Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Very Worst Road: Travellers' Accounts

I enjoyed this book. It is about the National Road that crossed Georgia and Alabama enroute to New Orleans.  It was originally a native trail across the Southeast. One of my favorite parts of the book talks about the old Rev War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette making his grand tour, including Alabama in the route. At some point before the Montgomery stop and after Columbus -- he was feted by the Creek Indians with a tremendous display of "lacrosse" - a ball game. The Creeks (there was a faction of Creeks who were always allied to the Americans although the "Red Stick" faction had never settled well into the arrangments.)  were as fascinated by him as were the pioneer folks. This was the early 1820's.  Lafayette was an old man then.

The Very Worst Road: Travellers' Accounts of Crossing Alabama's Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847 (Alabama Fire Ant) by Jeffrey C. Benton
The Very Worst Road: Travellers' Accounts of Crossing Alabama's Old Creek Indian Territory, 1820-1847 (Alabama Fire Ant) 
by Jeffrey C. Benton 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

A ship and It's SEAL

FROM USS O'CALLAHAN Supported by Save The Collards and WME3 Network

Perry Hunter, Vic Campbell
A lunch at Mcguire's in Pensacola, August 2 was organized to retrieve the USS O'Callahan plaque my shipmates placed there at our reunion in 2016. It will be transported to our new reunion in Valley Forge and hosted at Molly Maguire's, there for the next year. Those who touch the brass seal and say a prayer for a living or deceased veteran or active service member are blessed through Fr. Joseph O'Callahan, the namesake of our ship.

This is a new tradition for us. The seal was donated to us by I.C. Smith, a veteran sailor who left the Navy (he was an FT) in 1966. He found this plaque and several others at a flea market in Virginia that came by them from an estate sale. We do not know the origins other than that --- and that it was cast probably in Taiwan in the early 1970's from surplus brass shell casings left over from gunfire support missions off the coast of Vietnam. I was given one myself from a second (or third) casting during the third Vietnam deployment for the ship. What to do with this new plaque? We could auction it to a shipmate. We could give it to a museum? But ... We came up with the idea of a tradition.

This "ship's seal" in brass was to become an ambassador of good-will through Irish Pubs around America - to be hosted in towns wherever we hold our reunions. The host Pub will encourage admirers of the seal to touch it and say a prayer for living or deceased veteran or serving member of the military. Before the next reunion, the seal is retrieved and brought to the next city - where the tradition is carried forward.

Nancy, Perry, Kathy, Aubrey
in the picture to the left, We have the manager of McGuire's, Perry Hunter, holding a facsimile of his "Port-of-Call" Certificate from the IRISH SONG Association. Holding the plaque is Nancy Dandino who is the daughter of Bill Worthington, our shipmate in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is a USO volunteer here in Pensacola while her husband is attached to the military here. Kathy and Aubrey Penton are standing to the right and helped support our memorial service last year before the McGuire's plaque presentation. Kathy related a story of her dad in the Philippines in WWII and how he would not talk about it or his wounds. This story came up as we discussed Fr. O'Callahan and USS Franklin off the Philippines in 1945, and that his sister ( a nun) had just been released from imprisonment. Fr. Joe was to fly over to visit his sister after all these ordeals but the Franklin was called away in a rush to attack the

Call sign - "IRISH SONG"
home islands of Japan. It was off Japan that the events occurred in which Fr. O'Callahan's actions led to the award of the Medal of Honor. Years later, after his death, Sister Rose Marie O'Callahan Christened our ship when it was launched.

I hope you are following the links in this post. you will learn so much more than what you see in the pictures.

Perry Hunter's dad, ( Perry is the manager of McGuire's), was a Blue Angel. But in combat over Vietnam, his aircraft was shot up and it crashed on the deck of the Oriskany and he died. The Oriskany is today an artificial reef and divers attraction in the Gulf near Pensacola. Perry's dad's Blue Angel (F-8) was until recent years on display at the entrance to Pensacola Airport. The news article linked here honors that legacy. As do the actions every day in which Perry supports and encourages the spirit of the warriors at McGuire's.

Nancy's dad, BT, Bill Worthington was working the boilers on watch one night off the coast of Vietnam while those of us above were taking the ship into harm's way to get close in gunfire support for our forces ashore. (Well, the Captain was taking us - we just followed orders but if given a choice - I would have suggested we go the OTHER way).  An enemy shell "ALMOST" opened a hole in the ship very near to Bill's head. A surprise, you can be sure. Last year, I asked a blind friend to paint his vision of what Bill saw as the lights flickered out in the boiler room and you could peer into the black depths of Bill's pupils. Here is a photo of Roy Allen and some of his other works. Here is a media collection of our ship at the time -- the gun missions start about halfway.

