Patriarchs and Pelicans

I had a long and pleasant day this past Saturday, even though madonna and child went to West Palm for this entire next week. Psh. Anyway, long and pleasant day.

My father and a friend of his went on one of their semi-monthly photography excursions, and I invited myself along. Around 11 am Joffre and Joffre went to pick Chuck up and we were on our way. The plan o' the day was supposed to climax with a sunset at Cedar Key, but first the photographers wanted to stop by Manatee Springs to see if they could get any good shots there. When we drove through Bronson Chuck wanted to pull over on the highway so that he could show us his old farm, which we did (nice property), and the conversation turned to old Florida. Chuck's wife Rose grew up on a cattle ranch on the edge of the Everglades in south Florida, and they're still apparently pretty isolated. Rose's family didn't get a phone line out there until she was in high school (which I'd guess was early '70s). One of the stories Chuck told was of the patriarch (early 20th century), and of how he was spared by a bounty killer who hadn't the heart to take the hard-working family man down. The bounty killer apparently approached the patriarch, told him he'd been hired, and that someone was after his land. That was the sort of country it was down there.

My father then told one of the family stories, of my grandfather, native to Arkansas but owner of a ranch down in Espirito Santo, Brazil, where he lived out the last thirty (?) years of his life. In the '70s, while he and my father's half-sister (at this time only five or six years old) drove down a road in one a tractor, they were bushwacked. My grandfather was only ("only") shot through the arm, but Anita took a bullet through the chest only an inch from her heart. They both survived, and Anita now lives in New York City.

Interesting, how important land is; it doesn't always seem that way living in a town like Gainesville, but it is.

So the photographic excursion drove on, and we pulled into Manatee Springs State Park. I believe I was still in high school the last time I was there. The water, of course, was crystalline. Huge carp and red bass and big blue catfish swam around. As the spring flowed out toward the Suwannee River you could see turtles sunning on logs that had fallen into the shallow waters by the cypress swamps which served as banks, and by the boardwalk that takes you out to the Suwannee snakes were sunning on tree trunks and debris. At one point a large flock of turkey buzzards came down and settled in the trees around us, eventually moving across the river some 150 yards away, on a huge leafless black tree surrounded by richly-colored green. Chuck and dad took some shots I look forward to seeing developed. My father took some thirty minutes to get his first shot off. I think the whole time we were there he took four or five. Very deliberate stuff, this large format work (at least according to the proud and enthusiastic dad n' Chuck).

After a late lunch we drove down to Cedar Key. It was starting to get cloudy, but when we reached the causeway to reach the island, we hit a dense fog which reached down to the "Cedar Key Sharks" water tower. When we left two hours later the fog would be half-way down the tower.

A brisk wind blew this bizarre New England-style fog in, and I regretted wearing sandals. We got out of the car and wandered along that water-edge road with those few restaurants, and looking out to the edge of our visibility we could see a catamaran had been capsized (how you capsize a boat with multiple hulls in water that still, I don't know), and it was creepy to see that in the soupy fog. Two speedboats seemed to be occupied taking the crew of the catamaran back to land, but no one seemed to preoccupied or even very impressed by it. No one really seemed to be noticing it. Just off the dock, where folks were fishing, Chuck and dad claimed to see a dorsal fin, probably dolphin, but I never saw it. Sure...a dorsal fin. Uh-huh.

Eventually we wandered back out to the causeway so that dad could catch the moonrise at 6:30 as the sun backlit him, hoping that the fog would lift a bit. We sat down in the brisk wind sipping a merlot Chuck had provided, listened to Marisa Monte, and smoked cigarrillos. At one point a great bald eagle flew near at about fifty feet above the shallows (it was high tide, so for maybe two miles out the water was about two feet deep before you hit real ocean). As I wondered aloud whether it would stoop, dad said, "There it goes," and there it went. It wasn't really an honest to goodness stoop, he just sort of moseyed down in 3-D and casually grabbed a fish out of the water. The three of us were pretty pumped about that.

Eventually the wind died down, so the no-see-'ums attacked, and the clouds weren't lifting at all, so dad set up by the marsh to take a shot of a couple of pelicans. I predicted that they'd fly off before he took the shot. He glared at me, but one of the pelicans made me proud by taking off just as dad picked up the trigger.

That was pretty much the whole day, great fun. When we got back to Gainesville dad took me out for steak and I went home for a good night's rest.

Man. Satisfying.

This is what cypress by water look like, this is one of my dad's old shots:

The black and white makes it look maybe a little creepier, but also less organic. Cypress is so textured, and looks soft...and it'll grow in water a foot deep with these "knees" popping up from the ground from their root systems. Strange stuff.