato. 

Why, you ask, would someone want to grow a $20 tomato? Obviously because we are too dumb to do it correctly.

We started with our three little tomato plants. We bought a bell tomato plant, a grape tomato plant and another kind, which for the life of me, I cannot remember. 

We bought cages for them so the deer and rabbits would not chomp on them. We watered the plants, tested the soil and we waited. But the plants appeared to have stunted growth. 

We researched the problem. We retested the soil and added tomato fertilizer.  We made sure they had enough water, but not too much. We read that we should pinch off the suckers (we didn’t have any). 

Finally, it happened. Five little grape tomatoes. They were beautiful. 

But that was it. 

Our poor little plant gave it its best, and that was all. The second plant did not even bother to produce anything. 

But the bell tomato plant finally started to grow. Out came its one lonely prize: an orange/red tomato that looked beautiful. We cut it up, sprinkled some Italian dressing on it with some fresh basil and ate it. That was all. Our $20 tomato – gone in minutes. 

The plant it came from expired from all the effort. 

I thought back to what that guy told me. What happened? We are not dumb. Our problem is that for the better part of our lives, we did not have a garden and obviously do not have green thumbs.  

Then it occurred to us: We do not have to grow our own vegetables. All we have to do is drive down Sea Island Parkway and buy any fresh vegetables in season. The gardener wasn’t talking about us doing it, but the local farmers.    

As for the fish, well, you can find places up and down U.S. 21 for shrimp and any fresh fish in season.

Yes, eating that $20 tomato was great. But as we calculated the cost of everything, we could have bought a lot of vegetables for that same amount of money. Maybe we are not so dumb after all.

The no bar zone is a no man’s land

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By Lee Scott

It is amazing how accustomed we have all become to today’s technology. 

This was the revelation I experienced when I found myself without phone and Internet connection for two days.  

We were traveling along in a boat when I picked up my phone and there in the upper left-hand corner was the message: “No service.”

How could I not have service? Don’t all those ads on television say things like: “We have the best coverage throughout the United States,” and “Never have a call dropped.” 

Not only did I not have service, I could not even make a call to get dropped.

Oh, heaven help me. I was in “no bars zone,” the 21st century version of the “Twilight Zone.”

As it turned out, we were in a very rural area and my spouse informed me that where there are no people, there are no cell towers and thus – no bars.

I wrote an e-mail to family and friends. “I am in “no bar zone. If you get this message it is only because I could receive one lonely stray bar for a moment which allowed this message to be transmitted.”

It really is astonishing how spoiled we are with our communication abilities. 

We call ahead and make reservations for motels and restaurants. We chat with people who are hundreds of miles away, as if they are next door. We can video conference, send pictures and links, and generally obtain any information.

But not in “no bar zone.” In this vast wasteland, you must relearn new skills, like talking to the person next to you, or reading a book or enjoying the scenery. You do not have the luxury of looking up the history of a country, finding out the current weather conditions or even downloading music.  

As we sat there contemplating life without Internet and phones, we decided we would just talk to one another (what a concept). 

“So,” asked my spouse, “what would you be looking up if we had any bars?”

I laughed and responded, “I would look up: ‘What do married people talk about when there are no bars?’ ”

After two days, our phones suddenly lit up. There were texts and e-mails. It was wonderful! We were connected to civilization again.  

The experience made me realize how much I love, and enjoy, all these electronic devices. But, as it turns out, the “no bar zone” can be a comfortable place to reside at times and having an uninterrupted conversation occasionally is not so difficult after all. Especially now that I have looked up “The art of conversation” on the Internet.

Letter offers new perspective on childhood

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By Lee Scott

While cleaning out the attic recently, I found an old box of letters written to my late mother. One letter was from her sister. My Aunt Bernadette ended the letter with “And how are the two little hellions?”  

I looked at the date of the letter: 1958. Was she talking about me and my older brother (he beat me into this world by a mere 14 months)? We were only 5 and 6! What was she talking about? I called my older sister. 

“Was Aunt Bern referring to Sandy and me?”  

“Of course” she responded, “you two were a handful.” 

Now my personal memory of my childhood was that Sandy was definitely a handful; but me?   

Then I realized that Aunt Bern would only have written the question as a response to my own mother’s letter. Yet, I do not remember either of my parents describing us that way. 

This letter has altered my perspective of my entire childhood. It is true, Sandy and I did drive our tricycles under the storm windows which were leaning against a wall.  I have scars along the back of my neck to prove it.  

We did disappear, with some cousins, picking blueberries one summer; but I only remember great pancakes the next morning, not any repercussions.  

We did make our Robinson Crusoe rafts out of the local farmer’s cornstalks. But I really would not classify any of these as the activities of little hellions.

Fortunately, for our parents, we lived in the country during the 1950s. Instead of keeping us indoors, they just sent us outside to play. We would come back hours later with filthy hands (mud pies), straw in our hair, (jumping into bales) along with an assortment of cuts and bruises.   

Looking back now, I suppose we were a handful. My parents raised eight children and Sandy and I were in the middle of the pack. Maybe their preoccupation with our siblings allowed us the freedom to explore.  

As it turns out, Sandy and I grew up to be hardworking adults (although he is still a bit hyperactive). He loves to fish, play softball and go boating. His little sister loves writing, reading and boating. 

And although he and I have not “played” together for a long time, we were lucky to have found companions with the same energy levels.  

So, during this period between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I would like to offer a prayer of thanks to my parents. I am glad you let us channel all that energy, mom and dad.  And I am glad you never told us we were your little hellions. 

Beaufort is truly the little town that could

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By Lee Scott

There is an old poem about a Little Blue Engine that was asked to pull a train up a small mountain.  

