CHARLESTON—It’s my last morning in town, and I will miss this place. The sun is rising over the old American city in a way that steals your breath. The street is lined with colonial single homes. There are fresh horse apples in the street.
I hear the sound of a draft horse clopping behind me, pulling a carriage, warming up his joints for the day. I step aside to let the carriage pass. I wave like a fool because I am a hopeless tourist in a romantic city, and I feel obliged to act like one.
“Can I pet your horsey?” I ask the driver.
Horsey. This word just slips out.
The driver stops, he lets me run my hands along the animal’s silken coat. I wish, by some stroke of fate, that I had been born a horse guy. Horse guys know more about life than I do.
But alas, I am a dog guy. And dog guys know nothing about life. All we do is spend our hard earned money on chew
toys shaped like tacos.
I wave goodbye to the horsey and keep walking. I pass a few construction workers at a nearby house. Charleston is full of construction work, but not the kind you’re used to.
Here, they don’t have whining power tools and loud radial saws. They have a gentle tap-tap-tap from a hammer. Or the sweeping sound of a wood plane against poplar. Old sounds. Noises that were once the soundtrack of America.
Sadly, I’m from Florida. I’ve worked on lots of construction crews, I’ve been reading measuring tapes since age 14. In Florida, our national bird is the Sapsucking Real Estate Contractor, who uses earth-shattering electric power tools, and cheap materials.
It’s not like this in Charleston. Just down the street is the American College of the Building Arts. Students can choose from six specialized traditional crafts that predate mud: timber framing, architectural…