SO -- our tradition is off to a great start, thanks to Mr. I. C. Smith, McGuires and our band of happy (or somewhat happy) shipmates. The register board shown here has our FIRST PUB listed as McGuires for the 2016-17 year.

Our upcoming reunion is in Valley Forge, PA in tandem with the Annual Meeting of the Destroyer Sailors Organization (Tin Can Sailors). We invite other sailors at this meeting to join us at Molly Maguire's as we transition our seal to its next home.

We have expressed our gratitude to Mr. Smith by providing him with one of our challenge coins and a certificate of Honorary Shipmate. Anyone can order challenge coins from our ship's store. Get some to share with very special people who deserve an Irish blessing or a dose of history. The flags on the ship on the reverse side - are BRAVO and ZULU. In Navy code speak this means "WELL DONE". So, giving someone the challenge coin (a poker chip version) is a way of telling your friend - you appreciate their good work or something they have done .. (there is a link to the ship's store).

We are not sophisticated here You'll need to send a check. Coins are 2 for $10. I suggest a pocketful.

The ship was decommissioned about 1988 and transferred to the Pakistani Navy as PNS Anslat. Members of the ANSLAT CREW (Pakistani's) often contribute to our stream of media, especially on facebook. After a few years of service it was returned to the USA and sold for scrap. It was one of the last "STEAM" powered US warships. Within ten years the "Oliver Hazard Perry Class" of FRIGATE (no longer called a Destroyer Escort) came to the fleet. These ran on gas turbines (jet engines). All line ships except the nuclear fleet now use these efficient power plants. The age of steam is gone.

Actually - today - 2017 - Even the Perry Class is gone. Time moves onward.

Thanks also to Pensacola's Beach Bum Trolleys

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Reviews from Adm Callo

I know Adm Callo from the NYC Naval Order lunches at which he sometimes spoke with great clarity on some the world's naval histories. His own specialty seemed to be  Admiral Nelson and Trafalgar and also John Paul Jones of the US Navy.  Excellent histories.

Here, he suggests some other books by review.

The links below go to two possible book reviews for your summer reading.

Joe Callo
Joseph F. Callo 
(212) 972-8651
Just one example of the people I would meet at luncheons with the Naval Order in NYC.  This Marine checked out Ted Williams for his squadron in Korea. He also checked out John Glenn. 

 Sometimes the AFTER LUNCH gagtherings were just as informative !

Sometimes my son, Alex got to go with me. Here is was able to talk with two marines (WWII/Korea and Vietnam)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dunkirk - the surrounding story

The Miracle of Dunkirk. Included the last ever use of the English Longbow in combat. This is a fascinating lecture with supporting visuals.  The recent movie will now make much more sense.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Judging Shadows: The Fate of Judge Trueman

I think you will enjoy the sleuthing of Richard Wood who enjoys a CRIME SCENE detective approach to Depression Era crime.  Here is a murder in MILTON, Florida !

Judging Shadows: The Fate of Judge Trueman: During the 1931 tragic events in Milton, the attorney and business partner of Spencer G. “Babe” Collins, was a man named Lewis V. Trueman. ...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Top Side of the Grass

My Aunt Louise Chavers Carswell.  Age -- 95.

Louise says her prayer every day. "Lord please take me today".  So far she remains among us. I suggested she might have to pray harder.  She is in fair health, but the stroke a couple of years back slowed her down and life is just more difficult ... slow ... and fragile.

So, I explained, "The Lord is not taking you today -- I am".

She and Bobby made their life in Panama City, Florida - some 120 miles from her roots in Milton, and his old High School in Allentown.  He became a barber and was one of the most well known people in the town, there, for many years. The town wanted to remove the 1950 strip shops off the downtown piers for years. But, they waited until Bobby died in 2008 because his barber shop was on that pier. And he cut hair for 65 years - most of those years - right there.  Louise held two jobs in the city - the first as a
bookkeeper for a Hotel the second as a bookkeeper for a furniture store.  She retired from the hotel at age 65 and the next day started working for the furniture store. She retired there at age 85, when Bobby died.

Their primary passion was the Florida Gators, University of Florida football team.  Bobby was helpful in recruiting some of the key players over the years and the two of them were regulars at games.  It was a big part of their life and the gator on the grave site commemorates that.

