Beauty and adventure abound in the pages of a classic 1887 book known as the “Knockabout Club in the Everglades–Lake Okeechobee. ” A book from the days when it was “a man’s world,” it is one in a series of exotic hunting and survival tales, written, and “documented, ” by F.A. Ober and Estes Lauriat.
When reading this text about Florida, one is transported to a time when Lake Okeechobee and our Indian River Lagoon Region, easily competed with the continent of Africa in wonder and wildlife. Bears, panthers, alligators, crocodiles, wolves, native people, limitless fish, and a million birds in every different color, shape, and size. –Knobby-kneed trees stretching to heaven forcing the eye to God…
My mother shared this book with me awhile back, and although I have not read every page, I remain moved by its recollections, its revelations, and its confessions.
Today I will share a smidgen of its art work, and a whisper of its words. The entire book has been electronically preserved and even reprinted due to “its importance and value to society.” The link is below.
As with so many things relating to Florida, the text leaves one wondering….wondering how we perhaps unknowing destroyed such a paradise, and if one day our collective conscience will find redemption by restoring some of the destruction we have caused.
This excerpt is from page 196 of the electronic copy:
“As the sun came down, behind the pines, scattered groups of herons came flying towards the island where we were concealed. Now a great heron, now a small blue heron, and occasionally a night heron. The sun disappeared and the moon came out and shed a faint light over the marshes and the lonely island, disclosing to the waters there the hurrying dusky forms in the sky, many of which fell at the fire of the marauders stationed beneath the trees…
When we left (I now grieve to state) we had nearly a score of herons of various kinds. Gleaming white in the moonlight, our back loads of herons appeared more like sheeted ghosts and verily, if all wicked deeds are requited in kind, the slayer of these innocent birds deserved to have their nights disturbed during the remained of their lives by the apparitions of their victims.
Looking back on that heron hunt, I can say it was a shameful thing to do,–to shoot unsuspecting birds as they came winging their way joyfully home to their nests. It was a most inexcusable act; yet we did it in our search for the rare and curious, not giving heed to the chiding’s of conscience—-until we had shot the birds.”
Library of Congress electronic copy: (http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t01z4gn31;view=1up;seq=15)
Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, for sharing this book.