Paul Owens: A True Survivor and Lover of Galivant’s Ferry

Paul Owens is one of the most colorful characters in Galivant’s Ferry. Y’all know him but you don’t know the way in which he grew up—right behind my house. His grandma Callie and his granddaddy William raised him.

Paul stayed “on the hill” (the banks of the Little Pee Dee River swamp). When I asked what he did most of his youth, he told me, “I used to eat red clay – we thought it was candy. I also ate bark and bugs. My family thought I was gonna die! A local doctor thought I had TB and had two days to live. A farmer from the bay field took me to Florence to another doctor because no one else could take me. Found out it was just worms from what I’d been eatin’.”

He loved riding around with Son Daniels, who worked for Pee Dee Farms. Son drove the feed wagon, which was pulled by mules. Paul would help Son feed all the multitudes of farm animals, such as cows, mules, hogs, donkeys, and horses. Paul said he loved mostly “roaming the woods from one end to the other”. He knows the land, swamps, rivers, bogs, timberland and farming fields around here like no other. He’s known them all his life. We call him the “outdoor executive” today; in fact, we even printed Paul a set of business cards with that title.

Paul has always had a temper, but he can keep it under control most of the time. Not so in the past. “I’d cuss any body out for a nickel,” or “sing Jesus loves me for a dime,” he’ll tell you today.

Paul’s uncle Rufus owned and operated several moonshine stills. “When I drank wine out of them barrels all I saw was double vision,” Paul recalls. That still was located right behind our house – that’s why we have so many wild grapes there today. The beer still produced a drink that “tasted like Pabst Blue Ribbon.” The other still made moonshine; Rufus was thrown into the penitentiary for that one. Years later, when he got out of prison, someone killed him at the Bloody Bucket bar, the only hang out in Galivant’s Ferry.

Paul loved his grandma, Callie. “Saturday was scrubbing day,” he told me. “I pumped two tubs of water for the ringer washing machine. One day, my grandma had pretty white sheets hung out on the clothesline right beside a big mud puddle. I jumped in the mud and then wrapped myself up in them sheets – she cried big old tears. I felt so bad but she could all of sudden go on the warpath. She was part Cherokee. She was small, but hell on wheels.”

Paul grew up around the rough part of the Ferry, a part of which I wasn’t aware, thank God. “If you wanted to see a fight, just go any Saturday afternoon to the fillin’ Station.” That’s what we called the old Esso Station.He told me, “one Saturday, a man bit the nose off of another guy at the station and then that guy bit a hunk out of the butt cheek of the man. There was blood comin’ out the corners of his mouth!”

He recalled another story about a local man. “When he went to drinkin’, he could be pissed off in a hurry. He whipped some little boy on the face and it left his hand print. The little boy went next door to the store, bought him a knife and gashed the fellow on his cheek. In fact, the man’s tongue stuck out through the gash. I’m glad I didn’t see things like this but it appears from listening to others this was normal.