Louise grew up in a large family with 8 children Milton, FL. Of the three remaining, she is the oldest. Her early memories of family and growing up are fascinating. At a young age, her father forced her to say she "was sorry" for some infraction with a sibling. But she felt she was correct in her actions
and later she explained to her dad that she "was NOT sorry" and he cried, realizing he had pushed her to tell a lie.  It may have been an early imprint for her to NEVER lie.  To this day, if she gets a minor fact wrong in some story she tells, she cannot sleep that night until she phones and corrects her error. I usually have a phone call some hours after a visit.  It tells me that visits mean a LOT.  How many people go OVER and OVER in their mind - the conversations of the past few hours? She MUST correct any error and be sure she has told the TRUTH.

By age 14 -she was working.  After school and weekends she worked as an USHERETTE for the
Imogene Theater in Milton. It was built in 1912, so it was about 25 years old when she worked there and movies were the big thing.  Country school buses loaded kids and even some parents came on weekend trips to the movies in Milton. Louise thought it funny that some kids would turn 11 years old and it took them about three more years to turn 12. At age 12 the adult fare applied.  No more nickel movies.

After high school (- she thinks the class of 1940) she went to Ocala to a WPA Business School, where she learned to keep books.  She
remembered going to Sunday services at Silver Springs, especially for Easter.  Before the war broke out, she took a job with Tyndal Air Force Base near Panama City.  She would have stayed there but she had a friend in town whose dad had a Hotel and he NEEDED (begged for) help. She then became a part of the hotel office staff where she worked until 65. And then the Furniture store until age 85. She worked solid for 72 years. Even her year at business school, she worked for board and tuition.

They never saved much of anything. Imagine a well known couple, with graduations of ever customer's grandchild, every wedding, every funeral ... flowers, gifts, cards, cash. No retirement saved. Just social equity. She depends on social security. She lives with her sister in Milton. The sale of her house in Panama city helped to fund some of her new situation with her sister.  She and Bobby had no children.  The Chavers and the Carswell cousins are devoted to her. The memories that come from a graveside visit to "have a little chat" are loaded with laughter, love and family.

And now. Her prayer. "Take me".  Aunt Louise, there is no hurry.

I normally inform my Carswell cousins when I am bringing Louise to Bonifay to visit Bobby. But this time, with her frailty, we both agreed it was best to skip the normally wonderful gathering over a meal and make the trip shorter so she would not be worn out by returning home.  It was a good decision - with apologies to my cousins.

She has a hard and fast rule for her death. No Notice, no obituary, no flowers, no cards, NO Funeral. So we will be stuck -- having a party to regale the wonderful aunt who was always in the background and NEVER wanted to be the subject of attention.

We did make a 15 minute detour to drive around the magnificent lake at DeFuniak, the home of the Chatauqua of the South.  She liked that.  And, she adored the visit with Bobby.

The National Youth Administration - Ocala

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Please Call Billy and Paula and tell them to CLICK HERE so they can see the entire collection of their music and some more as well .. RIGHT HERE. I think he can find "" on his computer. This link to a collection of church music features him and Paula is also at that address.They are classics. They can't sing like that anymore due to health issues but it is fun to hear them this way.

Church Music Down Home

There is so much "DOWN HOME" talent in our area. We have writers, poets, musicians, historians and storytellers by the bushel and the peck. Follow this blog to catch a plan in development to bring much of this talent to a podcast that you can enjoy with family and friends on your computer or your smart phone. Initial pilot podcasts should be online by March 2017. A partner in this effort is MILTON POST.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Destin's Founding Father

Was able to meet the Author, "Hank" Klein at the Destin Fishing Museum on Feb 5. Destin has a fascinating history. Thanks to Dr. Brian Rucker for taking us with him on his visit to Destin.  I got a signed copy of the book. You can get your copy from the Museum.  You will not be disappointed with the enlightening displays.  You can learn more about the book HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A podcaster up and coming

There was at time in my life that I taught some classes at a genuine American College in New Jersey. In the course of about ten years, several students stood out as having "fire in the belly". Chris O'Mealy is one of those.  He moved along with media work - at Disney and others and now locates near Lancaster, PA where he is involved with media placement and promotion as well as tackling the concept of being a writer.  Here is his blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

I met Dopey tonight and more

Randy and Amy of Appointed2 at Texas Roadhouse in Milton
Karen and I went to eat at Texas Roadhouse tonight so she could get over to see her mom at the nursing home and I could pick up my washed car from Stillworth's which is next to Aces on Hwy 90. Stillworth's has some plans that help you keep your car clean and serviceable. They are friendly folks and have some family and friends in big league baseball.  They were excited to see Addison Russell involved with the CUB World Series Win !   It's a major event for the cubs and Russell is from right here in Pace, Florida.

