August 4, 2007

Background Reading

It takes a long time to do and it's pretty boring compared to the best parts of writing a book, but before you put pen to paper, you've gotta know what's been said already. I am knee-deep in the reading now, covering Florida culture, history, politics, literature from a variety of viewpoints. There is also some general politickin' reading:

The Tropic of Cracker, Al Burt
Government and Politics in Florida, edited by Robert Huckshorn
The Rise of the Southern Republicans, Earl Black and Merle Black
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Robert Caro
Florida's Indians: from Ancient Times to the Present, Jerald T. Milanich
Lakeland, Mary M. Flekke and Randall M. MacDonald
Florida: A Short History, Michael Gannon
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Tallahassee: A Capital City History, Julianne Hare
Big Woods: The Hunting Stories, William Faulkner
Tourist Season, Carl Hiaasen
An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood, Jimmy Carter
Zora Neale Hurston: The Complete Stories
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Janisse Ray
The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Booknotes Life Stories: Notable Biographers on the People Who Shaped America, Brian Lamb
Writing Southern Politics, edited by Robert P. Steed and Laurence W. Moreland
Tales of Old Florida, edited by Frank Oppel and Tony Meisel
More Tellable Cracker Tales, Annette J. Bruce
Visting Small-Town Florida, Bruce Hunt
Floridian of His Century: The Courage of LeRoy Collins, Martin Dyckman

August 3, 2007

Walkin' Notes: Monticello

Jefferson County Democratic Party HQ

Chiles writes in the Walkin' Notes:

Started off bright and early this morning for Monticello. Walking into Jefferson County, it struck me the name is certainly appropriate. This country is beautiful, very much like Virginia. Walking into Monticello made me think of Jefferson's home at Monticello that I had visited with my family some time ago.
Jefferson County, the Eastern edge of the Old Cotton Belt Counties, is a Democratic county thanks to its large black community. It's like Old Virginia in more ways than one.

Avenue of the Oaks, Monticello

One of the dirtiest stop signs I've seen in a while.
This pictures makes me think of Chiles and his love of nature. At the end of the driveway is a large manor I believe.
The lighting of this is great.

The Road Less Traveled

This is a back road in Monticello (population 2,533). I'm not sure, but something tells me Chiles walked it.

Would the Walk work today? Who knows. But maybe walking the state is nothing more than a symbol for political risk-taking. Risks on the campaign trail harden you for risks in public office. Maybe that's why it worked. It built a big enough reservoir of trust with people--especially the 40,000 or so he met personally--that supplied votes for another thirty years of public service.

August 2, 2007

Chiles and His Florida: Avenue of the Oaks

In a small town called Monticello about 20 miles East of Tallahassee, there is a street called Dogwood. As it goes out of town it becomes gravely and grassy. The tree canopy's shade cools you down. On the map of Historic Monticello provided by the Chamber of Commerce, this trail is called the "Avenue of the Oaks." It's quite a sight, and as Chiles mentions in his Walkin' Notes, it's a small piece of Virginia in Florida.

The entrance to the Avenue. Any guesses on the number of people who have been to Disney World and the Avenue of the Oaks?

August 1, 2007

July Progress Report

After a month on the Trail, here are the numbers:

-About 2,000 pages of primary source material collected spanning the first budget shortfall to civil rights controversy (mostly governor years)
-18 interviews conducted
-About 200 photos taken and compiled in an album
-About 4,000 pages of press clips compiled in binders
-About 25 binders of clips organized by chronology/subject
-About 5 or 6 visits to the rural Panhandle
-Week long visit to Lakeland/Anna Maria Island

I've got a lot of binders. I almost tripped over one on the floor today.

Chiles and His Florida: Oak Grove

To understand Southern politics in the past half century, you must understand the AME Church. As Jimmy Carter will tell you in his memoirs of a Georgia rural boyhood, the black ministers of Bethel AME Church commanded respect even in white communities for their integrity.

The AME Christian denomination, founded in 1816, was established in rebellion to the racist, pro-slavery bent of the existing Methodist church in America. Black members of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia walked out of the church in protest when a key community leader, Absalom Jones, was hauled out by church trustees even as he knelt to pray. Absalom and a fellow protester, Richard Allen, went on to form their own church with Allen was its first pastor in 1794. By the Civil War, the church spread across the Midwest and Northeast's major cities. After the war, it spread rapidly in the South.

Given its history, it is no surprise that Bethel AME churches throughout the Deep South supplied countless foot soldiers to the US civil rights movement.

Lawton Chiles doesn't mention Oak Grove at all in his Walkin' Notes, although it's on highway 90 between Chattahoochee and Quincy. It's no more than a village now; it must have been smaller in 1970. But it's got a Bethel AME Church and that matters.

This small church probably doubles as a polling location. They've got a van.
Van = Get-Out-The-Vote.

The long road to Tallahassee.

A thick patch of pines.

July 31, 2007

Photographs, Paragraphs

Good photography is about proportion. I remember learning about the "Rule of Thirds" in high school I guess. Keep the background and foreground interesting. Play with the focus to get a good mix of things. Don't put things in there that don't serve a purpose. I guess that's tougher to say in photography than in writing.

I think this photo of the Carrabelle harbor was easy. Like in Chesapeake Bay photography, if you catch something like an abandoned, collapsed pier or boathouse in the shot, you get a nice sentimentality. Forlorn, even. If you analyzed even more, you might notice that the palms on the sides are bigger and more rigid than the man-made pier. Suggests something about man vs nature. The fact that the palms seem to be dead adds to the mournful atmosphere. Or nothing at all if you just look at the picture.

One of the oldest rules about writing is "omit needless words." What could you do to improve this picture? I might border the photo on the right with the palm, and scrap the area on the right of the palm. It doesn't really do anything.

If you cut off the extra stuff on the sides and border with photo with the palms, it focuses the reader's attention on the sea and the pier specifically. If that's your intention, then you'll succeed. I think there's a writing lesson in that.

Chiles and His Florida: Carrabelle

Carrabelle is a small sport-fishing town settled next to the Gulf of Mexico about an hour away from Tallahassee. It is was not on the Walk--in fact none of the coastal Panhandle was. But it's a town that depends on the sea for food, fun, and a way of life. Visiting it a couple weeks ago brought back memories of seaside towns along the Chesapeake Bay that thrived on boat-building and trade in the 19th century and before; but now pray for tourists to keep afloat financially.
Carrabelle is in Franklin County, outside the Cotton Belt and gateway to the most conservative counties of the Panhandle like Calhoun, Washington, and Holmes. Since Chiles is gone, no Democrat can speak "cracker" well enough to even put up a fight in this region. Worse, few try. It's a big risk in leaving Dade and Broward to go mix with hunters and fishermen in a place like Carrabelle, but a big payoff too. A Democrat who can get votes in the Panhandle outside of Tallahassee is dangerous.
Pirate's Landing restaurant. A storm was brewin' as I chomped on fried shrimp.

The road to Carrabelle. Not a Wendy's or McDonald's in sight. This is hunting and fishing country.

Return to Crystal River

Crystal River Energy Complex. Soon after the starting gun, the Chiles/MacKay Administration took the lead on implementing energy efficiency standards and promoting energy innovation. I don't think nukes were in the mix, though. Certainly no plants in Florida or anywhere in the US were begun during the governor years.
The clouds are so bright and well-defined you'll almost miss the smokestacks in the lower left corner.
Doesn't take long on highway 98 to get outside of Lakeland and into the Polk countryside.
Lots of cattle on 98 in North Polk County.