Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Other Florida

I don't know if Cheyenne was as taken with cowboy country as I was but she is always ready for a walk and we took off, she and I and my wife into the windy wilderness of cow pastures. When you think of cowboy country Hollywood has trained you to think of the deserts of the southwest or California high country, but cowboys live and work in Central Florida as well.

Lets's be honest here and note that in summer this would be the pasture from fiery hell but on the tail end of a the first mild cooling winds presaging winter it was actually quite pleasant. These fields lie more or less between Lake Okeechobee and Sarasota, liable to the chance of frost in winter and great searing heat in summer. Take your pick but the cows have no choice. I'm guessing they get frisky with the advent of cooler weather but lf friskiness there was no sign along Lily Road.

I haven't made a road trip through this part of Florida in a while but once I get back into the middle of nowhere I am reminded why I find Central Flatistan so alluring. These are wide open spaces, underpopulated, quiet and entirely otherworldly compared to the urban madness of southeast Florida which I had to drive through to get here.

I'm pretty sure living here would be tough for some fruity guy wearing pink Crocs but wandering through in white sneakers these fields have a certain rural charm.

I like being reminded of Florida's variety of landscapes despite the fact there are no mountains, just fields and hay bales and woods scattered here and there.

Cow country is big business in Florida.

You don't get to see these loads in the Florida Keys, 300 miles to the south. My wife likes to get out of the Keys from time to time and I too like to be reminded there is more to countryside than mangroves and salt water. I grew up around farmland and though I cannot say I miss the messy tedium of a farmer's life I miss seeing food grow. I miss the smells of life being lived, though from time to time the smells of rotting seaweed do a passable job of imitating a pig sty in need of a good clean.

The cows were living in proximity to FLorida's other great crop, oranges which are well known as a Sunshine State staple, though my wife did says she didn't recall seeing unripe oranges This close up before.

They look like green tennis balls this time of year.

This isn't the glitzy part of Florida, the Palm Beach world of Trump mansions, society scandals and massively watered golf courses. Though it's worth noting that Palm Beach County does stretch all the way to central Florida, land of agricultural workers, sugar cane fields and poverty. As we rolled past this little house I couldn't help but notice the chickens in the yard and a sturdy farmer's wife striding across the grass in a homestead as isolated as any little home on the prairie. Given a solid library and fast Internet connections I can't think it would too terrible to live here, far from any visible neighbors except of course that one would have to be constantly explaining a propensity for pink Crocs and left leaning politics. In this part of the world the rough hewn toilers in the fields mostly side with the one per centers in voting for the candidate with the magic underwear, at least according to the signage. They may all be secret Leninists, but that seems unlikely.

And this, let's not forget is where large trucks roam the long straight roads with bumper stickers exorting the populace to watch for motorcycles (not bloody likely, sez I) and to vote and stuff like that. Much as I'd like I think I'd look like a dork in a ten gallon hat and pointy boots with high heels. I know my place.

There are a few palmettos and weathered oak trees around here but it's not tropica any longer. North of the big lake Florida becomes markedly less sub tropical and a lot more temperate, a d one sign of that is the Spanish Moss dangling everywhere.

For those who have only traveled Florida's main arteries, I-75 from Motown and I-95 from The Big Apple the world of Highway 27 down the middle of the state deserves to be seen at least once. Drive the low rolling hills, orange groves and farmland and decide for yourself if this stuff is worth seeing. In the touristy winter months fruit juices go on sale roadside everywhere and natire's mosquito abatement program goes into effect, even if most days temperatures are above 70 degrees.

It's the Florida time forgot, at least as viewed by the passing motorist and that is no bad thing.