We sat to order and a conversation erupted between us and an interesting evangelist couple at the next table. They were in town to sing, they said and invited us. We could not join them at the revival just across the Blackwater River but wished them well. And we began to learn a lot about them.  The old fashioned TENT REVIVAL with Appointed2 is across from the Tom Thumb At WARD BASIN ROAD- East on US 90.   (NOV 3 and 4) .  Randy is a minister and singer, songwriter and Amy sings and also writes. They sing a lot of the things they write and have won a few categories in national Gospel Singing competitions.  (YOUTUBE CLIP)

Randy is a Florida Cracker (he has an official cowboy shirt, hat and boots) who went into full time gospel work about 22 years ago.  Amy joined in about seven or eight years ago. Before this she worked for a beverage distributor and at one point was the character, Dopey at Disney World.  I asked if there was any  sibling rivalry or family tension between Dopey and the others and she said not really.   But when a dwarf is not able to join in the parade (illness, fatigue, late), all the dwarves have to stay out except Dopey who is a favorite of Snow White.  So it helps to be the family favorite. Karen reminded me that Snow White often kisses Dopey in technicolor on the forehead.

It is fascinating to know there are such things as gospel music competitions.  Appointed2 is having a
good roll just now - and the event here is followed by one at Ozark, AL and soon after in Griffin, Ga. They stay pretty booked up and travel in a 32 foot RV that was donated to their ministry.

I told them I  would encourage my friends to go hear their message at the revival.  It should be easy to find. I suspect they are willing accept sinners at the revival even though there are few remaining in our county with the high per capita church concentration.  Saints are certainly welcome also.


This is pretty good weather just now for a Tent Revival.  It would be Hell in the summer. I don't know the statistics on seasonal donations but I am willing to bet money the willingness to be generous is better in cooler weather. The "Grace of God" phenomenon.
Don't mind me. I am just going on.  Go and have a good time. These folks struck me as the salt of the earth. Here to help bring a message of peace and healing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Superb Filet Mignon

J. Lee Campbell - AT HOME (ca 1980)
My dad, J. Lee Campbell, loved his beef. He loved them on the hoof or on the plate. He transferred some of that love of beef to me as a youngster. I took that love with me into the military and my time in the Navy. the Navy was known for providing good beef to the sailors and that may have been one of the selling points for me to join that particular outfit back in 1969 right after the Draft Lottery came out and I was sitting in my dorm room at the University of West Florida, thinking about my draft number that December - which was EIGHT and the relative merits of the Marines vs the Navy should my semester grades not measure up. I knew Marines ate canned food and that was one of the negatives in the comparison. Final Exams were in play. Draft numbers were helping college students make lifelong decisions. I made mine and went to see a Navy Recruiter to join the reserves THAT NEXT DAY.

By late 1972, I was floating around the other side of the world on the steel deck of a Destroyer Escort - an Active Duty Naval officer - looking at the coast of Vietnam.  Every few minutes there was a loud "BANG" and then another. Smoke rising on the beach meant somebody was not having a good day.

Weeks of this, with the supply of beef running low, was about all a boy could take. The wardroom had decided to spend its food allowance on dietary menus because the XO and CO were on a diet and because the left-over allowance for food was handy for the OPS boss and WEPS boss to pay off their expensive sports car loans back in "the world".  I, too enjoyed the extra $15 a month to put toward my own small extravagances.

Fortunately the Navy required the crew to have only the best food the Navy could muster up --- and about once a week it seems, they got Steak and Lobster to eat down on the Mess Deck.  But in the wardroom, the officers ate baloney sandwiches.  (In those days, officers ate separate meals from the crew - separate galley - cooks - the whole deal - it was a throwback to the British Navy of 1750 in which officers bought their own uniforms and meals).

Given the (BaMMM)  uncomfortable ambiance (BAmmm)  and low caloric output of the Officer's Wardroom -- (Bammm) I was inclined to volunteer to sample the crews (BamMMMM) mess . This was also a Navy requirement. An officer MUST daily sample the crew's mess to be sure they are getting the very best meals possible.  (BAMMmmmm).  I made myself available on many occasions to be sure the crew was fed properly. I would join them on occasion for lobster and steak. BaaaMMM!.   Rounds Complete. Target Destroyed. Troops, bunkers, ammunition. Five rounds expended. Standby for new target, bearing 237, 5640 yards. Computer check. Standby to shoot.

