There seems no better way to describe the recent installation of 11 small, bronze Boykin Spaniel statues around Camden other than the way Mike Anderson did.
“It worked out wonderful,” the crew chief for the city’s street department said. “We work on everything from putting in light bulbs and taking down, cutting up and hauling off trees to the landfill. Lord, we have a lot of hard and dirty jobs -- cleaning out ditches and storm drains. We do it all.”
Including setting out little brown dogs.
Anderson’s crew was asked to install the 5-inch statues throughout the city as part of a tourism initiative -- guiding Camden visitors and natives around town in a scavenger-like hunt, using clues to find the statues and discover interesting places and stories about the city.
“Mike and his crew treated the statues like they were delivering babies,” said Suzi Sale, the city’s tourism and economic development director.
“There’s four of us total on our crew,” Anderson said. “I was amazed when they told us they wanted us to set out some bronze dogs. We had to handle them like little eggs. You know, I thought they were gonna be big, big dogs and all, but they weren’t dogs, they were little tiny pups. Dogs are like 10 or 12 inches high, you know? And these little ole pups, they’re 4 or 5 inches tall. When I saw ’em, I said, ‘Where’s the mom and dad at? These’re just little ole pups!’”
Anderson and his crew took a fancy to the “little ole pups” which weigh about 5 pounds and have 8-inch mounting stakes attached underneath them.
“We had to figure it out so they wouldn’t get gone and we did. There was only one way to do it,” Anderson said. “Dig a hole and use 80 pounds of cement. Shoot that hole full of cement and stick that dog in it. There’s no way you’re gonna pull that dog out of that cement and there’s no way you’re gonna pull that cement out of that hole. Once we got it figured out, it wasn’t a big deal. It worked out wonderful. They look good. I think they look real good.”
Perhaps they look so good because a lot of love went into the original version of the “little ole pups.”
“Oh, Lord, it must have been 30 or 40 years ago when my dad asked me to make a sculpture of one,” said sculptress Mary Deas Boykin Wortley, who lives in Ohio but grew up in Boykin. Wortley is the great-granddaughter of the founder of the Boykin Spaniel breed, Whit Boykin.
“When I was a child, we always had Boykins. My great grandfather was a wonderful outdoorsman. He had an eye for the dogs and he understood them,” Whortley said. “It was a challenge when my dad asked me to make a sculpture of one. Boykins are just so spunky, eager and bright. I knew I had to capture that.”
Wortley modeled her sculpture after one of her Boykins, a dog named Crown.
“Crown had a curly coat and Dad really liked the wavy coats better, so I made Crown with a wavy coat. I gave it to him and he loved it.”
Those who discover Crown’s progeny around Camden are sure to love them too.
The project, officially called the Boykin Spaniel Invasion, began in earnest about three years ago, spearheaded by the city’s tourism office and the Camden Archives and Museum.
“We were looking at various kinds of markers -- they were flat and they were metal,” Rickie Good, curator of collections at the Camden Archives said. “Then Dawn Crites, at the Boykin Spaniel Society, said she had something we might be interested in. It was a copy of Mary’s original statue. That was March of last year. We just fell in love with it.”
A grant from Camden’s hospitality tax fund was used to create 12 statues. They were cast at a foundry in Ohio.
“We had 12 done and 11 are now in the ground,” Good said. “The twelfth one will be placed at the new visitors’ center when it is completed.”
Local officials announced earlier this month that a new Camden-Kershaw County Visitors Center will be built near Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site South Broad Street. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for late April.
“We had the best time deciding on their locations,” Sale said.
“We wanted unique sites,” Good added. “We wanted pretty places with interesting stories. Places that we wanted people to see when they come to Camden.”
One such place is near a bench just outside historic Bethesda Presbyterian Church on DeKalb Street.
“Our city manager goes to Bethesda, and the other Sunday, when he was sitting in a pew, he looked out the window and noticed a squirrel near a bench,” Sale said. “He kept watching the squirrel and was surprised that it never moved. He finally put two and two together and realized it was one of our Boykins.”
The “Invasion” tour begins at the Camden Archives and Museum on Broad Street, where brochures containing the clues to the Boykins’ whereabouts may be picked up.
Sale said participants in the hunt “can also find the clues on our Facebook page, @BoykinInvasion, or online at www.boykinspanielinvasion.com. Follow the clues, take photos of each puppy, and post them and your contact information to our Facebook page. Everyone who locates all the trail markers will receive a Certificate of Discovery. That’s it!”
And that’s a “little ole pups” promise to work out “wonderful.”
(To share story ideas with McInerney, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)