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|I went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to do research for a novel I am working on. When I got there I learned that the fellow I was looking for, an alligator wrestler who went by the name of Skeet, had passed-away a few years ago. Now I knew why his phone was disconnected and he hadn't returned any of my emails.|
Hans Lago, who is a falconer in South Florida, told me I should go into the Everglades swamp and find the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. "If you are lucky, you may run across a fellow by the name of Butch Harrison. Butch knows as much about the swamp as just about anyone around", Hans said.
The Florida Everglades stretch from just south of Orlando to well-below Miami. That is a pretty big and rugged area to look through to find one guy. It was the proverbial needle in the haystack.
|I tapped "Big Cypress Seminole Reservation" into Google Maps on my mobile phone. Google gave me a good place to start.|
The haystack got a little smaller; but the needle I was looking for still seemed impossible to find.
|But fate has a way of making things happen.|
I decided to catch a bite to eat at a place called "Billie Swamp Safari". As soon as I stepped out of my "swamp buggy" I saw it; an SUV emblazoned with the name Butch Harrison.
Butch calls himself a Florida Cracker Storyteller.
|"The word 'Cracker' has become politically incorrect over the years. But the truth is crackers are cattleman", says Harrison.|
They got the name cracker from the sound of the whips they used to control their herds.
|Butch says that the tip of a properly handled whip will break the sound barrier. That is what issues forth the cracking sound.|
|Over the course of several hours, Butch told me stories of Black Seminoles, old forts, cattle drives, native tribes, dark nights in the swamp, and local area writers.|
I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Skeet... but Butch Harrison made the trip worthwhile.