So weeks of this with very little good beef were interrupted by a spate of bad weather and a chance to take a few days in Hong Kong.  USS O'Callahan was a Destroyer Escort - larger than the WWII versions but still, only one screw and two boilers.  We steamed through the bad weather all the way to Hong Kong and pulled into Victoria Harbor.  Immediately on entering the harbor and anchoring out,
USS O'Callahan "Irish Song"
we got a communication from the British Harbor Master - who was in a delicate situation - as plans were underway already to return Hong Kong to the Chinese government. There was a kind of dual government going on between the Brits and the Chinese.  And it turns out the BAD WEATHER on our trip up had kept our crew safely inside the skin of the ship (except for lookouts).  The weather situation kept our deck crew from getting outside to PAINT THE GUNS back to a normal Navy Gray vs the crispy black and peeling paint resulting from heavy gunfire.

There we were. Anchored in a semi-Commie Port with guns that looked like they had been in a war somewhere in that general part of the world.  One could guess the guns had been aimed at friends of the Chinese - points South of Hong Kong.  The Harbor Master was LIVID.  His message to our CO was along the lines of  "throwing us out of town".  We had MINUTES to get our guns dressed up like nice Navy ships should be.  So, indeed, while still in a drizzle, the deck crew hustled paint to the deck and proceeded to get the gun barrels colored gray again.   We really were -- ALMOST --- thrown out of Hong Kong.

We had perhaps three days there and most of the officers and crew got a chance to go into the city and become impressed by the wonders of the Orient.  I had an opportunity to join a table of young officers at a fine table at a fine restaurant. I ordered a filet-mignon and the thing melted in my mouth,.
Typical Hong Kong Achorage
leaving not a single part of my pallet unsatisfied.  Maybe it was being off the ship for a few hours. Maybe it was the wonders of the Orient. Maybe it was my starvation diet from the wardroom. In any case, this meal would become my standard for filet-mignon from then on.  In a few days we left Hong Kong and returned to "the gun line" near the DMZ, off the mouth of the Cua Viet River.
That memory of fine beef remained with me to this day. And only today - in a meal at my home - has the wonder of the fine taste of the best filet been matched.  My wife cooked it carefully.  At current prices you don't want to mess up a good filet. This happened because when I went to Chumuckla today to take care of some chores, Karen asked me to stop by Oakes Meats and get some filets. And I did.

Our Ship Reunion will be in Pensacola October 5-10. On Friday the 7th we will have a memorial service at the Veterans Park in Pensacola to honor our shipmates who sailed already and to honor our namesake - Father Joe O'Callahan and the crew of USS Franklin in WWII.  We welcome friends of the Navy and Veterans to join in any of our activities. The registration details are at 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Alabama Town

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

THE JAY STUMP TALKS - Candidates 2016

Most of the local and state candidates showed up for the fish fry and stump talks in Jay, August 6. The few that missed would be sad to know that we estimate for every local citizen who showed up, another 50 to 100 voters are influenced. This is because the town of Jay is an older pioneer genetic base for the region and families and networks are centuries old. So, because of the deep roots throughout the county - even large parts of the South County are affected by what people in Jay hear and talk about.  Conversely, the more shallow roots but much greater numbers of South County residents require attendance to be 4 to 8 times larger for the same "reach".  Congratulations to all the candidates for participating in the GREAT AMERICAN TRADITION.   Here is the AUDIO from the Jay STUMP TALKS.  Feel free to note the time stamps for YOUR favorite candidates.

Do feel free to join in the Jay Historical Facebook Page Group
The site has become a fascinating repository of short stories
and reminiscing by members and others. It is an enjoyable stop 
along the highway of information.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Scott Griffin's 3 Point Plan for President

GRIFFIN is running for President (maybe). Depends on if he can get on the ballot with a criminal record in his long ago past. Anyway. He has his own THREE POINT PLAN to save AMERICA.  All donations from foreign countries need to be paid in cash to the Griffin Foundation.  Contact Scott Griffin for details.

