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Friday, February 8, 2013

Swamp Rat

That's where I grew up y'all. 

I mean I lived in a house...went to school and church in buildings but, this is where I spent at least half of my childhood. It's Lake Cascade. We lived on Cascade Dr...a small neighborhood, that came off the truck route, made a loop along one shore of the lake and then back out.

This is where we played. When I was little, I got at least two whoppins for goin' down there without supervision. We found a dead gator down there one time...he'd been shot and hacked up. There was a baby gator that lived in one the pools around the lake. Seemed like he stayed on the same stump for a year. 

Of course, the place was the natural habitat of our arch enemy, Satan's charm bracelet...

I guess we just tried not to think about him.  There was a little island in the lake that was said to be so covered with Cotton Mouths that if you looked hard enough you could see it wriggling. Maybe it was a defensive mechanism...mentally we put them all out on the island. I did watch a fella kill one in the water with a bow. That was pretty cool...back to hell you go.

There were big, high banked canals that would connect some of the pools with the lake...we never went in those. That was a strip of black water running between 6ft  walls of roots and holes. We did swim in the lake though. Out towards the middle of the lake there was a homemade diving platform built in group of cypress trees. One of my fondest memories is being out there with my brothers and their friends. I was still wearing the bubble (an egg shaped piece of styrofoam with canvas straps that chaffed and dug into my under arms), I must have still been pretty little. They were trying to get me to jump off into the water. At my size it looked like were were 50ft in the air. They finally bribed me into it by promising that I could be the first to kiss Daddy when he got home from work. It was quite a race to meet him at his car in the evenings...with my tiny legs I didn't stand a chance.

One day, me and a buddy of mine come up on a fella that nearly drowned. His canoe had turned over and he couldn't swim. We helped him in the last few feet. It had to be a strange scene...two ten year olds draggin' a grown, gasping man out of a foot and a half of water. The most absurd part was that, except over sink holes, the water never really got that deep. He could have bounced off the lake bed from 100 ft out. 

It dried up every couple of years...or drained. Sink holes would drain it. The other side of the lake was near wilderness. It was crisscrossed with dirt roads...and pocked with sinkholes. Sink holes are just creepy. A perfect cone, about 150ft across and down to a pool of jet black water. Every once in a while they'll crack open in a populated area. Gainesville had a couple of big ones open up in the middle of town.

You can see the waterline on the cypress but, obviously this was taken after a long dry spell.

In its Glory.

The little cinder block house we lived in is gone now. In fact almost all the houses are gone now. The airport bought up most of the neighborhood years ago. It wasn't a fancy place to start with and now it's gone back to wilderness. 

Probably overrun with *&^^%% Cottonmouths.


  1. Wow man. I grew up with wilderness close by, spent most my teen years either hiking in it or 4x4 when I got older. Never had a lake. We have some nasty snakes here to. Have had a couple of unforgettable run ins with them over the year including a couple of horse back. Yes die baby die go back to the Hell you were born from.

    Its sad to look back in a way and see how things are different now, but no one can steal those wonderful memories.

    1. I was telling Martha about the fella that killed one with a bow...

      "That kinda bad-a**."

      "That really bad-a**."

      I'm not too broke up about the house being gone...the lake still there and it doesn't seem to have changed much at all.

  2. That's a landscape as far removed from what I'm used to as I can imagine, EF. it has a beauty all its own, but the thought of alligators and cottonmouths lurking just out of sight makes me shudder. Despite that I think you were lucky to grow up in a place where you could run wild.

    1. At the time the gator population was very thin and it was illegal to kill they're everywhere.

      My sister's in-laws live at the resevior and they have a little one that stays in their back yard.

      Gators really aren't that aggresive. You don't want to mess with them but they aren't like crocodiles. Cottonmouths on the other hand, are born mean.

      It is beautiful though.

  3. Wow man, too!
    Amazing stuff. And stunning photos. The world you describe is one I have only ever seen in films. Those sinkholes sound extremely scary, like the stuff of nightmares!
    There were no real big natural dangers around for me as a kid, growing up here in bucolic middle England where the worst that could happen really on a day out in the 'wilds' (of which I had many) was getting nettle stings (of which I also had many). I wonder how that shapes us as adults? I don't question my safety on a country walk for a second... as long as I don't walk into a field with a bull in it. But that's about it!

    1. Stinging nettles are bad enough...especially for kids that were barefoot half the time.

      Donald Davidson, writing in the 40's, made that very point. He was talking about the different attitudes toward nature among Southerners and New Englanders. In The South, not only are there things, in the woods, that will kill you...the woods are impossible to control. It's sub-tropic. Things grow wild.

      In New England it was much easier to tame the country side...regulate it even. There were no real dangers in the woods.

      Of course, people in such different circumstances are going to have very different attitudes toward nature.

