Let's just start with the directions. Because after all, what's a story with out a pre-determined road map...or in this case...a map to a island in the middle of the Savannah River. Simple. Starting at the North Augusta Boat ramp at Riverview Park, paddle or take a motorboat approximately one mile up river to find a bunch of fun loving, like minded people hanging out on an island, cleaning up trash, listening to music and eating fresh, hand crafted chili. Say what? Fo sho player, you heard correct. This is an organized event unlike any other you are likely to attend. Why you ask? Well let me introduce the inception of this fantastic idea. Since my first day in Riverside Park, awaiting customers on a bright and sunny day, I noticed trash. Trash in the parking lot, trash on the banks of Bettys Branch, then paddling up the Little River to see trash at the trestles and back in the woods of the park finding trash that had been there for decades. So naturally, as a person who cares about the place in which I now feel responsible for, I took action, then little by little, along with many others, the trash started to diminish. With the help of Evan and Kat we cleaned up a Jon boats worth of trash at the trestles and then my dear friend Venus, donated a trash can that was placed underneath. Now there is much less trash thrown on the ground around the landmark bridge. The woods are staring to come along, but honestly there are some pretty intense piles of glass bottles in multiple areas and I'd love to organize a clean up. The Branch is looking right nice as well, not to say that it was ever bad by any means, but when you are standing on the dock, the sun shining on your face and your day is going fantastic...a beer can or bag of snacks floating in the distance just does something to you, or me I guess. I gotta go get it. What the hell else am I doing right now? Enjoying? Lord knows enjoying is for the spectator in life. At this point in the process, many, many trash eliminating adventures have taken place in order to find myself along with my pal Scott Russell of 6bitesin, on an island, down south on the river from my usual outpost and trash conscious responsible territory. The concept, go to this island, that has been utilized for many moons, clean it up a bit, then invite anyone willing, to help us really dig deep to pull off a major haul of rubbish, then of course feed them and show em a good time. To think that would be a complicated task, is exactly the point behind the idea. We are going completely out of our way to clean up someone else's trash, on an island, for no money, for no charity, for no reason at all other than to prove a simple point. It is so much easier for you to throw your trash away than it is for someone else to stop and get it for you. Is it such a complicated concept? Does your mom still wipe your ass? Am I just completely obsessed with trash to the point that I have created an event that is really just moonlighting as a support group to make me feel like I am not a trash hating maniac? All valid points....but, back to the story. This will be the 3rd Annual Calypso Chili Cookout. No one involved knew what to expect on the first, especially as Scott and I viciously drank in order to gain the personality needed for that initial promo, but I knew one thing for sure....the chili better be fire! So we gathered local sponsors, Good Earth Produce on Davis Road in Evans, who supplied us with fresh vegetables. Laniers Meat Market on Broad Street in Downtown Augusta, who provided us with fresh ground beef. Then other gracious sponsors like Icer Coolers, which is now owned by Rec Tec Grills, who are also a sponsor, as well as Rick Milton Photography on Washington Road, Southern Moon Outfitters just off Washington Road and Beer Me Augusta all provided awesome prizes for folks that attended. But back to the chili....I researched the ever loving mess out of chili recipes. Not one out there does it from scratch, not a single one. Im not about that out of can life, but let me tell you what...the internet is all about it. I felt that if we were already going through the trouble of going the extra mile, up river mind you, that we might as well make it from scratch. Soak the beans, fire roast the veggies, can it all in mason jars like a bad ass grandma that always smells like homemade everything and bring it out to the island in coolers, to cook fresh in a giant wok made by Rec Tec grills, dubbed the Matador. Two years in a row, quality chili...not gonna lie that first year was a bit bland, but year two was real gangsta! What did we as a collective accomplish? So the island as I have mentioned has been utilized for quite some time. There are remnants of dwellings as well as more modern signs of life such as piles of cans and what have you. The first year was a rough scrape of the property. The people that came out, fulfilled the dream. Trash bags were loaded on boats and hauled away trash from past to present. Much thanks to those on the first run! Was a magical day. The second year, upon returning I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trash level was drastically reduced. One whole year later and even the amount of would be new trash had been diminished. That is success. So on that second chili cookout, we dug deep. Removing old metal from the decades old inhabitants. Rusty old garbage that I later drove to the scrap metal yard. Believe I got a ten dollar check for it all. Honestly I have yet to return to the island since last year. I am truly excited to see what else can be done to preserve what is an epic habitat for wildlife, a refuge for lone paddlers and secret hideaway amongst restless waters. Listen to me and listen with both ears folded forward...this event means something. It is essentially a statement that says, little by little, if we all do our part, we can make big changes. If you decide to come, awesome...bring a trash bag and collect along the way. If you don't come, but have still for some reason kept reading this article...stop at some place you consider your territory and pick up where others have fallen short. I believe that when you see a clean area, there is a much less likely chance that some ass clown is gonna ruin it by unloading a bunch of trash there. Misery loves company and trash is simply miserable. The event will take place on said island, Saturday, February 29th, 2020. Noonish till 4ish. We will be there early gettin that bomb chili ready! See ya somewhere if not out there!
