March Weekend
Short Story

It's the opening weekend of Spring Turkey Season out in the Big Cypress Swamp. A nice time of the year, the cypress trees are just starting to bud out, here and there are flowers and new greenery. The bugs have not returned yet from the cold snaps of winter and the animals are starting to roam in an amorous mood. We spent four days enjoying nature and re-acquainting ourselves with old friends and hopefully making a few new ones. We met some NPS people that were friendly and nice to meet. Sometimes we forget that most of the NPS people are just people making a living. Too often we approach them as adversaries, rather then people, that may feel the same way that we do about changes in the Big Cypress, but because they wear the hat, we pre-judge them rather then getting to know them. I'm glad this weekend, I got the chance to chat with a few of them.

  Game Warden's Camp in Hardwood Head
Game Warden's Camp
NPS sleeping Quarters
NPS Sleeping Quarters

NPS Storage Building
NPS Storage Building

NPS Kitchen and Dining Building

NPS Kitchen and Dining Building

I have been filling you in on the progress of the outback camp that the NPS has been building and I won't disappoint those that are wondering how it is going. I thought, I would provide a little comparison of what the state government has for its people, as you see the progress of  what the federal government is building.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Outback Camp
The picture above is the outback camp for the Game Wardens. It is located about a half mile from the NPS outback camp and it has been in use for longer then I have been going into the Big Cypress Swamp. It consists of  two rooms, one of which is more of a porch/kitchen, with gas appliances in it, and the other is a sleeping room. The dining room is the picnic table out front. The cabin, right now looks as good as I have ever seen it. Someone recently put a fresh coat of paint on it. Its located in a hardwood island, which is about 30 yards in diameter. Completely surrounded by wet prairie and cypress. I sometimes wonder if they picked the place, following the example of a wild turkey. Roost over water so you can hear something slipping up on you.
National Park Service Outback Camp
The pictures to the left show the progress of the outback camp at Calvin Stone's Calusa Camp. The sleeping quarters are finished and ready to be used. The storage building is being rushed to be built, to keep the construction equipment in it, so the sleeping quarters can start being used, (the equipment is now stored in the sleeping building). The progress of the kitchen/dining room has kind of halted, although it is further along then the last time I saw it. Although the dining hall part has cut into the openness  of the place, I still think we can have Saturday night square dances in it. The layout of the building is the same as Calvin's original, I think that is a good thing.
Still no sign of a bathroom, I hope they know that out houses are no longer legal in the State of Florida.
I like the look of the sleeping quarters, they kept the look, that Calvin Stone had, with the cypress supports and roof beams. I could not help but notice they are not using that look on the other buildings. I seems they don't want to harvest any cypress trees from the Big Cypress Swamp (or elsewhere) and there lies the difference between their Preservationist (park) view and the Conservationists view of the Big Cypress Swamp. Although the Big Cypress Swamp was heavily logged in the 1940's and all the timber are second growth, the NPS wants to preserve it like a National Park and not use the land as a resource. The Conservationist wants to use the land as a renewable resource, hence a Preserve designation, while keeping it renewed and open for use. This difference in view, shows up subtly, like this, in the way the NPS does things.

Conservationists and Outdoorsmen
As I mentioned early in the story, we renewed some friendships and made some new ones. The group picture to the right was taken at Bears Den. We were telling some turkey stories, swapping some lies, getting to know each other and learning what was new in the Big Cypress Swamp. A loose knit bunch of guys that have the same love of the Big Cypress Swamp..
Something a Little Strange
I got this story from a reliable source. It seems 4 or 5 years ago, over near Sand Road, about half way out, someone said they saw 5 foot python. Being skeptical of this, no one believed this person. Imagination they thought, misidentification they thought. In recent years, some outdoorsmen in that area, have been coming across small piles of bones. Not scattered, like you would expect, but together in a clump. Well guess what, a 10 foot python has been seen recently and those piles of bones are snake poop. I guess that will make walking around over there interesting.

  Turkey Hunters all
Camaraderie at Bears Den
(Sure is hot, for March, close to 90)
Which was first, The Turkey or the Cat?  

I am beginning to sound like I am repeating myself, but  there are still Panthers hanging out in our area. Tracks were right outside the camp gate and fairly fresh. When I went turkey hunting on Monday, there were brand new Panther tracks on top of all the ORV tracks.
I read in the ORV plan that Panthers shy away from cabins and ORV's when hunting season starts. Apparently there is at least one Panther, that didn't read the ORV plan, because it is consistently right there in the middle of all the cabins and ORV traffic.  I have always thought, the Panther experts, really have not seen enough Panthers in the wild, to know what their habits and reactions are.
The picture to the left was taken outside our camp gate. What do you think? Were the Panther and Turkey taking a little stroll together? Probably Not!

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Story by Steve - March 4, 2003