Hoofer reached up on a long shelf and pulled down a stack of flat, stiff snakeskins. Four, five, six feet long, and anywhere from three to eight inches wide. They were like thin pieces of tree bark. Grays and browns, speckled with deeper browns and blacks, repeating hypnotic geometric patterns. All similar, but with unique differences, like snowflakes. Earth-toned tessellations.
“This wonderful spring is located in the Park opposite the Clarendon Hotel. The water boils up from a large fissure, some twenty feet below the surface, at the rate, it is said, of three thousand gallons per minute. It is as clear as a diamond, and the effect is most beautiful at noonday, when the sun shines directly into the spring, and objects can be seen at the bottom tinted with the prismatic hues. The swimming pools are only a few feet from the basin of the spring, and the water flows through them in an immense volume, but so quietly as hardly to be observed. The tourist will find nothing in Florida more delightful than a bath in this water. Ladies who enjoy bathing should not forget to take their bathing suits with them, as “swimming in the pools” is a great sport at Green Cove, and those who cannot swim may easily learn under the tuition of Miss Smith, the obliging Managress of the Spring. It is said that you can enjoy these swimming baths every day in the Winter. Certainly it has seemed odd enough to me, just after reading a letter from home telling of a severe snowstorm, to go and take my bath, with the accompanying chorus of mockingbirds in the surrounding trees.”
-excerpt from a tourist brochure, Where to Go in Florida by Daniel F. Tyler, 1880
January 25 is National Florida Day. Florida joined the United States of America as the 27th state on March 3, 1845. It is unclear why January 25 was chosen as National Florida Day, nor are there any apparent instructions on ways to celebrate. So here’s my suggestion for a great way to pay homage to the state that gave us the Fountain of Youth, lovebugs, hanging chads, and of course, #floridaman.
- Slip into a pair of flip flops.
- Mix up a batch of Florida Cracker Sours: For each glass, put 2-3 slices of orange in the bottom of a ball jar or glass and press. Add 3-4 tablespoons of fresh orange juice, 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons simple syrup, 1/4 cup whiskey. Stir, then garnish with orange and lemon slices.
- With your Florida Cracker Sour(s) in hand, proceed to the porch and sit down, ideally on a swing with a squeaky chain, but if not, a nice wooden rocker will do, and settle in with one of the following Florida authors’ works:
Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Florida Frenzy by Harry Crews
I’m barreling toward Interstate 95, the north-south artery that will hurtle me into Florida. A friend tells me, “No one loves a road trip better than you,” and he’s right. I have been traveling this journey since I was a baby, a thousand-mile round trip embedded in my DNA. My mother’s ancestors settled in the Okefenokee Swamp of South Georgia before the Civil War. Later they migrated further south into Florida. My father teased my mother that her family crawled out from under a log in the Okefenokee Swamp, and there is more than a little truth to that.
“…Both Cody and Jimbo worked with their daddies on two of the biggest watermelon farms in North Florida, the watermelon capital of the world. Years of tossing thirty-pound melons up to a man on a high-sided truck from first light to first dusk had given them bodies so keyed up, coiled, and ready to strike that if they weren’t actually heaving melons, they literally did not know what to do, how to act. The problem resolved itself in random violence full of joy and love masquerading as anger. Nobody ever said it, but everybody knew it. It was this knowledge that gave the senseless, meaningless, childish moments late at night a certain and very real dignity.”
-from “Tuesday Night with Cody, Jimbo, and a Fish,” a short story in Harry Crews’s book Blood and Grits.