I met my wife when we were both 15 and sophomores at Palmetto High School. Once I convinced her that I wasn’t “that much of a bad boy”, we began a relationship that has now lasted 18 years. Sherry was born in New Jersey and moved to Florida when she was three years old. Other than a few weekend camping trips with her parents, she’d never been much of an outdoors person. Imagine the culture shock she felt meeting my family.
When we were both 19 years old, I took Sherry to our camp in the Everglades. It was just she and I and my beat up CJ-5. We planned a five-day trip with my parents set to join us for the last two days. This was Sherry’s first trip and took place in early December. The woods were beautiful, the days bright and cool and the nights clear and breezy. It had been a wet summer and early fall and there was still a fair amount of water in the swamp. Over all, the conditions were perfect.
One afternoon, (after my parents had arrived in camp) I decided to take Sherry to a tree stand I knew both of us could sit in. The stand was located about two miles from camp on the top of an old Indian mound. Now, for those of you that don’t know, the glades are dotted with Indian mounds of all sizes and types. Some mounds are burial mounds others ceremonial and some just trash heaps. This one rose out of the swamp about 8-10 feet above the water and was 50 yards +/- in diameter. It had a few nice oaks growing out of it and several cabbage trees.
Our stand was built in one of the large oaks and looked out across the swamp and into another “island” of oaks and cabbage. We never dug into the mound and will forever keep its location a secret. We treated the location with a sense of respect. Personally, I got the chills more than once while walking into or out of this stand in the dark. It was almost like I felt someone watching me as I trudged through that black water and cypress.
We were able to drive our buggies to within 300 yards or so of the stand through a small gap in some cypress trees. You had to be careful not to get hung up on a cypress knee if you were driving a jeep like mine that had less ground clearance than the big buggies. Well, being fully aware of this fact, I drove right down in there and got solidly hung up on a huge cypress knee. I was stuck. Big time. With no winch, no come along, and no hi-lift jack. I couldn’t afford a winch at the time and for some reason, I had taken my come along, my hi-lift and other gear out of my jeep earlier that day and left them at camp. I still don’t know why I did this.
It was 4:00 pm or so and I knew that my dad wouldn’t come looking for us until after dark. So, I turned to my now upset wife to be and informed her that we might as well hop out and start walking back to camp. I figured we’d make it back well in advance of dark and might even see a deer along the way. She agreed and out of the jeep we went. Well, almost immediately Sherry got extremely excited, screamed out something about “scorpions in the water” and jumped onto the jeep bumper. I ran around her side of the jeep and look at what she was now pointing at with trembling fingers from the top of a cooler in the back of the jeep. There, floating in the swirling water were literally tons of crawfish. And I mean tons! I’d never seen anything like it in my life. They were all around us. I laughed at Sherry and explained to her what they were and, after some serious reassurance, coaxed her down from the cooler and into the water.
We walked along that evening all the way back to camp. We didn’t stir up any deer along the way, but did stir up a memorable trip. Today, Sherry loves the outdoors. She fishes, dives, camps, hunts and hikes all over Florida the southeast with me. She still doesn’t like spiders and probes my current hunting camps for them prior to lying down to sleep. As for scorpions, well, I remind her of her episode at the Indian mound from time to time. It always brings a laugh and a smile and reminds us of the many good times we shared in the glades with each other and the people who mean the most to us.
By: Matthew B. Taylor
September 4, 2003