November 24, 2007

Autumn in Monticello

In my short time exploring the Florida section of every Borders and Barnes & Noble from Tallahassee to Lakeland, I've come across enough collections of ghost stories that I could write another book just on the spooks and sprites of the Panhandle pinewoods. Monticello especially seems to be a sort of spiritual center, a hellmouth. Lots of books on what must be the ghosts of old plantation nobility. I'm sure Monticello went crazy for Halloween.

They certainly are ready for Christmas. This time, with the leaves fallen, I appreciated the road to Monticello much more. The last time I visited, the landscaped section of US 90 called "Fred Mahan Drive" that leads to the Jefferson County seat was like a skeleton forest. During the Great Depression, the state road department paid laborers 30 cents an hour to beautify the highway with arbor vitae, palms, and crape myrtles. In summer, the roadsides flower pink-red.

Now the foliage is much less dramatic. But there were some flashes of November color in town.

I walked by Jefferson County High School again. Monticello struck Chiles. It struck me. The school was built by slave labor in 1852. This is Florida's Old Cotton Belt.

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