Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MORE ABOUT FROSTPROOF… AND STORMY WEATHER

Just after I wrote the blog about how peaceful lake country Florida is, a tropical storm kicked up and headed toward Tampa, FL, approximately two hours west of Frostproof. I awakened in the night to hear rain pinging on the skylight in the bath, then turned over and was lulled back to sleep by the pleasant pattering sound. This morning, I looked out the glass French doors that showcase Silver Lake and glimpsed a Great Blue Heron, a model in meditation, standing near the shoreline, watching the lake waters churn like whirlpools. Indoors this morning, we cooked and baked, keeping a vigilant eye on TV weather reports about Tropical Storm Fay. At noon, gusts and rainfall had been minimal in Frostproof, but today is a day of indoor pursuits.

Yesterday, we walked the lake property, searching for a pineapple plant Vickie’s mother had cultivated, but the fruit wasn’t ready. As a second best to picking and eating the pineapple, I read aloud a “pineapple episode” about a Frostproof farmer who arrived in town during the latter part of the 19th century. It seems that when the population of Frostproof had increased to 14 people, this young bachelor came to town and built a cabin near the shores of Lake Clinch. He wanted to raise pineapples and planted an acre in that fruit. However, during cultivation, a rattlesnake bit him, and he collapsed in excruciating pain. The antidote at that time was a mixture of iodine and water, taken internally. The young man went to a neighbor’s home nearby and downed this antidote, remaining there during a slow and painful recovery. As soon as he recovered from the iodine treatment and became able to travel, he left Frostproof, returning to his parents’ home in another state…and, the story goes, he never came back. Vickie’s mother who can skin fish with the best fisherman, cut up cabbage palm with an axe, and who has the endurance of an early pioneer, has no regard for the story of this young bachelor who wimped out because of a rattlesnake bite!

This story led to more tales about the practice of medicine early in the 20th century when a doctor homesteaded a few miles west of Frostproof. In those days, his house calls cost $1, and if he dispensed medicine, he charged his patient 25 cents. Most of the time, this call was put on the books and never paid. People seemed to be able to find more excuses for not paying the doctor than for any other debt – some of them never intended to pay for their treatments. Physicians practicing in the early 20th century seemed to feel more charitable toward the rural poor than physicians practicing in small towns today.

At 3 p.m., the slow rain has become a downpour, winds are gusting at 40 mph, and Silver Lake is now a gray blur. The gusts moving in oaks overhanging the lake have begun to toss strands of moss into the yard. However, three mallards are now preening on the lakeshore, enjoying the big bath. The gusts and heavy rain remind me of a former time in south Louisiana, when we waited out Hurricane Andrew after electing to stay in New Iberia, LA and weather the storm at home. One hundred and seventy-five mph winds gave me second thoughts about ever enduring a major hurricane again. This Florida “blow” is just a baby wind; however, the State gets its share of Gulf hurricanes; e.g., the Homestead, FL disaster. While on a field trip years ago, Hurricane Elena followed us all the way to St. Augustine, FL, stalled just offshore from our motel, then turned and followed us home, making landfall in Mississippi as we escaped “just in the nick.”

So much for stormy weather -- needless to say, Sunday we’ll return to Tennessee. Was I complaining about being landlocked earlier this year?
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