About Cracker Storyteller

Cracker Storyteller has been a member since March 10th 2012, and has created 7 posts from scratch.

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This Author's Website is http://butchharrison.com

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Rest in Peace

Leverett Roland Harrison, Jr., better known as Butch Harrison, 83, left this earth Sunday, April 30, 2017 at Haven Hospice in Lake City, Florida.

He leaves behind two sons, Jayson King and Bradley Harrison, and one daughter, Jennifer (Kevin) Floyd. He was predeceased by both of his parents and one son, Mark (Pamela) Harrison. He also leaves behind 12 grandchildren: Jordyn and Rebecca King; Bradley Harrison, II and Leverett Harrison; Katelyn, Grant, Darcy, and Evelyn Floyd; Mark Harrison Jr., Austin, Bradley, and Carolann Harrison.

Butch was born to Mr. and Mrs. Leverett Roland Harrison Sr. on February 17, 1934, and grew up in Delray Beach, Florida.  After high school, Butch enlisted in the Marines.  After honorably serving in the Marines, Butch spent many years as a professional Everglades Guide and then traveled all over the continental United States as an Equine Relocation Specialist.  In his later years, Butch became a Florida Cracker Storyteller, traveling all over the state of Florida sharing stories of the early settlers of Florida as well as many of his own experiences in the wild, native Florida.

Cow Hunters and Cattle Barons

Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States. This exhibit celebrates that long history and the continuing importance of cattle and ranching to the Florida economy and culture. This exhibit is presented in support of the Florida Folklife Program exhibit, Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition, currently on display at the Western Folklife Center, Elko, Nevada from January 18 – July 24, 2010. Images from the State Archives are used, along with information from the exhibit and new photographs from folklorist Bob Stone, to illustrate how cattle, the people who raise them, and the cultural importance of ranching have changed since cattle first arrived with the earliest Spanish explorers more than 400 years ago. This exhibit showcases the work, play, tradition, and artistry that ranching represents in Florida.

Florida’s cattle industry, one of the oldest and largest in the nation, is vital to the state’s well-being. Ranching is an essential economic activity that preserves many aspects of the natural landscape, protects water resources, and maintains areas used by wildlife or for recreation. Yet few know about Florida’s unique ranching traditions, which have been adapted to the subtropical climate and influenced by the state’s distinctive history.

In Florida, those who own or work cattle traditionally have been called cowmen. In the late 1800s they were often called cow hunters, a reference to hunting for cattle scattered over the wooded rangelands during roundups. At times the terms cowman and Cracker have been used interchangeably because of similarities in their folk culture. Today the western term “cowboy” is often used for those who work cattle.


Colonial Florida

Florida ranching has evolved from many different cultural traditions, though the most important sources were the marshy coastal areas of Andalusia, Spain, and the hill regions of Britain and Ireland. In Andalusia, ranchers living in towns hired cow hands (vaqueros), who marked or branded the cattle, managed them from horses, and moved them to different locations during the year. They later brought long-horned Andalusian cattle to the Americas. In highland Britain and Ireland, herders marked or branded cattle for identification, penned them at night for protection, and moved them to different pastures during the year. In the fall, the animals were sold to drovers, who used dogs and whips to drive them to markets or slaughterhouses. The Spanish and British took these traditions to the West Indies, where they were adapted to the tropical climate and combined to create ranching systems used throughout the Americas.

Florida’s Andalusian/Caribbean cattle were the first in today’s United States. Some scholars believe that cattle brought by the expeditions of Ponce de Leon in 1521 and Don Diego de Maldonado in 1540 escaped and survived in the wild. Organized ranching began with the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, when cattle from Spain and Cuba formed the basis of herds that fed the garrison and surrounding communities. In addition to herds owned by the Spanish and Indians, wild cattle flourished in the rangelands and prairies. Eventually Spanish colonists began exporting cattle to Cuba. During the 1600s, Spanish clergy raised cattle at the missions, where many Native Americans learned to tend them.


Cows and Empires

By 1700, Florida contained approximately 34 ranches and 20,000 head of cattle. After British-Creek Indian raids in 1702 and 1704 devastated Florida cattle ranchers, Indians sustained cattle raising in Florida. Many had established large herds of wild cattle and stock acquired from the Spanish. Cattle herding was vital culturally and economically to the early Seminoles, as attested to by the name of their leader, Cowkeeper (ca. 1710-1783). They remained Florida’s major livestock producers throughout most of the 1700s.


During British rule (1763-1783), English planters and Creek Indians in west Florida owned substantial herds. Cowmen from Georgia and the Carolinas spread into north Florida during that period.

In early Florida, Europeans, Americans, and Indians stole cattle from each other. Rustling became particularly widespread by the second half of the 18th century, and was one of the elements that led to the Seminole Wars.


The 19th Century: Struggle and Sacrifice

When the U.S. took possession of Florida in 1821, it was described as a “vast, untamed wilderness, plentifully stocked with wild cattle.” Florida “scrub” or Cracker cattle were descended from the mix of Spanish and British breeds. These hardy creatures survived on native forage, tolerated severe heat, insect pests, and acquired immunity to many diseases.

