David McCabe of McCabe’s Bar-B-Que in Manning makes the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. He saves his old mayonnaise jar lids so they can be used as access hatches on purple martin gourds.
Jim Beatson of Sumter grows gourds in his back yard. (“Much to my wife’s displeasure,” he told us. They get in the way of her flowers.) Beatson read that purple martins prefer open areas, so one day while his wife was at work, he cut down a couple of his dogwoods. (Also “much to my wife’s displeasure.”)
Bubba Johnson has taken care of purple martins since he was a boy. He enlisted the help of his neighbors, and now his home town of New Zion is dotted with purple martin colonies.
A bit of background: Hundreds of year ago, purple martins on the east coast started breeding in gourds hung from trees by Native Americans. Now, they rely entirely on human-built housing, and it’s to late to go back. Natural nesting sites like tree cavities have been taken over by aggressive invaders – European starlings and sparrows. It falls to humans to build the houses that allow purple martins to survive.