Sept/Oct 2007Duck-Hunting Traditionby Pat Robertson, photography by Phillip Jones
Toy McCord will never forget the duck hunt in Sparkleberry Swamp when he was just ten years old. Although he'd been going to the swamp with his dad, J.B. McCord, and uncle Jerome since he was six, this trip was memorable.
"I had just got a new double-barrel shotgun for Christmas. My brother Jimmy and I went into the swamp in paddle boats with my dad and uncle the day after Christmas and spent the night on a high ridge up off York and Snake creeks."
The next morning Jimmy and Jerome left to hunt together and McCord and his dad went into Big Cypress Pond between the two creeks.
"There were big acorn trees everywhere, and that morning at daylight it sounded like jet planes there were so many ducks coming out of the sky," he recalls.
McCord shot several ducks down, and when two wheeled in behind him, he leaned far out to shoot - and fell out of the boat.
"Daddy pulled me back into the boat and paddled as hard as he could back to the camp. He built a big campfire and left me there in my long 'hannels' to dry while he went back hunting. While I was warming by the fire, I shot two more mallard drakes. That trip, more than any other, got me used to the swamp."
But not used to it enough to remain calm when he got lost.
"The next day I went hunting by myself. I crossed four little islands and went up into the swamp. But when I came back across the four little islands the camp was not there," he recalls.
McCord panicked, running through the swamp, shooting and yelling - and jumping ducks everywhere.
"I had just shot a mallard when I heard Toy hollering," Jimmy McCord recalls. Fourteen years old at the time, he ran down his younger brother "before he could get to Columbia. That was probably the only time in my life I could have run him down. He was such a tremendous athlete," Jimmy McCord says. Toy McCord, now sixty, played defensive back on the University of South Carolina football team in the late 1960s and was an All-ACC shortstop for the Gamecock baseball team in 1968.
"Daddy took us three kids in Sparkleberry and just turned us loose - me, Toy and our younger brother, Donald. We'd go up to Little Hog Pen and set up a campsite. He'd cook a big jar of spaghetti, and we'd carry bread and peanut butter. We learned all about that swamp camping in there with Daddy," says Jimmy McCord, who continued hunting in Sparkleberry in the 1960s while a student at USC.
"I'd stand at the corner on Green Street with my waders and shotgun. Wade Batson, my biology professor, would come by and we'd ride down to Pack's Landing. Mr. Britton Pack had a paddle boat we could use, and we'd paddle into Long Pond and shoot ducks in the afternoon," McCord says.
"It just breaks my heart there are no mallards in the swamp anymore," adds Toy McCord.