Lowcountry Life: Gather 'round the burn barrel

Nothing signifies the fall season for Lowcountry folks than a roaring fire in a burn barrel.

Yes, some of us have lovely fire pits, outdoor fireplaces, or even the unpronounceable “chimeneas”, but for ease of use and relative fire safety, you can’t beat a bun barrel. To say nothing of ambiance.

Several years ago I was relatively mortified by the appearance of a spanking new metal barrel in my yard. Told it was a “steal” at a mere $20 I was assured it was a temporary addition, only to be used to burn fallen limbs etc, and that a real fire pit could (would!) be constructed in the near future. Fine. It was a perfectly innocuous yellow metal barrel. Then it needed cinder blocks under it. Okay, didn’t look great but not too bad. At least it was clean. And yellow.

Until the first fire. Suddenly strips of yellow paint peeled off, leaving the outside a patchy funky mess. At night with a roaring fire, it looked fine, even cozy. By day it looked like it had washed up from some terrible tanker explosion.

I avoided looking at it. I parked on the other side of the house and pretended it wasn’t there. But I started to notice something interesting. Every time we (by which I mean Kip) fired it up, people wandered over to hang out. Neighbors chatted, beverages were consumed, dogs played and people laughed. It was downright fun. No big deal, people came and went but inevitably a few would pull a chair up to the barrel. The women would catch up on each other’s lives and the men would feed the fire. My yard never looked so good as every small branch and twig eventually made it into a lovely warm fire.

Like most good things, this too came to an end. The barrel lasted until it finally rusted through and I have moved on. But, the memories of when we stood around warming our hands and hearts around the burn barrel will stay with me forever. Lowcountry life…


Story by Cindy Reid