A few months ago I met Donald Neal. I was at the “Laurence E. Will Museum of the Glades” in Belle Glade. I saw him first from afar, and I knew, even though I did not know who he was, that he was someone special, someone I wanted to meet. His graying hair in dreads ….donning a carelessly worn paint be-speckled dress shirt and trousers looked so stylish a New York fashion designer would have certainly found a “new look.” His eyes seemed to contain generations of local history: drainage, planting, harvesting, deathly hurricanes, flooding, backbreaking work, destruction of the environment, the good and evil of money, prejudice, love, hate, sugarcane, water, and hope.
Today I will share some of his paintings that are on display at the Museum of the Glades and I encourage you to make the drive yourself. After years in the spotlight and then in the darkness, Donald is making a comeback. I think he’s going to make it big again as the time for Donald’s message seems just about right…
As we all know, movie star and local philanthropists, Frances Langford, was and is very loved in Martin County. Nonetheless, recently her 53 acre river estate, in Rio, was mowed down for development to create ironically “Langford’s Landing.” Yes, it was legal, but what a shame. What a crime of local history. Part of that history included Frances’ flock of peacocks.
Invasive or not, Frances brought the exotic birds to her property in the 1940s and they had been happily living here ever since. They became part of the cultural landscape of the Rio area. Over the years the county even erected signs warning drivers about the birds.
After Frances’ death in 2005 there were tougher times for the peacocks, peahens, and peachicks but they managed to survive. They had become “wild” living off the land although some residents would joyfully feed them. Kind of like cardinals…. 🙂
Sometimes stopping traffic as they lollygagg across State Road 707, the birds cause smiles and sometimes cursing and horn blowing from drivers. Inconvenient? Maybe— but so cool! So local! So “Frances”…..a reminder of her philanthropic spirit and love for our area with every sighting!
Of course since the 53 acres has been clear-cut and scraped the peacocks have lost their home base habitat. Did anyone even think about this? I mentioned it at a county commission meeting years ago. Perhaps the county thought no one would notice when the birds fell on hard times or were possibly eradicated?
This was not the case. Not along the Indian River Lagoon…not in the land of River Warriors.
Yesterday there was a great win for the spirit of Frances Langford and the peacocks when resident Toni Rummo used social media to inform the public that a bank and real estate agency had “ordered the trapping of the peacocks at 1547 SW Sottlong Avenue.”
The house is in foreclosure and the cleaning people were apparently put off by all the birds. This led to the trapping or quote for such. According to Rummo some birds were trapped but after the outcry the others were left alone. Even the media, Sheriff’s department, and Martin County Commission got involved. It was crazy!
Than you to Toni Rummo and the others! Just to follow up, I spoke to Bill Dean head of Century 21 on Hutchinson Island whose company was incorrectly linked with the sale and he said it was a day like no other. The phone rang off the hook!
At the end of the conversation I said: “But isn’t it great? The love of Frances Langford and the people standing up for her spirit?”
We laughed. I recommended having a gin and tonic in her honor.
Thank you Toni for the peacock win! It was a win for the people of Rio. A win for the spirit of Frances Langford, and a win for the spirit of St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon!
Florida was named “Pascua Florida” by explorer Ponce de Leon on Easter in 1513. Translation: means “Flowery Easter” or “Flowering Easter” (after Spain’s “Feast of the Flowers” Easter celebration)
With the approach of Easter, I am reminded of how lucky I am, and how in spite of the crushing blows of our physical existence and our difficult world, we are always able to heal, to “overcome.”
This applies to our lives as well as to our fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon…
In 2001, in a “previous life,” the day before Easter, I fell from the balcony of a home under construction and broke my neck. It happened in one second. And in that second, when what I thought was solid ground under my feet collapsed, and I was falling, watching the world turning, the shining St Lucie River and blue sky before me, I clearly remember saying to myself: “I can’t believe it; this is how I am going to die.” And then, “crash.” My thigh struck a metal stool, and my shoulder hit the ground. Silence. Excruciating pain. My dog, Dash, barking like crazy running around me while I lie flat unable to move…
A neighbor, hearing the crash, called the police, the Life Flight helicopter came, my fiancée at the time looked on in horror, while Bennett Richardson of the Martin County Fire Rescue Team yelled: “Do not move!” “Do not try to get up!”
The team fastened me into a stretcher in a full body brace. I was numb, in shock, and afraid.
I recall the helicopter ride: on my back, wind blowing, looking up, hearing the sound of the blades whipping through the air….it was like a movie….I kept wondering if I would be paralyzed. Wondering how my life would change. But somehow during that helicopter ride to St Mary’s Hospital, I came to know that even if I couldn’t move my body, I wasn’t my body anyway. I was something much larger, something connected to everything greater than myself; I was spirit….such are we all…
The next day, on Easter morning 2001, I lie by myself and knew my life would never be the same. I spent that Easter Day mostly alone. For me, Easter has become a “homecoming” of sorts….a reminder…..of life’s spirit.
Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy whatever makes you inspired.