For those of you who do not know Selkirk Plantation, it is a 1000 acre farm that is located roughly 30 minutes south of Charleston at the end of the Leadenwah creek on the tip of Wadmalaw Island.
It was my Grandmother's farm that my uncle managed, as I never had the chance to meet my Grandfather because he died before I was born. My father had the experience of growing up on a farm in Charleston and wanted us to have the same life. He would take us to Selkirk Plantation every weekend and we stayed there every summer with my grandmother.
I just got off the phone with my uncle who is a cowboy named George Wallen.
He is currently living in Florida. I needed him to fill me in on the details and I am really glad I called him because I had the story all wrong. And if I had not called him, and if I had published this post inaccurately, he would have ridden his horse from Florida, bareback, uphill in the snow, right alongside I-95 wearing one boot and…well you get the picture…he would not have been too happy with me. I certainly would have had to write this blog again…making it right …for posterity.
So this brings up two really important points.
So this is what George told me about how he ended up growing up on a farm in Charleston:
My grandfather was a test pilot for the TBM-Avenger Torpedo Bomber. This was a plane in plane World War II that was very instrumental in winning the war. In fact, he trained and was in command of 27 test pilots for these planes. In fact, an entire squadron of these were lost over the Bermuda Triangle. When the war was over, he went to California and bought warehouses full of left over airplane parts. He ran an airline parts business in Greenwich Connecticut and basically sold them to pilots, airlines, anybody that needed spare parts for their airplane.
My grandmother, whose name was Grammy to me and Anne to the rest of the world, and my grandfather, whose name was Gunther and who went by Gunny to the rest of the world, were both tired of bundling up their kids (my uncle, my father and my aunt) every winter so their three kids could go outside and play.
Connecticut was really, really cold and just not where they wanted to be… so they jumped in a small plane and started heading for Florida. On a complete fluke, they had to stop in Charleston because there was a really bad storm and it was too dangerous to fly. They ended up liking it here in Charleston and decided to find a realtor. This was in 1948 and yes…I am patting myself on the back for being able to tie real estate into this story about growing up on a farm in Charleston.
So… their realtor showed them around and they found Selkirk Plantation. Now I remember being told when I was growing up that they named it after Alexander Selkirk, who was the British gentleman who cast himself off of a ship on a deserted island because the captain was a tyrant and he feared for his life. Yes, this was the same British gentleman who served as Daniel Defoe’s inspiration for his famous novel, Robinson Crusoe.
This Robinson Crusoe story stuck with me while growing up on a farm in Charleston. Throughout my childhood I thought it was so cool that my grandparents were clever enough to name their island after the real life inspiration of the classic Robinson Crusoe story. I envisioned their life mirroring Selkirk’s and that they were in fact cast down from not the sea, but the sky and that they were going to intentionally desert themselves on the end of Wadmalaw Island as a refuge and a safe haven from the bitter cold weather they were trying to get away from up North. That through sheer luck and on complete accident, they had found the perfect lifestyle, much like Robinson Crusoe did.
WRONG. My cowboy uncle was quick to point out that it was already named Selkirk when they bought it. That I was delusional and my fictitious memory sounded good, but simply was not true. Again, facts. These are important when writing non-fiction.
Okay, so my uncle shot me down. Maybe my childhood had inaccurate elements of grandeur and fantasy. Maybe I believed the wrong thing for 35 years of my life. Just think, if I had never started this blog, I may have never discovered my grandparent’s true plight and never known of their true flight (hey, that rhymes) and initial touch down in Charleston. To think, if the weather had not been bad that day and they had kept going, my life would have been so very different. It is weird to consider these strange circumstances as fate and how they can shape one’s life. I would have never had the opportunity to experience growing up on a farm in Charleston, I might never have met my wife who is also from Charleston, nor would I have my 2 little girls Bella and Ruby. This is a bit disturbing to me.
I was quick to point out to George that I did have some of the facts about growing up on Selkirk Plantation correct.
