November 29, 2007

Hagen's Cove Classroom

In Taylor County, along Florida's Big Bend, I found Hagen's Cove on the Gulf of Mexico. It got me thinking about a couple things.

One is an episode from the general election phase of the 1970 U.S. Senate campaign that I think I'll focus on, which is the annual Forest Festival in Perry, the Taylor County seat. I don't know if the paper mill is still there, but it was there and employed hundreds and hundreds in the county back then. If Bill Cramer was gonna fight for the cracker vote, Perry was as good a place as any to start. If the GOP was gonna resurge in Florida since Reconstruction, it would have to get into the hinterland. Civil rights, feminism, counterculture--they would be the wedges to pry social and religious conservatives away from the Democratic Party.

Second, it got me thinking about contrasts. Seems to me that's what writing is all about.

-If you don't see family life, Christmas, vacations, hunting trips, stories; you don't appreciate the huge cost of a campaign life on the highway

-If you don't see Chiles driving around Spessard Holland as a teenager in 1946, you don't appreciate the moment he took Holland's seat in the U.S. Senate in 1970

-If you don't see Chiles choking his way through a conventional campaign strategy at the beginning of the 1970 U.S. Senate campaign, you don't appreciate the creativity of the The Walk

-If you don't see him taking his first big risk on Red Lobster, you can't put The Walk and his limits on campaign contributions in perspective

It's no different than the way you appreciate the photo of Hagen's Cove. It's barren and lonely. It's in conflict with your mental image of Florida, the one you carry with you--and there you've got meaning. There's also just the contrast of shadows and the sun's glare on the Gulf.

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