I read, and I must admit with a certain amount
of jealousy, as Stouff writes about his ancestors,
the Sheti'imasha; their rich and colorful history,
their customs and beliefs and legends; principles
to live by. Wonderment to me. The point? Roger left
his heritage behind for a while. Even though he left,
he returned to find his familiar surroundings mostly
as he had left them. His place, where his ancestors
had laid a strong foundation of pride, was still there;
places where kindred spirits still linger to guide him
through life's purposes. He, once again, found himself
at his spirit's sacred grounds; where ties of
tradition and all good things haunt.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a Florida native. I'm
proud of this, I'm just not sure if I have a "sacred
place." Older Florida natives know what this means,
since the Florida we grew up in has changed drastically,
disappearing in the last thirty or forty years. I've
always been told change is good; in some venues, perhaps.
My father's ancestors came from Ireland's southeastern
coast, maybe that's why I'm so attracted to saltwater,
salt really is in my genes. My mother's ancestors
hailed from England, but I'm pretty sure, not from
royalty. At least I don't think they were, since
I've never inherited anything of value, like jewels
and crowns and stuff. My son in law is half Native
American. His people are Mohawk. I'm not too sure
he knows that much about his ancestors, but if it
were me, I sure would. I feel sadness for him; I
think he's missing out on a lot of personal and
historical richness. If he does understand this,
he has sacred grounds; a place to go and find his
ancestors' spirits; his heritage.
I would have to say, I'm my own ancestor. I have
no personal ties to Ireland or England. I've never
been to either of the two countries. One day,
perhaps, I'll travel to Ireland. It looks to be
a beautiful place. When I run into someone with
an Irish brogue, I do feel a certain kinship with
them. But I feel more of a kinship with other
Florida natives. We are a rare breed; only thirty
something percent born in Florida, last I heard.
I'm not misanthropic; to the contrary, I generally
like most everyone I meet. However, when thousands
of carpetbaggers invaded central Florida in the mid
fifties, searching out that perfect place to build
the "house of the mouse," it changed my Florida
immensely, and unfortunately, forever. These people
and the new landscape I don't care for.
My sacred ground was lost when the plastic mouse
and duck moved to central Florida. Dad even said
things would never be the same. I didn't understand
what he was implying then; I do now. I have my memories
of what it was like growing up here, way back then.
That just doesn't seem good enough. Unlike Roger, I
have nowhere to return and find attending spirits
waiting for me. My roots have been snatched away
from where they were supposed to be, then hauled
away by blank faces and metal monsters with giant,
rubber tires. They had no history of this place
that now exists only in my memories.
That old song Joni Mitchell sang in 1970...
"Don't it always seem to go; that you don't know
what you've got 'til it's gone. They paved paradise
and put up a parking lot."
I began to visualize what Joni was singing about.
Central Florida had been my paradise; my place for
returning; a place that should have been left alone
and undisturbed. But what was wasn't anymore; my
heritage was now buried beneath tons of asphalt
and concrete and high buildings. Ever-present
strangers now tread over it, not seeing footprints
my dad left for me to come home to. I had no bond
there anymore. No sounds of ancient callings, only
traffic and blaring horns and scurrying people
waiting to pay their money for shells and tee-shirts
Not finding what I was looking for where I once
had roots, I looked elsewhere. I planned a trip
to the west coast of Florida where I spent two
of my formidable years; number four and five. A
place of simplicity; it too was gone. Where
quartz-sand beaches belonged to whoever wished
to leave footprints, were now marked with "Guests
Only" signs. Footprints left by Florida natives
were to be no more, unless they were "Guests Only."
I looked from a distance trying to catch a glimpse
of something familiar, a sign of things from the
past. Nothing. No more old bridges, where wooden
catwalks were added. Catwalks from where families
gathered at night to fish for trout and snook and
red fish. Gone now and replaced with concrete and
ribs of steel, bearing more signs to keep us from
them. "No Fishing From Bridge," the sign growls.
"Go away, find somewhere else. I'm busy!" the sign
implies. I drove over the bridge and stared down
into the emerald water, hoping to see a friendly
spirit; nothing but fancy, expensive sailing boats
occupied by ghostly, white-bodied tourists that
stayed where "Guest Only" signs forbade me to
I left from there knowing I wouldn't return.
With a feeling of peace in my soul, I rest on the
shores of the Indian River. I had chosen my place.
Here, one day, my ashes will be spread after the
Master decides to touch my shoulder and tell me
my time is up. Here, my spirit will walk among
fishers and birds, and I will know red fish by
their first names. Here, I will sit and smile
into waters I call home. Here, I will become an
attending spirit, waiting to visit with old friends.
Here, my children's children will say they feel my
presence as they wade and fish in places I have shown
I will give them their place; a place where they
can return; a place free of monsters with rubber
tires, and free of signs that growl.
There have been no others before me. No others
waiting for me there, now.
I am my own ancestor.
See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.