Here are a few of the things I can remember about my experience growing up on a farm in Charleston. (I can even prove them…just take a look at the photos):
FACT: We found a calf nursing off of a deer that had been separated from the herd. The deer was running the calf so much, that the calf was really skinny and we took it in and named him Thirsty. We used to run with our thumbs behind our back and Thirsty would chase us and suck our thumbs.
FACT: We went hunting one night for raccoons and this guys kids that lived on John’s Island wanted to skin the raccoon’s….you know… how should I say it…it’s private part... to make a flute out of it. Yes, I said a flute. Yes, this is weird, Yes, this is a little sick. And yes, this is absolutely true.
FACT: My grandmother had six dachsunds at one time. Wizard, Trina, Heidi, Streaker, Crybaby, Trouble, a basset hound named Who Me? that my uncle had found swimming in the creek and a boxer named Brandy.
FACT: The dogs would go out all night long and this fox would run a few hundred yards away and stop. The fox would continue this through the night, toying with them. Wizard, Trina, Heidi, Streaker, Crybaby, Trouble, Who Me? and Brandy would come inside at dawn, eat and collapse on the kitchen floor from exhaustion.
FACT: My grandparents raised a bunch of cows. 500 at a time and some of them were very mean and would chase me and my brothers. They would bite us if they could and many times rammed the fence when we were nearby.
FACT: I shot blindly into a huge flock of blackbirds flying overhead. I killed one and felt terrible. I never killed an animal again.
FACT: My grandparents introduced Cutting Horses into the state of SC. This is a form of rodeo style quarter horse riding that they brought up from Florida. It involves separating a cow from the herd and blocking it’s way back to the herd with your horse.
FACT: I used to drive a fiberglass mechanical cow while growing up on Selkirk Plantation. This mechanical cow had a go cart type machine built inside that my uncle used for training horses. We would steer it with three levers and look through the cows eyes to see. I remember it being very fast and very cool.
FACT: My grandfather was inducted into the Augusta Futurity Cutting Horse Hall of Fame for introducing the sport into SC.
FACT: My uncle was just inducted into the same hall of fame for his lifelong contributions and support of the sport. This is the first time a direct descendant has been inducted and he is really proud of it. And rightfully he should be.
FACT: My uncle rode his horse from Florida, bareback, through two feet of snow, both ways… to Augusta, Georgia to accept his induction into the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame wearing only one boot.
FACT: Growing up on Selkirk Plantation was a childhood I would not trade for the World. There are many things I would trade, but not this.
FACT: This is a long blog post. The longest to date. The topic is one very near and dear to me and my family and I could go on and on about it and write many, many, many more pages. There were elements about growing up on a farm in Charleston I simply could not edit out and I thank you for reading this far.
FACT: My family sold Selkirk Plantation in the mid 1980’s. The property has since been divided into 30 separate tracts and can never be subdivided more as it is protected from further development.
This is not the moral, but it is pretty important
If you see a guy in his early 70’s, balding, riding a horse, bareback,wearing one boot, along I-95 in Florida, you will know who it is and what his story is. I encourage you to stop, talk to him… buy him a beer or two, heck even take him in and give him a meal. His name is George Wallen and he is a cowboy.
Thank you George for helping me get the story straight. I am glad I know the truth so I can pass is along to my kids one day.I also appreciate you letting me poke fun of you. Anyone who knows you would know you would not be wearing cowboy boots in Florida, you would be riding your horse down I-95 with flip flops on.
Nat Wallen – Realtor – Blogger – Fact Checker – Nephew of a Cowboy
Nat Wallen is a Realtor in Charleston SC specializing in residential property sales. He has been licensed since 1995 and is the top listing agent with Carolina One Real Estate. Carolina One Real Estate is the largest company in the Charleston SC area of 700 plus agents. NOTE: Nat Wallen never solicits consumers interacting with his blog unless requested. YOUR comments are encouraged and welcomed. Thanks!