I was happy. I was at long last a game warden, making just over nine thousand dollars a year. How in the world was I going to spend that much money?
I had much to think about during the long drive back to Sullivan’s Island in my newly acquired patrol car. I was proud of it even though it was nine years old, had more than one hundred thousand miles on it and was soon to become a maintenance nightmare. I remember thinking, “What in the hell have you gotten yourself into now?” Then I adjusted the rear-view mirror so I could see the long whip antenna swooping back in the wind and listened with great interest all the way back to Charleston to the frequent radio calls blaring from the Wildlife Department radio. I was happy. I was at long last a game warden, making just over nine thousand dollars a year. How in the world was I going to spend that much money?
It seemed that most of the officers then chewed tobacco, a pernicious habit that I soon acquired. Officer Fort could spit right out of his car window while running down the highway. I used a bottle or cup as a receptacle, being unable to attain sufficient velocity to project any great distance. I did observe that the whole driver’s side of his car, from front door to rear bumper, was covered by a large brown streak. In a few places the chrome around the windows had been eaten away by the tobacco juice. At least he could project it out the window. The presence of full spit cups in several of my vehicles had grievous consequences over the years.
I quickly learned that the coastal marshes held many surprises in the form of shallow flats or shell banks just beneath the surface. When I got my own patrol boat, I found operating a boat is a completely different experience than being a passenger in one.
I think I went aground on each and every flat and shell rake at least once. My talent for wearing down propellers to the hub was legendary. One of the outboard repair shops in Mount Pleasant had a row of my truncated props mounted on the wall. At one time I was known as “Mudflat Moïse.” I think Captain Ed McTeer had one particularly noteworthy example that he used as a paperweight on his desk. I was not issued any expensive stainless-steel props until the row of damaged aluminum props had substantially ceased growing.
Ben McC. Moïse was a conservation officer with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources from 1978 to 2002. In recognition of his achievements in law enforcement, he was presented the Guy Bradley Award by the North American Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 1990 and the Order of the Palmetto by South Carolina governor Carroll Campbell in 1994.