Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Dead Thing

South Carolina highway 9 leaving Myrtle Beach is like withdrawing from something. It's a divided highway in every sense of the word. The cars and trucks loaded down with the accoutrements of vacation life flow into town with such eagerness and purpose, then limp out of town worn, spent, exhausted. After ten miles or so the vacation-kitschy shops and huts begin to thin out. Fewer t-shirt shops, vegetable stands and tacky gift huts.

Suddenly, I saw a dead thing. A golf course, abandoned, gone to seed. The white painted brick gate elegantly sloping away from the entrance in both directions like wings proclaiming with black letters...lack Bear, the giant cursive B probably stolen by college kids and adorning the wall behind the bar at a frat house somewhere. A memory comes to mind of playing a round here twenty years ago when it was new and bustling with cigar smoking men in loud pants. Now it was dead.

I wondered what could possibly have happened. It was so beautiful when it was new. It was pitched as a sure thing by some sharp man in an Armani suit around a conference room table. He spoke of the unique qualities of the design, the flawless team that had been assembled to oversee the project. The investors could hardly wait for him to finish so they could write their checks.

But now it looks like a moonscape, all browns and grays, tall billowy weeds of cat tails, ragweed mixed in with the purple traces of wild alfalfa. I saw a block of blue wood with an iron stake through it pointing at the tops of trees where once a tee box stood. Here there was a rusted ball washer. There a faded hole sign diagramming the contours of what used to be a finely trimmed fairway but now looked like a minefield.

I thought of a story my Dad told me about an obnoxious churchman who, admiring his neighbor's garden, commented, "what a fine garden the Lord has given you to tend..." The neighbor, hands gnarled and stained by toil replied, "think so? You should have seen this garden when the Lord had it by himself."

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death." The golfing market became saturated. Too many options available, too many competitors. The flawless team never saw it coming. Now, 18 fiberglass poles with colorful flags were slowly decomposing in a landfill, 18 holes and 18 cups scattered throughout the property serving no purpose now except as a home for weeds.

Eventually, someone will come along with an idea. A new Armani suit will stand at the head of a polished table speaking of unique things. But this time, the hint of death will hover in the room, mental images of this barren landscape will enter the minds of investors. It will be a harder sell.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.