In the 1870s, before Miami became Miami, hardy folk hacked away at the jungle, planted oranges and pineapples, made charcoal, and dug roots to make conti starch. Most of all, they fished. Up the coast at Jupiter Cove, tarpon raced and leapt, so many of them that they’d nudge against the boats. Lured by the deep-sea fishing and yearning to escape the snow and ice, the first Snow Birds boarded their mahogany-trimmed yachts, sailed down the East Coast, and set anchor in Biscayne Bay to enjoy the balmy breezes.
Not much there, near the mouth of the Miami River. Just Brickell’s store, Lemon City, a small fishing village, and the Peacock Inn. The Inn catered to the tourists, and here is where I slip into the fiction of the forthcoming novel, Theena’s Landing. Jack Spode hires on as a guide for two gentlemen who want to brave the Everglades and hunt gators. Says one, “I hope we’ll have no trouble finding these famous creatures.” Jack hides a smirk. Finding the gators won’t be the problem. Keeping them from snacking on his charges will be the challenge.
We lived in South Florida more than a decade. I’ve trolled in the Everglades – though with great unease because I’m scared stupid by snakes. I’ve felt the sun, the humidity, the mosquitoes, and, also stupidly, cut myself on saw grass. I’ve seen a scarlet ibis in a green tree, a flock of flamingos winging overhead, snowy egret feathers littering the ground. And of course, I’ve seen muddy ol’ gators. When I write Jack and his hunters in the Glades, I swear my lovely apricot-painted office smells like swamp muck.
THEENA’S LANDING is the next novel, set in the 1870s on the strip of land between the Glades and Biscayne Bay where eventually Miami arises. I think you’ll like Theena and Jack Spode.