The poem, written in the 1930s, was meant to capture the meaning of optimism and hard work. The little train had toys and wholesome food for little boys and girls but it had broken down. When the town asked the big engines to help, they refused because they were too important to help the little train. 

But the Little Blue Engine decided to help, despite her small size. She said to herself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”  

As I was reading The Island News recently about all the things going on in Beaufort, I thought of that little engine.

There are so many events and programs being held in Beaufort which one would not expect for a small town.  

The city proper only has around 13,000 residents (as of the 2015 count) and yet it puts on large events all the time. 

Think of the International Film Festival which brings in participants from all over the world. Then there are all those festivals downtown at the Waterfront Park.  

I feel like Bubba talking to Forest Gump. There’s The Shrimp Festival and Taste of Beaufort, Music, Arts and Seafood Festival; The Beaufort Water Festival; The Light up the Night Boat Parade Festival. 

Sweet Lord! How does such a small town get the energy and volunteers to accomplish all these things?

Don’t the people that run these events have other jobs? Don’t they have families? I mean even the number of volunteers in the community is limited. 

But the town is like the little engine. It thinks it can. No, it is not Savannah, or Charleston. It is just a little community; yet I could fill up every night of the week with events, programs and festivals to attend.  

How does such a small community put on so much? I think the answer lies in the old poem. It is all about optimism and hard work. The people that championed the Waterfront Park and the volunteers with the historical society are credited with the present success of the town.  

But it is the rest of the citizens that spurred these leaders along. To me, they are the main reason why the town was recognized by Southern Living as “The Best Small Town in the South” for 2017.  

And just like the Little Blue Engine said, “I thought could. I thought I could. I thought I could.” 

This isn’t something you see every day

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An elephant and a dog play in the water. Photo by Lee Scott.
An elephant and a dog play in the water. Photo by Lee Scott.

By Lee Scott

Recently, my spouse and I did a boat delivery from Beaufort up to the Chesapeake Bay. We have done this trip numerous times and for some reason, it never gets boring. 

It seems like there is something always going on like, dolphins playing in the boat wake and unusual birds sitting on the side of the marsh. Then there are kayakers, paddle boarders, and jet skis gliding by as you pass through their territory. 

No matter how many times we make this trip, something happens, and this time it was something totally unique.

I was at the helm of the sailboat and my spouse was below looking at the chart book. As I looked down the river, it appeared that a bunch of boats were gathering around some object in the water. At first I thought it was a large inflatable raft, but when I looked with the binoculars, I thought I saw an elephant in the water.

Now, I do not take drugs, nor am I on any medication, but this was unreal.  

“Uh, honey!” I called.

“Yes.” 

“I believe there is an elephant playing in the river ahead of us.”

“A what?” he asked.

“An elephant. And I am pretty sure there is a black Labrador dog on his back.”

My spouse came up from below, looked through the binoculars and casually said, “Yup, that is an elephant with a lab on his back.” (As if we see this sight all the time) 

He took over the helm and I grabbed my camera and started to take pictures. The two animals were frolicking in the water and people were everywhere laughing and enjoying the scene. 

The dog would climb on the elephant’s back, then the elephant would stand up and the dog would leap off into the water. They had this routine down well. 

I started sending texts out to my family and friends and received an e-mail from my son-in-law, Matt.  “Check out the YouTube video. That is Bella and Bubbles.”

Evidently, the two are part of the Myrtle Beach Safari.  

Bubbles was adopted as an ivory orphan in 1983. She grew from 300 pounds to 9,000 pounds and the Safari decided to have a pool built for her. 

In 2007, the contractor who was building the pool, abandoned a little puppy at The Preserve. Before long, the two became close buddies.  

If you get a chance to see the video check the two out playing ball. And if you happen to be traveling down the Intracoastal Waterway and see an elephant and dog in the water, don’t worry. It is just Bella and Bubbles. 

To see a video of the two, Google “Bella and Bubbles.”

Ummm … what was your name again?

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By Lee Scott

One of the most uncomfortable situations for many us is attending an event and not being able to remember the names of the people you see. 

You walk into the room and right away someone greets you by your first name and your mind is a blank.

But there is good news! 

Many people are in the same boat. We find ourselves struggling to come up with a person’s name knowing full well we cannot recall it.  

Fortunately, my spouse and I have our “I don’t know their name routine.” (I know other couples have their own method.) If I am chatting with someone and do not introduce him right away, he will put out his hand and introduce himself. This gives the other person a chance to introduce himself while I stand there innocently playing the “Oh, I thought you two had already met” look on my face.  

To complicate the problem of forgetting people’s names, I have added another twist. I assign names. There are so many men and women who remind me of someone else. My girlfriend Donna looks like Jennifer Gray from the old “Dirty Dancing” movie. 

Joanne, my mail carrier, was Jackie to me for a long time until one day when she corrected me. How embarrassing. 

However, I was lucky when it came to my spouse’s name. The first time I saw him, years ago, he was in a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner with a young blonde on his arm. I thought he looked like “Bond. James Bond.” Fortunately, his name is James and the young blonde is long gone.

According to medical websites, some doctors believe we do not remember names because we are so busy during the introduction observing the person’s features, body language and other characteristics that we dismiss the name part. Maybe that is why I am so quick to assign a name. I am too distracted focusing on who they look like and miss hearing their actual name. 

But my favorite assigned name was Alice, whose real name was Maureen. She was a waitress at a restaurant we frequented for many years in Annapolis. She went along with her new name, although it would confuse other customers. Maureen was always “Alice” to us and would serve my spouse a mean martini saying “Bond, James Bond. Shaken, not stirred.”   

Sometimes, you can have fun forgetting someone’s name. 

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