Who is running for President? Check ALL these before you settle. #hillaryforpresident , #trumpforpresident , #johnsonweld .#whylibertarian. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

To Envision Life

St. Louis Cardinal's farm team
Today, I had some chores in Pace. This included a nice quiet coffee respite at the Coffee Break cafe. My brother Jim Joined me and Bill Lundin and Stuart Pooley (the poet of Bagdad). Jim was wearing a cap from the New JerseyCardinals who were once a farm team in Sussex County, NJ. Jim went to a game with us almost one thousand years ago when we lived there. HE got the cap - which is now antique.
Million Dollar Bridge

Then, I drove up to Chumuckla to confer with my advisers about logs and timber and living life with gusto. Then, I drove by the "million dollar" bridge as one of my advisers calls it. It is there,  he takes his grandson to swim in the cold spring waters. His barely teen grandson slapped a new set of spark plug wires on his truck - almost blindfolded. A wonder. Swim call - deserved.  I never really knew where the "million dollar bridge" was -- but it is not far at all from the old McDavid place near Chumuckla Springs (also known as "mineral springs". The McDavid Place is also near "Coon Hill" which as it turns out - is mentioned in the new historical novel by Gaylier Miller.

I stopped for a moment to capture a picture of some young cotton plants 
reaching for the sun.

From there I hastened my path on over to the home of Louise Arnette who is a native of "Mineral Springs" but the Mineral Springs of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Now she lives near Jay, FL. Louise had some of her famous chicken salad made up for Roy Allen and for me. Before I took Roy his Chicken Salad - I convinced Louise to give her "basic origins" story to my smart camera video recorder. Enjoy the video at the end ) Her history is purely rugged survival and success. Such people we should be thankful to live among.

Louise Arnette
I delivered to Roy his chicken salad. We talked about his step dad - Don Bales - (Pat Allen Bales) who is recovering from serious surgery at West Florida. My aunt Louise Chavers Carswell -  (age 94) called my smart phone while I was at Roy's and he got to tell her hello and she spoke with him. She always asks about my blind friend, Roy.
I suggested to Roy that her immobility at her age leaves her in a position she cannot enjoy the full beauty of God's creation every day and it becomes her joy to remember people I tell her about - like the river logger and Roy the blind BBQ man, and the handyman and my son the marine and my sister's fourteen grandchildren and my brother's Disney vacations --  and envision their lives.
A THRILL TO ENVISION, I said .... to my blind friend, Roy.
Got home and ate my chicken salad with Karen Gatewood Campbell.
                                                                            I cannot describe how good it was !

(I think my sister only has ten grandkids but I lost count )


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Catalpa Caper

Follow up to Catalpa

This is little Mary Ellis Young who now has some catalpa worms to take to her son in Pennsylvania to capture a fifty pound Yankee Blue catfish. Her son took up fishing after he nearly died from an abscessed molar. She is also making the trip for some graduating grandsons. Scott Griffin, who currently sports bad molar infections got these off his tree for her. See catalpa story at the Chumuckla Blog and at Mary's brother, Danny Ellis and I, once upon a time, used a rattlesnake for our school science project. Danny is battling cancer now in Ozark, Al. The snake story is in my book (out of print) Jct. 197. Found the story about me and Danny. HERE it is for you......

The Story With Danny Ellis and Uncle Vic a half century ago.

Junction: County Road 197
In New Jersey, there is a large horse racing complex called "The Meadowlands." There are fancy restaurants inside and computer-controlled betting windows. From the track, you can see the skyline of New York City. It is a beautiful place to go for dinner and to invest in the horses. Of course, if you were to go there to bet on them, that would be sinful. Being a cautious man, I went there to "invest" in them. I had not attended a horse race since August 1965. I can remember the hot Saturday afternoon well. From that day forward, I believed myself banned from all race tracks forever.
Jesse Ellis and his family raised thoroughbred horses. Their farm was off Chumuckla Springs Road. Every Saturday in the summer, Jesse would have folks from all over come to his farm to race their stock against his. There was no betting, you understand, because a sinful nature was frowned upon in that part of the county.
One fall Saturday afterward, as I rode tall in the saddle on my gentle mare "Ripple," making tracks in the unpaved Chumuckla Springs Road, I crossed paths with a modest red diamondback rattlesnake. Following my usual inclination to collect snakes, I took Ripple to the side of the road and hitched her to a tree. I found a stick for snake catching and went about the business of capturing the venomous reptile. Danny Holt happened on the scene as he drove down the road. I asked for a lift to the Ellis Place, where I thought I might find a big jar or a sack. Danny was a year older than me and a good deal smarter. He offered a ride, but not inside the car. I could ride on the hood and I could pick Ripple up later.
Forgetting the sensitive nature of horses, I showed up at the races on the hood of Danny Holt's car with a live rattle snake in my hands. I never saw such a wild frenzy of horses. Records would have been broken—had there been time to keep any—and if the horses had remained inside the race track. It took weeks to get some of them out of the swamps.
Needless to say, I was never invited back to the races. The snake fared even worse. It was sacrificed for a science proj ect that Danny Ellis (Jesse's son) and I completed for biology class at school.
Fortunately for me, Jesse had not notified the Meadowlands of my previous behavior, and I was admitted to the New Jersey track without a search.
Up here they have what is called "harness racing." The horse pulls a little cart with a man in it. There is a special thrill to hear the bugle play, to watch the horses race, and to read the racing program as if you know what you are doing.
I invested two dollars in "Perry Noyd" in the first race, "Wide Load" and "Family Tree" in the third, and "Prince Lee Knight" in the fourth. Later, I threw away caution and began to bet.
After betting two dollars on "Vicarious Thrills" in the seventh, my wife stopped me. I had lost twenty dollars from my investments, and she did not approve of mortgaging the house to bet on "Little Lou Rain" in the eighth race.
"Little Lou Rain" won and paid ten to one. If I had bet on him, I could have retired to a life of idleness. (My wife questions that this is a "goal" since she believes me to be fairly idle already.) Anyway, idle hands lead to mischief. So maybe I would have become a broker and taken up betting on the stock market.

