THE NEWS THAT'S NOT

FOOLS' PARADISE

SOUTH CAROLINA FLAG CONTROVERSY RAGES ON

Nestled in the coastal marshes of South Carolina, Lowding Bay is a quiet place, where nothing much ever happens. Not since the seventeenth century, when the inlets round here were a favored haunt of pirates has there been any kind of conflict in this sleepy backwater. Until recently, when a storm blew up over centuries-old unhealed wounds that are threatening to tear this community apart.
   Lowding Bay is too small to have a city hall for people to protest in front of. So all last week, crowds gathered outside the Buccaneer Hotel and Saloon Bar, an unpretentious waterfront hostelry that finds itself at the center of a typhoon of controversy.
   The root of the dispute is not difficult to spot. It flies proudly over the Buccaneer, fluttering in the ocean breezes. Lowding Bay, South Carolina is the last place in the United States to fly the Skull and Crossbones.
   To many here, the "Jolly Roger" flag is offensive. Laverne Smith works at the Texaco station directly opposite the Buccaneer. "It makes me so mad," she says, stubbing out her Virginia Slim on a paper plate on the counter of the gas station's convenience store. "Every time I see it, I think of those poor folks being made to walk the plank. One of them could have been an ancestor of mine."

"It's about heritage"

rape and pillage policies. Many gallant men in eye-patches laid down their lives for our rights to large stashes of gold doubloons and access to haughty Spanish beauties."
But surely, I ask, these plank-walking folks have some right to feel aggrieved.
"Only if you think of piracy and plank-walking as the same thing. The fact is, plank-walking was only a small part of it. What we celebrate by flying the Jolly Roger is a rich and gallant heritage. Things like seamanship and drinking grog and saying 'Avast there, me hearties.' Things like swinging from ropes with knives clenched in their teeth. We think these traditions are worth fighting for, don't you."
I say nothing, but I'm aware of the parrot's beady eye following me as I pay for our grogs and leave.
   As the controversy drags on and the two sides become more entrenched in their positions, some are looking for a compromise. Larry Hope, owner of the Hope Marina, is one of them. "I'm losing business," he says. "I'm as pirate as anyone round here. If Blackbeard were to pull in here right now, I'd rent him a berth for his galleon and buy him a grog in the Buccaneer and be glad to do it. But I don't see why we can't be sensible about this.
I suggested to Ed, we find another place to

   Laverne's views are shared by many here. But there is another side to the dispute. Every day, scores of men with black eye-patches parade outside the Buccaneer, bearing placards with slogans like "Hands off Our Flag!", "Leave Our Heritage Alone" and, strangely, "Earn $$$ in Your Spare Time. Call 422-4422"
   Seeking to cast some light on this murky picture, we reached one of the protestors, Mr. Ed Teach, at the saloon bar of the Buccaneer Hotel.
   Speaking through a parrot, Mr. Teach told us:
"It's not about plank-walking. It's about heritage. Look, our forefathers didn't fight and die for plank-walking. They fought for ships' rights. For the right of individual ships to determine their own

"...as pirate as anyone round here"

Movie Review
Brigadier General Sir Crispin Maddingley Snorrt, K.B. (retired) reviews "Stuart Little".

fly the flag, somewhere less offensive. Like his toilet. There's space on the wall right across from the commode."
   Today, the questions surrounding the Jolly Roger remain unresolved. Will it continue to flutter proudly from the roof of the Buccaneer? Is Ed's toilet really less offensive? Why does nobody put that talking parrot on television? What will be the effect of the Republican presidential primaries focusing the nation's attention on the palmetto State? We'll be watching.

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