Dan Smith: Of Charleston and friendship

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 11:43 PM

One of the great places I enjoy visiting from time to time is Charleston, S.C.

I seem to only go to SEC or some other southern football conference team areas when I go on vacation — even though I'm Big Ten.

I've been to Charleston many times and never get tired of it, especially with the great restaurants and historical sights to see. With the weekend coming up on Veterans Day last week, what better place to visit than the Patriot Point, which sits right across the Cooper River bridge in Mount Pleasant.

They have a WWII aircraft carrier there called the USS Yorktown, which you can tour along with a Navy destroyer, and a submarine. They are self-guided and you make your way through them at your own pace. I'm sure you can join a formal tour if you like; I prefer being on my own. They have a mascot named "Scrappy", who is a dog that was smuggled aboard the Yorktown back in 1943 in Hawaii. Today they have a person dressed up in a "Scrappy" costume that entertains tourists and helps with the entertainment.

One of the great things they do on this docked ship is allow Boy Scouts and other groups to stay over night on the Yorktown as a sleepover. They get to use the original bunks just like the sailors did back when.

As I toured through the ship, I couldn't help but notice that the crew members had to be small in stature. The passageways and ceilings were so small that I had to duck most of the time when I was below decks.

There were many veterans that were also visiting at that time, some in uniform and others just remembering the past. There was plenty of patriotism to go around as we all looked at the jets and planes on display inside the Yorktown. One of the most thought provoking displays was the capsule that John Glenn flew in when he circled the earth.

This vehicle was so small that it didn't seem possible to fly. John Glenn must have been a very small man to fit into this tiny confined area. It would be smaller than any car you have ever sat in. If you were over 5-8, you would not have fit. He was truly a brave man with that thin metal box he was in and at those speeds. By the way, the Yorktown was also the ship that retrieved the Apollo 8 space capsule with the astronauts in December 1968.

We also toured the submarine called the USS Clamagore which is actually a National Historical Monument. This ship was also built for short sailors.

I would have felt sorry for tall guys like myself who would have had to walk bent over and sideways just to get through the walkways. The doorways between sections were about the size of half a windshield on a car.

The bathrooms were an afterthought by the designers. They were put in places under stairs or in a nook with pipes all around you with a small commode and no knee room. The mess hall would accommodate 16 crewmen who sat back to back as you literally leaned against the other person behind you.

There is more to tell you about the area here in Charleston, but, as usual, I've no more space.

I will tell you a story of meeting up with an old friend I use to hike with here in the Smoky Mountains, that moved away about nine years ago to just north of Charleston in a little town called Summerville, S.C. On our way back home we planned to eat a brunch at Cracker Barrel and get caught up on our friendship.

It was good to see him and talk about old times. You see, two years ago, his wife came down with a disease that gradually left her blind before taking her life. They had met in Canada where he studied for the ministry. They had been together for 50 years. Of course her death devastated him and left him with many questions about life.

I have come across many stories similar to this one and always ask the same question: Why? Only time can heal such wounds, if at all. I've learned to appreciate every day and take advantage of enjoying what I can while I can.

Don't hold a grudge and make up with friends. Appreciate each other.