My wife will not allow me to carry more than a dollar fifty in my pocket. So I am considering selling my blood to get enough cash for my next investment. I have a hunch the horse named "Little Rattler" will be a big winner for me.

Monday, May 23, 2016


If you found this post you can have a copy of my book -- Linked here.  The book is in both EBOOK and PDF format and you can read it easily from a computer or phone or tablet.  There are APPS that will actually VOICE READ the ebook to you.  Here is ONE. FLY READER. (free)

HERE is THE EBOOK version

HERE  is the PDF version

PLEASE  tell your friends to go to  and scroll down to about mid May 2016. And HERE is the LINK to the BOOK! (make them work for it ... you did !)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dead Lakes Near Wewahichka, FL

All is not beaches in NW Florida. Sometimes there is Yellow Fever. ... and of course there is Tupelo Honey.  More of this is reflected in the film with Peter Fonda "Tupelo Gold".  The lecture on the DEAD LAKES and Tupelo Honey continues -- HERE.

Dwarf Cyprus in Tate's Hell

I mentioned some about Tate's Hell in the last post in this blog. Dr. Rucker, who teaches Florida History and also a very popular Florida PANHANDLE History at Pensacola State and at University of West FL is our guide.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Apalachicola and A Lucky Dog

Karen and I made overnight trip to Apalachicola with Dr. Brian Rucker and his wife, Amy.  Brian is a professor of Florida History at Pensacola State College and teaches adjunct courses at UWF.  We recently sat in on his Panhandle History Class and are now hopelessly curious about all the places and the history that happened there.

So -- On MONDAY we made our way from Milton, FL to Apalachicola. I like Brian's routing which took us to Crestview by I-10 and then down near Fort Walton and then EAST on Florida Hwy 20. THAT took out a LOT of the traffic issues or loss of "color" by using I-10 or by using the often crowded US Hwy 98 near the beaches.  We stopped for a few pictures at Econfina Creek and in or near Wewahichka. That is where the Dead Lakes are located. It is a popular fresh water fishing haven.  It is also a famous area for the production of Tupelo Honey ! A movie about a local character and his "Tupelo Gold" is told in the movie "Ulee's Gold" with Peter Fonda . It was filmed there in the late 1990's. the gold is Tupelo Honey.

About 1830, enterprising investors built a railroad across the swamp here - to Port St. Joe - where they hoped to use the deep water port to compete with Apalachicola - to transport cotton out of the lower Alabama farmland.
rail pilings in Chipola river

The advantage to the port of Apalachicola of course was the VAST watershed area of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that fed the port out of both Georgia and Alabama. The drawback to Apalachicola - which became one of the busiest ports in America was its shallow depth.

While good for oysters - it was not good for deep-water ships. "Lighter" ships (actually called "lighters") conveyed the cotton bales out of the bay to oceangoing ships anchored in the gulf, beyond St. George Island.

Alas, Port St. Joe had a Yellow Fever epidemic and nearly everybody died.  The railroad died. the port died. Port St. Joe, near Cape San Blas is in revival now. Even has a functioning port facility. It is a beautiful area to visit. Meanwhile, at the Chipola River bridge crossing the Dead Lakes - you can still see the remains of the pilings for the old railroad that failed.

It was a stress free route and soon we were wandering around Apalachicola - but not after checking into the GIBSON INN and taking a 30 minute nap.

