When this COVID-19 self-imposed isolation started we were optimistic. Optimism is something that Americans are good at but sometimes it works against us. Optimistically, we figured we could isolate for a while, but because we were optimistic, we were really thinking that it would be for a short while. Now it is becoming apparent that, for many of us, we’ll need to hibernate longer than we expected. A lot of us don’t have much experience with staying at home, sitting still, being patient. This is challenging and we need to have something meaningful to do in order to feel like we are getting something positive out of our solitary time.
Many of us have turned to our phones and televisions and computers to occupy our time. Gardening, home repairs, exercise, all are on the increase too. Now, I have not done all the projects that I could have done, and neither have most of you, but we can salvage our self-images with a time honored way to entertain and educate ourselves, and we can escape so far away from our isolation that we’ll forget about our worries. Books! And although any book may help you escape, books close to home fill a special niche and I’m going to recommend a few that have a strong local/regional flavor. George R.R. Martin once said that we readers are lucky ... we live not just one life, but many in our lifetime. What will you read this week?
Here are some amazingly good books and reading materials with close to home connections, some written about home and homefolks, and some written by homefolks.
For a good rollicking look at life in a small town that bears a strong coincidental resemblance to White Springs, read “Secrets,” “Nightshade,” “Destini” and “Black Runs the River” by White Springs author Johnny Bullard. If you read the first one, you’ll want to read all four!
Reading “The Salvation of Maggie Rider,” “Waking up in the Floodplain,” “Florida's Bellamy Road” or “Southern Comforts” by White Springs author Sudye Cauthen will convince you that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was not the only woman author to capture the essence of life in North Florida.
For a wonderful home-spun, first-person account of what it was like to grow up in this area, read “Way Back in the Day; Those Were the Days” by Virginia Daniel & Buddy Camp, or read “Out of Pocket: My Life on the Florida/Georgia Border” by Nancy Morgan. Well-told tales by people who led well-lived lives, right here in our back yard!
Some people write about a region from memory, recalling fact and fiction and truth and rumor all lumped in together. That’s not history, that’s just a good story, and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to write the “real” history of a place you must document it, which leads me to perhaps the best factual book aver written about the history of White Springs, “The Documented History of White Springs, Florida” by Tracy Woodard. Tracy, the manager of the White Springs Library, worked on this book for years and she did her homework well. Read this book and you’ll be a White Springs scholar!
Few books written about our region have a reflective, spiritual aspect to them. Filled with both philosophical and pictorial reflections, “Wisdom from the Suwannee” by Khrys Kantarze captures the essence of a more contemplative look into life on the Suwannee River
Prior to showing up in White Springs with a gold doubloon hanging from his neck “Captain Bud” Williams led a life that many men dream of, but few ever realize. Bud did it all, from the bars to the beaches to the fishing boats, hanging out with a cast of colorful characters, including James Bond! Captain Bud now sails the heavenly seas but his life lives on in the book he wrote “The Captain's Son: Life Begins at 40 in Key West.” A great read!
Read any book written by Stetson Kennedy, or read a book about his amazing life, “Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy” written by former White Springs resident Dr. Peggy Bulger. This man documented Florida folklife and he fearlessly fought against injustice, predjudice and the KKK, enlisting help from, believe it or not, Superman! His life was such that it inspired stories and songs including some by his good friend Woodie Guthrie. Stetson Kennedy loved White Springs too!
A regional story that had a national impact, “Strange Fruit,” written by Jasper native Lillian Smith was highly controversial for its time. Published in the early 1940’s, it was banned in many places, and it remained banned in Boston until 1990! It so challenged the prejudices of the time that when the U.S. Post Office tried to prohibit shipping the book between states by mail, Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and got the order rescinded.
There is an abundance of heritage and history all around us and this is reflected in publications that document various “Heritage Trails” in our region. These publications are all available online at the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Quick reads that will amaze you with the heritage and history that surrounds us! The Black Heritage Trail - British Heritage Trail - Civil War Heritage Trail - Florida Historic Golf Trail - French Heritage Trail - Seminole Wars Heritage Trail - Spanish Colonial Heritage Trail - World War II Heritage Trail - Native American Heritage Trail - Women's Heritage Trail. Google the trails that strike your curiosity and get “Florida Smart!”
My apologies for the misspelling of Thelma Lee Whipple’s name in previous columns. In all the years I knew of her I guess I just heard it wrong, and I spelled it just like I heard it, and nobody ever told me any different but still, it was my error! Miss Thelma was a wonderful lady and I hope for forgiveness!
In regards to the COVID-19 hullabaloo I’ll just say one thing. Please, don’t walk off the field too soon. Your teammates are depending on you to finish the game. In the inimitable words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over!”
Once again, I’ve said enough. But you haven’t! Let me hear from you. Tell me how you’re coping with all this. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. Be safe in your socially isolated life in White Springs!