Maria Island, December 14, 1988
By Gib Bergquist
As if the Cracker hadnt seen
enough of the Seminoles of late, with that recent trip up to Tallahassee to see his
football Gators massacred, his third-grade daughter adds insult to injury by coming home
from school with some special requests. Would ol dad
help her and her friends build an authentic Seminole Indian chikee for an outdoor display
celebrating the American Indian at her school? Would he also help her find a real Seminole
name? Would dear mom help fashion together something approaching Seminole regalia for her
Finding a name was the easy part. For one whole day she
was Coa-coo-chee, the Seminole name for wildcat. The chikee, the
traditional name for a Seminole dwelling, and the Seminole costume, were horses of a
different color. For days we have been neck-deep in Seminoles.
In our search at the local library for any and
everything Seminole, the Cracker ran across some information written in 1939 about a
Cracker folk hero hed like to tell you about.
It seems that down in Glades
County there is a creek that winds its way through the marshes and prairies before flowing
into Lake Okeechobee. The Indian called this creek Thlothopopka-Hatchee which
means a stream where fish are eaten. Now this is a mouthful for any Cracker to
say so today we call it Fisheating Creek.
Fisheating Creek at one time was,
and probably still is, chock-full of alligators and was a favorite hunting spot for a
famous alligator hunter of yesteryear named Alligator Ferguson.
Now Alligator wasnt your
ordinary, run-of-the-mill alligator hunter. He didnt actually hunt alligators. He
let the alligators hunt him. You see, he learned to bark like a dog with such realism that
the gators would swim right up to his boat in search of one of their favorite
tidbits. Also, on occasion, Alligator would bring along a small pig and, at the propitious
moment, he would make it squeal by twisting its corkscrew tail. This would drive the
gators into a frenzy and they would swim within easy shooting range. Unlike the
usual gator hunter, Alligator didnt hunt them for their valuable hides and
gator tail steaks like we do today. He hunted them for their teeth, which he
extracted on the spot and sold for five dollars a pound.
The Cracker is still scratching his head
wondering why anyone in his right mind would pay good money for alligator teeth.
But, to change the subject
slightly, we pet owners here on the Island are faced with a flea epidemic due to the
unseasonably warm weather. Now the Cracker is not recommending the following flea
eradication method, but hell tell you the way it was told to him.
Back in the late Thirties and
early Forties, the Martin twins, Ruby and Truby, lived near Mulberry, Florida and were
schoolmates of the Cracker at ol Mulberry High.
Now Ruby said that one time their
whole yard was just full of fleas not in the house, mind you, just in the yard
because they kept yard dogs and not house dogs. They employed a yardman named Jasper, who
came regularly to rake and mow the lawn and, of late, to be eaten by the fleas. One day,
Jasper, who was very wise in Natures ways and folk remedies, says to Rubys
Capn, I knows how to
rid yo yard of de fleas. All you gotta do is drag a dead gator over ever
inch of yo yard includin up under yo house and ever las one
of them fleas will hightail it right outta here.
A couple of days later, here comes
ol Jasper and one of his boys dragging this dead four-or five-foot gator up to
the Martin yard.
Ruby and Truby were given the task
of dragging that gator carcass over the entire yard and under the house, which was
set up off the ground on pillars, the way we Crackers used to build them.
Ruby swears on a stack of Bibles
that it was months and months before they saw another flea around the home place.
Preposterous? Knowing Ruby, the Cracker has to take her word for it.
From Cracker's Crumbs, ©1995 Gib Bergquist