Coastal Diaries - Palmetto Bugs and True Grit

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Piney Grove Baptist Church 

October 20, 2016.  Bugs. Large ones. I’ve never been a fan of creepy crawlies, but these Palmetto Bugs (a gussied up word for roaches) cause my heart to skip a beat. Thankfully, there’s none inside the house, but if you step out on the porch at night, there’s a good chance you’ll see one. Or two. But, as my husband reminds me, this is the south and I need to shore up my grit and carry on. 

Speaking of grit, these folks along the Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers need a lot of it. Yesterday we passed through Low Country and noticed people standing around helplessly as they looked across ‘ponds’ to where their houses stood in the swelling flood waters. With the rivers slowly falling from their initial 17.4 feet above flood stage, many homes are still pooling in water. Several women were trying to propel a row boat with their hands in an attempt to reach their home. I asked if they would give me an interview, but they shook their heads in frustration, saying, “Honey, we are way too stressed to think about an interview.” 

We drove on through Hunting Swamp and Maple Swamp, past fields of soybeans and cotton along a road that stretched for miles into the brilliant sunlight. We passed a small store with a crooked sign that read, “fried livers, gizzards and bait.” The parking lot was filled with old trucks pulling trailered boats. I suppose fisherman and their boats are in demand right now.

We arrived in a neighborhood where my husband was scheduled for an inspection of a home’s damages. The house was tiny – shoebox sized – and the elderly woman who greeted us at the door was neatly dressed, her serene face welcoming. After the assessment of her roof, she lingered on the porch to chat. Her story moved us to tears.

My husband served in the chemical division of the Vietnam War, and 17 years ago he was diagnosed with a disease from Agent Orange. The doctor said he had a year to live, but the good Lord decided to let him live longer. He is supposed to be on oxygen 24 hours a day, but he doesn’t always listen to me. There is not a lot of air moving through his lungs.

We sold our beautiful home in the country and moved into this small one when he became ill. It’s easier for me to manage, along with taking care of him. We have a son who looks after us, too. And we’re so thankful for him.

I had two sons, 16 months apart, and they both served in the military. In 2004, my oldest son died in an ambush in the Iraq war. He was a medic with the Special Forces. He and his men had left the base to go into Baghdad to gather information. On the way, they heard their base was being attacked so they turned around to help. Sadly, they were ambushed. The enemy was ahead of them and the river was behind them. The men who were manning the Jeep-mounted guns were killed by the enemy. So my son got on one of the guns and laid down fire so his men could escape. I would not have expected anything less of him. He was awarded a Silver Star posthumously.

We’ve had a lot of sadness, but we don’t regret being in the military. They have been good to us.”

We got back into our car and drove home through Hunting Swamp and Maple Swamp, past the soybean and cotton fields and the crooked sign advertising fish bait. Our eyes were glistening, not necessarily from the brilliant sunshine in the Carolina sky, as we marveled at the human soul’s ability to carry on despite hardship. That’s true grit.


  1. Wow, incredible story. The photo of the church is amazing and symbolic at the same time. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    1. Carol, I was so moved by the photo and the woman's story. I'm grateful you stopped by for a read.

  2. I loved reading this Naomi! In fact, I promptly passed it along to my sister. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh that makes me so happy. Thank you for sharing the story! It would be lovely to meet you one day and to hear your own story. May I email you?