Stallings Island...ever heard of it? Not what the local kids call "SIMS" as in Stallings Island Middle School, although the school bears quite a historical name. The actual Stallings Island is located in the middle of the Savannah River just below another historical site, the Stevens Creek Hydroelectric Dam. This island also known by some locals as "Donkey Island" is an archaeological site that holds a significant piece of the past in relation to ancient civilizations. Some 4000 years ago, the people of Stallings island, lived, fished, hunted and raised families along the now underwater shoals of the Savannah River. While this entire region was inhabited, Stallings Island seemed to be a meeting place as well as a place of memorial to the dead. Many artifacts including pottery, skeletons, bone needles and hunting tools were excavated during several archaeological digs throughout the past 50 years. If you would like to dive into the history of Stallings Island, please read the book, People of the Shoals, Stallings Culture of the Savannah River Valley by Kenneth E. Sassaman. I am not an expert by any means to the extensive history of this island, I personally happened across this majestic place as a young man and found that there were donkeys and goats wandering about on an island in the center of the Savannah River. Thats really all it took for me to be hooked, as I love animals. So...why the animals on an island? Well, this being an island of significance and under the ownership of the Archaeological Conservancy they wanted to keep the vegetation down. If you have been to any other island on the Savannah River they are quite dense and lush with ground cover. What better natural lawn mowers than goats right? So a few goats were introduced to the island and things were going great for awhile. However predators will do what they do, namely coyotes which are prevalent in the southeast. Any goat farmer will tell you there is no better solution to coyotes than donkeys. Donkeys hate coyotes. So now the island is habitat for donkeys, goats, deer, beautiful birds and snakes. Can you imagine a better place to live out your life? I must note at this point that trespassing on the island is illegal due to its historical significance and is privately owned by the Archaeological Conservancy. If you would like to paddle up to the island and feed the animals, please remain in your boat. The animals especially the donkeys love healthy snacks. Unless express permission is granted, please stay off the island otherwise. If trespassing was legal, I guarantee I would have set up a tent long ago. Anyways...what this article is even supposed to be about in the first place is the well being of the animals on Stallings Island. Concerns were raised in the beginning of 2019 by some paddlers, that the hoofs of the donkeys looked to be in bad shape. Jessica Crawford, Duke Beasley and Nikki Mattson of the Archaeological Conservancy wasted absolutely no time in flying down to Augusta, GA. Seeking out professional help, they brought in a farrier in from Aiken, SC, Meg Francoeur, to check the condition of the donkeys. Meg was able to assess the situation and manicure the hoofs on the male donkey, named "Buster" who is quite the socialite, but seems to intimidate the other two jennies. The two jennies have proven to be evasive and skittish especially in the presence of Buster. The day eventually had to come to an end without the success of tending to the jennies but over the past few weeks, with patience and lots of feed hay, a few volunteers and myself have started to corral the jennies to an area in hopes of creating a safe space. The plan, devised by Meg is one that will take time, patience and trust to complete. Who knew donkey wrangling was a thing, on an island in the middle of the Savannah River and that it would be such a task? Well we all now know...and look forward to the return trip to finish the job next week. Updates will be posted so stay tuned! Big huge enormous thanks to the Archaeological Conservancy and all the volunteers that have helped in this project! Sonia Sessions, Bethany Davis, Cole Watkins, my lovely wife Amy Colbert, Zack Day, John Meeks and the man I only know as Cowboy. Below are photos from the day. Please enjoy the river, respect the animals and the laws governing the island. Article written January 14th, 2020 by Andy Colbert
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