Thursday, June 07, 2018

Write What You Know, Florida Style

Early in their journey this morning they passed a burnt-out homestead, its brick chimney all that remained of a family’s dreams. Vines were already encroaching and moving in, but there had been a gardenia bush in bloom near what must have once been the front door, and Sophia paused to snip off a bloom. The lush fragrance filled her senses, but it was also a reminder of the dangers lurking in paradise.
--The Bride and the Buccaneer 

In 1774, English naturalist William Bartram wrote of  the Alachua Savannah, a stretch of land now known as Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park: "The extensive Alachua ia a level green plain, above fifteen miles over, fifty miles an circumference, and scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen on at. It is encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and a fragrant Orange grove, rising from a exuberantly fertile soil. The towering Magnolia grandiflora and transcendent Palm stand conspicuous among them.. Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful fleet Siminole (sic) horse, flocks of turkeys, civilized communities of the sonorous watchful crane, mix together, appearing happy and contented in the enjoyment of peace."

While hiking through recently on part of the Cone's Dike and Jackson Gap Trails at Paynes Prairie I saw plenty of "sprightly deer" and cranes, along with some herons, egrets, bobwhites and more then enough mosquitoes. Even with my insect repellent shirt, bandana, and lotion slathered on I still came home with an array of "Greetings from Florida, sucker!" souvenirs.

However, it was worth it. It was one of the rare low-humidity summer days and I wanted to take full advantage.

Some of the trails were underwater due to the record May rainfall, but it was still a great day to be out on the prairie. This chimney marks the Jackson cottage, all that remains of what was once cattleman Archie Jackson's site on the trail where he'd drive his cattle. Once again I saw plenty of evidence of where the buffalo roam, sizable manure piles, but I still haven't spotted the prairie bison. I did see warning signs on the trail reminding hikers that alligators, buffalo and wild horses have the right of way. If you try to pass them while hiking, you could get trampled or end up as someone's lunch.

But even without the bison I still felt my writing batteries recharging. There's a lot of wisdom in "write what you know", and when I begin to draft another book set in the piney backwoods I'll have a fresh feel for the flora, the fauna, and, of course, the ever-present skeeters.

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