Sometimes, it can take something very small to bring people in a community a little closer together.
Most recently, that something for Graniteville residents is waterfowl.
Over the last two years, the canal that runs through the small town has collected about 32 feathered friends, and a few residents are working together to make sure these ducks and geese are protected.
Graniteville's Quack Pack
The canal runs along Canal Street, and unfortunately, a few ducks have perished after being struck by speeding vehicles when attempting to cross the street. The posted speed limit along that road is 30 miles per hour.
Graniteville resident Robert Wise has been looking after these ducks and geese for about two years. He has helped nurse back to health some of the ducks injured by vehicles or natural predators.
Wise goes out every day with his bags full of freshly-baked cornbread and cracked corn and loudly whistles. Some of the ducks start hopping out the water while others wait in the canal to have a quick meal tossed out to them.
“I don't care if there's rain, lightning or wind – I come down here to check on them,” Wise said.
Wise recently met Shannon Pettigrew, another Graniteville resident who took interest in the ducks and recently started a Facebook page which has attracted 131 members who are helping the two figure out ways to keep the ducks from getting harmed.
Pettigrew said that over the last month, he has done research and has learned a lot about the ducks, such as the identity of the different breeds. What he has learned about the ducks is shared with children in the area who come and visit Graniteville's flock.
A sort of community duck watch has been loosely established as residents notify Wise if they see an injured duck. Wise even got a knock at the door at 6 a.m. from a resident notifying him that one of the ducks was hurt.
On Thursday afternoon, Wise and Pettigrew were at the canal feeding the ducks and geese in the misting rain. Some ate right out of their hands and others in the water followed the two men as they walked along the edge of the canal. Almost every car that drove by honked, with drivers waving with a smile.
Wise said residents young and old love stopping by and seeing the ducks.
The ducks also have names including Quack-Quack, Huey, Flash, Cinderella and Honkers the goose, just to name a few. One resident and her children named a duck “Moo” because it has the pattern of a dairy cow with black spots covering its white chest and belly.
Wise said that not only do they care for the ducks but they also try to pick up around the canal and do a little landscaping to keep the area nice.
A dark green trash can has been installed to encourage people to properly dispose of their trash. Dustin Trott of Graniteville, designed a “Graniteville Ducks” logo that is on that trash can, Wise said.
Wise added that they recently received a large donation of out-of-date bread from Randy Pickering of Aiken to use for feeding the ducks.
Wise said that they would like people to please slow down when driving down Canal Street and not just for the ducks but more importantly, for children playing across the road at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School.
Wise added that the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and South Carolina Highway Patrol has upped its presence since the speeders are an issue along Canal Street. Many motorists who know of the ducks also make sure to keep their eyes open for them and will stop to let them cross.
Wise is happy to see people come together and take pride in the not only the ducks, but in their community. He's also appreciative of Weldon Wyatt and his partners who own property along the canal for supporting their efforts.
“Some people have Harley Davidsons, some go fishing, but Shannon and I take care of ducks,” Wise quipped. “These are God's creatures and we're just blessed to take care of them.”
• Amy Banton, who has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010, is the city beat reporter and a staff photographer. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman's College.