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  me3tv.org. 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  INCOUNTRY.blogspot.com  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)