Early Florida cowmen survived in difficult conditions. They fought off panthers, wolves, bears, and cattle rustlers. Cowmen spent weeks or months on cattle drives across difficult marshes and dense scrub woods, often enduring burning heat, torrential thunderstorms, and hurricane winds. From central Florida they sometimes drove cattle as far as Jacksonville, Savannah, and Charleston. This gradually changed in the 1830s when the cattlemen re-established trade with Cuba, and Tampa, Punta Gorda, and Punta Rassa became important export ports.

The number of cattle increased rapidly from the 1840s until the Civil War. Florida was second only to Texas in per capita value of livestock in the South. After the Armed Occupation Act of 1842, cattlemen from the overstocked states of Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas homesteaded 200,000 acres in Florida. Some seized range territory that the Seminoles had been forced to relinquish as a consequence of the Seminole Wars. The newcomers often brought foundation herds that interbred with wild scrub cattle. Few cattlemen owned grazing land since there was extensive open range. By mid-century, ranchers were running large herds on the extensive open range in central and south Florida.

Wars provided an economic boost for Florida cattlemen, who provisioned armies during the Seminole, Civil, and Spanish American Wars. Although the Civil War disrupted the Cuban trade, Florida cowmen became beef suppliers to both armies. Hides, tallow, and meat from Florida were so important for the Confederacy that a Cow Cavalry was organized to protect herds from Union raiders.

After the Civil War there were still wild cattle in Florida, as well as attractive markets to the north and south. During the next three decades, trade boomed with Cuba, Key West, and Nassau, and Florida became the nation’s leading cattle exporter. From 1868 to 1878, ranchers received millions of dollars in gold doubloons for over 1.6 million cattle exported to Cuba. The Cuban commerce provided income to cattlemen, merchants, and shippers, and contributed to the state’s recovery from Reconstruction-era depression.


Thanks to The Florida Memory Project for this article.

The Florida Everglades

The Everglades is a unique treasure found in South Florida. The Everglades is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the United States. It consists of 1.5 million acres of saw grass marshes, mangrove forests, and hardwood hammocks dominated by wetlands. It is home to endangered, rare, and exotic wildlife.



Origins of the Everglades

Water in South Florida once flowed from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee. Then it flowed southward over low-lying lands to Biscayne Bay, the Ten Thousand Islands, and Florida Bay. This shallow, slow-moving sheet of water created a mosaic of ponds, marshes, and forests. Over thousands of years this developed into a balanced ecosystem.

Wading birds such as great egrets, white ibis, herons, and wood storks were abundant. The Cape Sable seaside sparrow, Miami blackheaded snake, manatee, and Florida panther made the Everglades their home. Alligators and crocodiles existed side by side.

The Seminole and Miccosukee Indians settled in the Everglades. Although they battled with the alligators and crocodiles who live in the ‘Glades, they did not interfere with the overall balance of the ecosystem.

Draining the Everglades

Early settlers and land developers considered the Everglades to be a worthless swamp. By the 1800s, developers started digging canals to drain the wetlands. Between 1905 and 1910, large tracts of land were converted to agriculture. This “new” land stimulated the first of South Florida’s land booms. Henry Flagler constructed the first railroad down the Florida peninsula opening up this area to people.

By the 1920s, visitors and new residents flocked to towns like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Fort Myers. As they arrived, more canals were dug. Canals, roads, and buildings took the place of native habitats.

In 1948, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a system of roads, canals, levees, and water-control structures stretching throughout South Florida. This was intended to provide water and flood protection and to help preserve the Everglades. However, the alteration of the wetlands—combined with increasing population—damaged the natural system.

In the 1960s, the federal government considered building an international airport in the Everglades area. Florida environmentalists objected. Marjory Stoneman Douglas organized the Friends of the Everglades. The airport was not built and a strong crusade to “Save the Everglades” was begun.


The Everglades Today Today, 50% of South Florida’s original wetland areas no longer exist. The numbers of wading birds have been reduced by 90%. Entire populations of animals are in danger of disappearing. Exotic pest plants have invaded natural areas. Losses of seagrass beds in Florida Bay have been followed by losses of wildlife.In Mrs. Douglas’s classic book, The Everglades: River of Grass, she wrote, “Unless the people act . . . overdraining will go on. The soil will shrink and burn and be wasted and destroyed, in a continuing ruin.”However, she continues, in a hopeful vein, “There is a balance in man also, one which has set against his greed . . . Perhaps even in this last hour, in a new relation of usefulness and beauty, the vast, magnificent, subtle and unique region of the Everglades may not be utterly lost.”The best way to see the Everglades is by picking up a paddle. In wintertime, when the temperatures and swarms of mosquitoes have decreased, Everglades National Park draws large numbers of visitors. They include kayak and canoe campers, along with birders, hikers, and fishermen. They include those with a desire to see this unique treasure.


Marjory Stoneman Douglas

During the century of her life, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a journalist, playwright, and environmental crusader. She fought for feminism, racial justice, and conservation long before these causes became popular.
Her book, The Everglades: River of Grass, published in 1947—the year Everglades National Park was established—has become the definitive description of the natural treasure she fought so hard to protect.