    2. Something I forgot to the Spring, or whenever, the tadpoles would finally turn to frogs...there would be thousands of tiny frongs at the lake. I mean, smaller than a dime, tiny. You could put one on your thumbnail. They were everywhere.

  4. I'm with Perpetua. Alien landscape with killer animals. I am feeling the hate for those &%$>.<$%& cottonmouth.

    I'm fascinated by the shape of the trees - there's something of a lady in a long skirt silhouette to them. Cypress just don't look like that here.

    Sinkholes. Nah there's none that I know of here. I remember an old uncharted mine shaft opening up in Shotts (my home town) and swallowing a street - but no sinkholes.

    It's beautiful e.f. The photographs have hooked me.

    That sounds like an enviable childhood.

    1. The Cypress are gorgeous...the knees (the little up growths surrounding the trees) are the bizzare aspect of them. You can see a few of them in the picture of the dry lake bed...but often they'll completely surround the base of a tree.

      The only thing that's more beautiful to me, in nature, are live oaks.

      Aside from the sink holes, and dodgy dirt roads (God only knows what went on out there) there were old foundations...cracked and over grown. During the Second World War there had been a big air base in the area. There was actually a bunker that had been turned into apartments in the neighborhood.

      It was a fun place to be a kid.

  5. God, I love swamps. And I miss them. This part of Australia is comparatively wet, but nothing compared to northern Ontario, NOTHING. The swamps there are epic and beautiful, and have no poisonous snakes in them.

    Unlike fricking Australia, where we had a poisonous snake in the fricking front yard. Which was illegal to kill.

    1. That was a small lake really...especially if you compare it to the swamps south of here in Lousiana. Those are swamps.

      That snake would be dead. To hell with the law. I can't imagine that he'd still be crawling around if Godzilla was old enough to be playing outside.

    2. As you know I'm a notorious respecter of the law.

    3. Outside cats do the job and they're a lot more cuddly.

    4. That's true. They have mostly the same diet as snakes too. If there's no food they don't come around. We never saw them at the last house, despite the nearby presence of a large drainage ditch/creek. Probably because we had a herd of wild cats living on our block.

  6. Quite an impressive playground for a kid, despite the snakes! One of my favourite posts E.F, loved it. Sharron

  7. It's hard to imagine a better place to play...even with the snakes, the possibility of drowning and the certainty of whippins.

    Glad you enjoyed it Ms Sharron.

  8. Enjoyed reading this so much, very atmospheric, honest, simple direct writing, I like your style EF! The photographs are amazing, very humbling and beautiful. Mother nature rules and rocks, never forget it. Best wishes from rural Oxfordshire 'y'all', Kat :)

    1. Thank you ma'am. Always good to see you pop by.

      It never occurred to me until Friday, in a deep stupor from being stuck in the office, that there might be pictures of the lake online.

      There they were.

  9. One or two teensy weensy differences from my own urban childhood on the streets of North London...and I thought as a grown up I had escaped to the country until I read this. Great post. This is why I love blogs!

    1. Ha.

      While I was in the service, I made two or three trips to London every year. I stayed at the Number One in Kings Cross.

      It was a kind of wilderness. :)

      Good to see you pop in too.

  10. Just about defines the word "evocative", Mr. B - absolutely fascinating post.

    In one of his books, English travel-writer Jonathan Raban wrote about the year he spent living in Tennessee. An English teacher at the local school invited him to sit in on one of her lessons, where the kids recited English nature poetry - Wordsworth and Coleridge, etc. What struck him was the complete disconnect between the essentially benign version of nature they were reading about and the frequently terrifying stuff they actually lived with - you know, poisonous snakes and deadly spiders and the rest. Raban (who couldn't convince anyone to call him anything but Rayburn) said he worried that reading about sylvan glades and gentle breezes might lull the youngsters into a false sense of security.

    Your post reminded me of that book.

    The photos are great, too.

    1. I'm really glad y'all have enjoyed this one.

      I've promised to take the Boy there the next time we're in, eventually we'll have some more pictures.

      That's our friends in New England for you. Their experiences are normative...everybody else can adjust. Poisonous snakes and proper English spelling be damned.

      Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...and we will tell you which one to take.

  11. I'll add another 'wow', if I may. That landscape is like nothing I've seen. It's RAW!!

    Did you not get eaten alive by midges? I mean, I'm sure they're a minor irritant compared to the gators and the cottonmouths, but as one who's been devoured in the Italian marches and the Scottish Highlands, I'd probably last about thirty seconds in your neck of the woods.

    1. Mosquitoes?

      Those are just a part of the deal. There was a truck that periodically rode through the neighborhood with a cannon-like sprayer on the back...covering the whole place with bug spray. There's really nothing you can do with all that standing water. Skin So Soft from Avon was a pretty good repellent.

      We're swarmed with 'em here. Every one of us probably gets the West Nile every other year...and just don't know it. They love Martha.

      Horse Flies were worth worrying about...they had a sting like a dog bite.