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book review: "A Land Remembered"...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
...by Patrick D. Smith. A novel based on early white settlers of Florida, long before it became a state. Very well researched, with a number of interesting characters, several generations of the (possibly fictitious, but likely based on reality) MacIvey family, that originally moved south from Georgia.  They settled in the Kississime River area in the mid-1800's,and began herding by catching the off spring of the cattle left by Spaniard explorers.

Fascinating story, relating the hardships of dirt poor farmers, struggling to plant crops and survive, scratching out a bare existence from the land. Cooking things that make you grimace to think of eating, that I am sure they were thankful to catch and put in the cook pot. From a time when there were no settlements in the interior of the state, and few cities along the coast line. There were isolated trading posts as a primary source of basic supplies like flour and gunpowder, that were often without those necessities. When settlers would ride for days through the dense palmetto undergrowth, skirting swamps full of alligators or bears, across the marshy plains, only to find the supplies they were hoping for were not available. A hardscrabble life, where survival depended on individual resourcefulness, and willingness to make do.

The MacIveys got into the cattle business when forced to go on a cattle drive to get fresh meat to troops during the Civil War. And later gathered wild cattle and drove them to the coast, to sell to buyers who would ship them to Cuba. They were paid in Spanish gold, literally heavy sacks of gold coins, they transported and stored in wooden chests, and accumulated great wealth. They used their funds to purchase vast tracts of land long before the land boom in Florida that occurred as railroads were built. Grazing cattle, planting thousands of acres in orange groves. Then clearing thousands of acres for growing vegetables to feed the tourist trade in coastal towns, in the Lake Okeechobee  area, where vast truck farms exist today.

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