Greenwood native Sally Morris has created a fulfilling new life for herself in her post employment years, proving retirement is not just for those who are ready for bed.
At 69 years old, the eldest daughter of Greenwood’s legendary Neil “Gobbler” Cost turkey call maker, spends her free time doing exactly what she loves: painting, remodeling her home, interior decorating, gardening and spending time with her friends, family, two rescue dogs and new boyfriend, Ron.
Morris, like her craftsman father, has used her creative talents to maintain a certain level of independence and unconventionality throughout her life.
“When I was younger I decided that I didn’t want to be employed,” Morris said. “I wanted to be self-employed. I started my own housecleaning business. That gave me a real taste of working for myself and not depending on somebody else to pay me. After that I went to beauty school.”
Morris worked as a cosmetologist for 22 years before reinventing herself as a Realtor in the Greenwood area at age 52. Real estate, she said, also allowed her the freedom to be self-employed and creative with marketing.
Morris discovered her knack for painting after she moved to Florida in the 1970s. She wanted to decorate her new efficiency apartment but had very little money at the time.
“I wanted it to feel homey,” Morris said. “There were some cans of paint outside and I just went and got those cans and started putting color on the walls. I painted a forest scene and waterfall with rocks and I was surprised as anybody that it came out. I said, ‘Wow, I wonder what I can do with this.’ And that’s when I started painting.”
Up until then, the painter had doubts about her artistic ability. Growing up with a father dubbed the “Stradivarius of Wild Turkey Callers” put a lot of pressure on Morris to be perfect.
“My dad was always very talented at everything but he was also very critical,” Morris said.
It wasn’t until her move to Sarasota, Florida that Morris was able to let her creativity loose. Inspired by the vivid blues, greens and yellows of the Florida seashore, she became an avid painter. Citing color as her biggest inspiration, she tries to steer away from looking at other artists’ paintings lest it influence her own work.
“Color is what gets me started,” Morris said. “I put color on the canvas and let it evolve from there.”
Morris currently lives in a one-story house on Richey Street in Abbeville, tucked behind abundant foliage and upcycled window panes, watering cans and various patio accoutrements. She purchased the house in 2011 for $9,000 and has since spent her time transforming it into the beautiful, cozy place she now calls home.
“She can make something out of nothing, basically,” said Laura Daniel, Morris’s daughter. “How she decorates her home to me is really unique and not something you see every day.”
Walking into Morris’s house, it is evident the artist has spent years honing her craft. Paintings in all colors and a variety of styles decorate the walls. Finished paintings rest on the floor against the wall where they couldn’t fit on the walls themselves. An easel sits in the corner of her living room, paint dried on a palette sitting below a blank canvas.
Both Morris and her father carved out their own workshops in their homes.
Matt Lindler, vice president of communications at the National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield, recollected how his good friend Cost used to work.
“He tuned each call by ear,” Lindler said. “It could take years before he was satisfied with the way a call sounded and would release it to the person who ordered it. He would sit in his recliner with an old pocket knife and shave off a little wood at a time from the inside walls of a box call, play it a few times, whittle some more, then put it up on his mantle with the statement, ‘It needs more time.’ This could go on for years until he was completely satisfied with the tone.”
Lindler attributes Cost, who passed away in 2002, with putting Greenwood, South Carolina on the map in addition to influencing American folk art in general.
“His passion for the wild turkey, turkey hunting, calling and call making was contagious,” Lindler said. “I caught it and never sought a cure.”
Passion is also a word that could be used after visiting Morris’s home. Her home and the abundance of artwork within it are inspiring.