We have been often to Apalachicola. It is one of our favorite "Old Florida" towns. It has become a little bit trendy of late and prices are geared to the beach condo crowd on St. George Island. Regardless, the average upland Cracker with worn shoes or bare feet can still find good prices.  The Gibson Inn was a new experience for us and it will not be the last. It is for sale just now for $3.5 Million Dollars, U.S.  I expect the new owners will keep the ambiance.

You will see some of the hotel in my included photo

I missed the last "R" month for oysters but risked a few for an appetizer anyway. These were

sprinkled with caviar, shallots and lime or lemon juice and some other fancy orange colored garnish. Oh man. They were great. We all went with the special for the day - A grouper dish.

Brian and I left the ladies to rest after dinner and went for a brief tour of the waterfront again - at night - to observe some of their
"Forgotten Coast"  celebrations with Plein Air Music and Artists. Even so it was a quiet waterfront and zero activity in the town.

 Back on the hotel porch, I met a man who does web work for the region and who has a dog he found abandoned - named -   "Lucky" .  . We talked some about his passion for the region and also about the dog. ALUCKYDOGG (find on facebook)

A Lucky Dog
After a comfortable breakfast at the Hotel we began a tour route to include East Bay - where most of the Oyster boats work from -- and then up the EAST side of the Apalachicola River to  TATE's HELL.  You never want to get lost in Tate's Hell. It killed Tate.   His last words were, "I'm Cebe Tate, and I have been to Hell !"  

It was impressive. One part of Hell we saw was the Dwarf Cypress Forest.
Dwarf Cypress at Tate's Hell
Even trees over 300 years old will only grow to about 15 feet. Something to do with the limestone layer underneath. We stopped for an observation tower at Sand Beach. on the North side of the Bay.

Amy and Brian Rucker
The Next historical interlude on our return from hell, was FORT GADSDEN on the Apalachicola River. It was a fort with a lot of owners. Spain, Britain, USA, Confederates. The river was a gateway and it was at a strategic location to block transportation. At one point, In 1815 under weak Spanish ownership and recently abandoned by British administration, it became a way-point for escaped slaves out of the the United States.

One thing led to another and eventually the "Negro Fort" was under siege by Jackson's troops who attacked the hostile Fort, fired , a lucky "hot shot" into the fort's magazine.  It subsequently blew up
We sneaked in
and killed most of the defenders.  This was a time of continued sensitivities toward the slaves and Indians (at this fort) who had been allied with the British in the war 1812 -( recently concluded at New Orleans). The Indians shot the Freedman black leader and the other free blacks were sent back to plantations in the USA -- North of Spanish Florida.

The "White Stick" Creek alliance with the Americans in this battle increased tensions with the Seminoles and led to the " First Seminole War".  Bear in mind, the Seminoles were largely composed of disaffected and hostile Creeks known as the "Red Sticks" who had sided with the British in the war of 1812.  This brings to mind an old saying-- "You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose -- but you can't pick your friend's nose".  They were messy times. It is much nicer now --- well, around here anyway.

While the greater part of my heritage comes from European stock, it turns out that tracing my grandma's family tree back, brings us to a Creek Indian woman, my 4th Great Grandma - Winnie Muscogee. Winnie and Thomas homesteaded near Marianna, Nancy Muscogee Gay is the daughter in my lineage. But one or more of Nancy's brothers were "Creek Indian Troops" in some of the Seminole Wars. They enlisted in groups and their units were separate fighting units. William Gay - a 4th Great Uncle was in the Florida Militia Indians. Some names in the regiment include "Spanish John" and "Big Davy".

We were unable to get close to the fort because we did not want to be captured and sent to jail since the sign said "CLOSED - DO NOT ENTER".  Dr. Rucker showed me a recent Laser based space photograph of the fort area that clearly shows the older fort and the newer one and the modifications that took place over time.  This cannot be seen by casual observation.

Karen can count
Our return trip took us BACK THROUGH Blountstown, FL on the West side of the Apalachicola River and back into the Central Time Zone.  We visited the  Pioneer Museum there.  Sometimes I feel really old when I go to places like that becuase in some of the houses, I can say --- My grandma had that ! Or -- I visited friends whose houses were just like that. OF course, by the 1950's those features from homes in the late 1800's were already rare but .... still.... we were living that history then!

While in Blountstown we learned Amy Rucker's great grandfather was the architect for the
Amy's GGrandpa was the Archetect
courthouse there. We took her picture in front of it. They don't make them like that anymore!  We ate lunch at the Parramore Too Restaurant - where the locals eat.

I do not know what happened after that. I fell asleep and by some magic I was home and asleep by 9pm.

The entire ALBUM OF PHOTOS is HERE (enjoy)