Thursday, July 24, 2014
David Elliott has his path marked out. He travels it four days a week, sometimes more, never less.
He takes the route because he wants to, because he has to. But he is never alone. His late wife, Barbara, better known as Bobby, is with him.
His first stop each day is at her Belin cemetery grave site. His last stop is the same, and sometimes when he has the chance and feels the need, he will visit her during the day.
“If she were here, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said, his blue eyes staring straight ahead.
“If she were here, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
This is traveling the half mile or so from the parking lot at the Murrells Inlet public boat access to the spot where fishers and recreational boaters put their boats into the water.
But Bobby Elliott is not here physically. She died on March 8, 2012. Less than two weeks later, Elliott lost his mother. But he was already numb.
Bobby, the mother of his two children, Dave Junior and Sabrina, had been his focus, his everything, almost since the day they met. That type of love doesn’t come often, and when it hit Dave Elliott, it hit him hard.
“She got into my car, the prettiest thing I ever saw,” he said. For him, that was it. There had been no others before and there will be no others, not now, not ever.
But that doesn’t mean Elliott chose to sit in his house and mourn. He did that for a bit, but then, as though Bobbi were talking to him, he realized he could honor her and contribute.
So he took the golf cart, the same one Bobby used to get around, made a few phone calls, and a service was born.
“I called to get approval,” Elliott said. “That may have been the most difficult part.”
Once he got the OK, it was full speed ahead.
It can take 10 minutes or so to pick up a passenger at the boat launch, carry him back to his car and schmooze a little.
“I’ve met some wonderful people doing this,” Elliott said. Those that aren’t quite so wonderful still get the chance to ride. It’s their choice.
The cost for the trip? A thank-you, a hug, a high-five, depending on who is doing the riding.
“When I started this, when I got the approval, the agreement was that I didn’t charge. So I don’t.”
Kids get the high-fives, no matter how long they ride or stay with Elliott, who admits he has a soft spot for the youngsters.
It’s not unusual for him to keep the tots while Mom and Dad launch the boat. “It’s tough keeping your eye on the young ones and the boat,” Elliott said.
Nor is it odd for him to offer help to the novices, who sometimes have difficulty maneuvering their trailers and boats down the path into the water. Elliott can spot trouble before it happens. He offers advice, but doesn’t push his views. Bonnie wouldn’t approve.
A welder by trade, Elliott had not set foot onto the landing before he started his golf cart service, which runs generally from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, depending on the weather and how many people want to ride.
In the roughly two years he’s been offering the rides, he’s developed almost a sixth sense for who will ride and who prefers to walk. He’s also developed a group of regular riders, people he sees day after day.
During the winter, he cuts his hours to 5 or 5:30 p.m. because, as he explains, the police want the golf carts off the road when it gets dark.
Over time, he’s also developed a relationship with law enforcement, who aren’t hesitant to ask his help, too.
When officials saved eight people from a boat that caught on fire and brought them back to the boat launch, they stopped all traffic except for Elliott’s passengers. Within 45 minutes, the area was clear.
“It’s the golf cart people recognize,” Elliott insists. But he sells himself short. He’s as recognizable as his golf cart, with his full beard and braided gray hair that reaches the middle of his back.
“I don’t like shaving,” he admits. “And I wanted to see how long I can grow my hair.”
The beard occasionally falls victim to fire from welding sparks. He recently lost 3 inches of facial hair. “It grows,” he said.
So, too, does his business. Already he’s a fixture in the Inlet, with no plans to slow down, although he does share driving duties with his daughter, Sabrina. “I had some heart surgery,” he said. “They said I’d be out seven weeks; it was three.”
But he does take a bit more care now. If he starts to hurt, he calls Sabrina, who lives with him.
It keeps the effort afloat as a family affair for years to come. When Dave Elliott drives, he keeps a framed picture of Bonnie and Dave Jr. with him.
He doesn’t show the picture to people unless he gets to know them well, but he’s not adverse to showing his pride in Bonnie.
“She got me going originally, and she keeps me going,” he said. “Can’t ask for more than that. The credit is all hers.” It’s a way to show his love.