In his introduction to her autobiography, Voice of the River, John Rothchild describes her appearance ata public meeting: “Mrs. Douglas was half the size of her fellow speakers and she wore huge dark glasses . . . along with a huge floppy hat . . . Her voice had the sobering effect of a one-room schoolmarm’s. The tone itself seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local stone crabbers, plus the developers, and the lawyers on both sides. I wonder if it didn’t also intimidate the mosquitoes.”

One small person can make a huge difference. Mrs. Douglas was a very small size but cast a giant shadow over the Everglades. Her influence on Florida’s environmental movement was significant.

How much does it cost to winter in Florida in 1924?

(From an article written in 1924 by Karl H. Grismer)

Percy Gotrocks, who graces Palm Beach with his presence during the winter months, considers himself fortunate if he can get through a season without parting from about sixty thousand dollars. His “shack” on Ocean Boulevard has a retinue of servants that could man a hotel, and their wages are only a small part of Percy’s expenses. The way his parties waste away his bankroll is almost a crime.

Of course, Percy could economize if he cared to, but what would his friends think! He has to put on the dog or people will get the idea that the Giltedge Investment Company, of which he is president, is going to the bow-wows. As for Mrs. Percy, she wouldn’t think of coming to Florida without buying at least a dozen new gowns, fifteen or twenty pairs of shoes, and a couple of thousand dollars worth of other stuff. Why, she wouldn’t feel half dressed! So she splurges handsomely, and Mr. Percy pays the bills.

Not everyone who winters in Florida can afford to disregard expenses like Mr. and Mrs. Percy. Most people have to watch closely every item of expense, and if the total threatens to mount too high, they stay up North, regardless of the discomforts of northern blizzards. The sunshine and the flowers of Florida call them, but they turn a deaf ear.

There is no mystery regarding the cost of wintering in Florida. Despite all ideas to the contrary, a person can estimate before leaving home how much his expenses will be. And he can come within a few dollars of being right. There need be no guesswork about it.
The first item to consider is the cost of transportation. That is the simplest of all. By inquiring at the railroad ticket office the prospective tourist can learn exactly how much the fare will be. For persons living north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi the fare would probably average $60 each way, including Pullman, or $120 for the round trip.

Following transportation, the next major item of expense is that of rent. Although many tourists live in hotels, the majority leases houses or apartments for the season. And the prices, of course, vary greatly. They range from a medium of about $250 for the season to $3,000 or even more.

Small houses, in the suburbs, can sometimes be obtained for the same price as the cheaper apartments. As a general thing, however, the minimum seasonal rent for a place with modern conveniences and adequate furnishings is about $400. A five-room house, close in, can be obtained for from $700 to $1,000.

Many persons may think the above rents are excessive. It must be remembered that the houses and apartments in the resort city remain empty during the summer months or else are rented for very small amounts. In order to break even the resort city landlord must charge as much for the winter season as the northern landlord does for the whole year.

The wide range of existing rents makes it difficult to estimate exactly just what the tourist will have to spend for living quarters. But for the purpose of estimating the average cost of wintering in Florida, let’s use the $400 figure.

The next major item of expense, following transportation and rent, is that for food. To give exact figures for this expense, of course, is impossible. One tourist cooking his own meals, may live well on $5 a week or less. Another, eating the most expensive foods at an expensive restaurant, may pay $5 or more each day. The tourist may spend as much as or just as little as he chooses. It all depends upon his appetite and his purse.

The tourist who eats regularly in cafeterias and restaurants can figure that he can get by easily for $2 a day, and have everything he wants to eat. The chances are he will have enough left over from the weekly food allowance of $14 to send a box of citrus fruit to his northern friends occasionally.

To get back again to the problem of estimating the average cost of wintering in Florida, for a 6-month season the total cost for food and household expenses would be about $300.

Transportation, rent and food are the major items of expense. Aside from those there is nothing that will mount into money. The matter of clothes can be dismissed almost entirely. The tourist need only bring his summer clothes and a few winter garments along with him and he will be all set.

Amusements will not cost the tourist half as much as it does up North. In the public parks he can play all manner of games; he can go fishing; he can attend the public band concerts and listen to the music of the best bands in the country; he can attend the entertainments of the tourist societies. All this costs him next to nothing.

In summarizing, let us figure how much it costs a man and wife to enjoy a Florida winter. The transportation cost for the couple would be about $240. The rent total would be about $400. The cost of meals and household expenses, for a six-month season, would be about $300, considering that the couple ate at home. Allow $100 for incidentals. That brings the complete total up to $1,040 for the six month season, certainly not a prohibitive amount for persons in even very moderate circumstances.

Is a winter in Florida worth that amount? Is it worth it to leave the snow, and rains, and gloom, and sickness of a northern winter, to go to the land where all the time is summer; where the mocking-birds sing their songs of gladness; where the palm trees are gently waved by warm breezes from gulf and ocean? We’ll say it is!

And when you come to Florida and try one of the summerwinters for yourself, you’ll say so, too.