Franklin Smalls, known as the “Snakeman” to locals, has been picking oysters from the pluff mud of Murrells Inlet for 58 years, often singing as he works. At 67-years-old, Smalls says he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s muddy footprints when he was 9-years-old.
Smalls works as a caretaker for many properties in the inlet community and picks oysters during low tide five days a week on a lease held by Bill Chandler.
While he waits on the right tide, he passes the time fishing. The “Snakeman” is something of a local legend for his ability to pull stringers full of spotted sea trout from the creeks.
As he digs oysters from the mud, tossing them into a half bushel wire basket, Smalls talks of his love of the inlet and his pride in his work. “I tell people I love to work- they look at me like I’m crazy, but really work what keep your health going. Laziness will drag you down quicker than hard work."
At day’s end, with the bushel bags filling his ancient canoe, he delivers the delicacies directly to the Seven Seas Seafood truck waiting at the public boat landing.
“We’ve got everything a poor person wants, right here,” he says, “The good Lord leave it here, and I’m gonna enjoy it as long as I can.”