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Writers And The Everglades

Mr. T & The Everglades Adventure
Posted at 12:24 PM, Oct 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 14:06:46-04

Long before Everglades National Park was designated as a wilderness area, and before Congress signed the 1964 Wilderness Act, the Everglades has been synonymous with the word “wilderness”. This word and the idea of wilderness appear in the written works of many outstanding authors who wrote about or set their stories in the Everglades. The mysterious and impenetrable landscape filled with archaic looking flora and fauna have created a vivid image of “wilderness” in the minds of millions of people across the world. Many of these vivid images have been conjured up through the written word. Through written works, people from all over the world, some of whom have never been to the Everglades, have developed a sense of love, hate, fear, curiosity, respect, sadness, hope and wonder about the wild lands of the Everglades.

For some of us, our first encounters with the Everglades wilderness might have been as a young child, reading books like Nancy Drew: Lost in the Everglades, which depicts a fearful yet courageous young girl named Nancy who ventures off into the backcountry wilderness of the Everglades in search of a missing park volunteer. Or perhaps your first exposure was from the 1983 children’s book entitled “Mr. T: The Everglades Adventure,” Carl Hiassen’s Skinny Dip, or Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country. There is no lack of reference to the Everglades wilderness in pop culture fiction books. At times it can be difficult to distinguish what is fact or fiction when reading about the Everglades largely due to the reality as there are non-fiction stories about the Everglades that seem truly unbelievable.

In Stuart B. McIver’s Death in the Everglades, readers are introduced to the wild, rugged and sometime dangerous landscape of the Everglades Wilderness at the turn of the 20th century. This dramatic piece of non-fiction chronicles the story of Guy Bradley, a former plume hunting guide turned conservationist, who becomes the first bird warden in the Everglades. In his plight to save wading birds from the carnage of plume hunting, Bradley finds himself face to face with a plume hunter in the wilderness of the Everglades where he is shot and killed.

In 2006, award winning journalist and author Michael Grunwald published a book called “The Swamp” which chronicled the history of America’s last wild frontier: the Everglades. While it is a true and accurate historical account of the history of man and the Everglades, it is described by author Carl Hiaasen in the following manner:

“…The story of what’s happened to this haunted and magical wilderness has the epic ingredients of a great novel- greed, betrayal, carnage and valor…”

Yet despite the unbelievable reality of the history of this last frontier one thing is for certain. By the time the reader finishes reading The Swamp they are charged! Empowered to explore, conserve and perhaps even write about this special place!

While there are thousands of written works that immortalize the Everglades, none can take the place of the works written by Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In 1947 Marjory Stoneman Douglas published a book entitled “The Everglades River of Grass”. This book called attention to the beauty and decimation of the Everglades, and has inspired millions of people over the years to restore, preserve and explore the Everglades. Douglas also worked as a reporter producing over one hundred articles and short stories advocating for the protection and restoration of this wild landscape. Today she is known as the “Mother of the Everglades”, and her voice can still be heard among today’s writers and stewards. On November 10, 1978, under the Wilderness Act, Congress designated 1.3 million acres of the park as wilderness. The area was named the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness in honor of her work as a conservationist, author, and journalist.

While modern times have brought us E-books, blogs and online newspapers, one fact still remains: Written works, both new and old, about the wilderness of the Everglades will continue to have a lasting impression on this generation and on future generations.

Sabrina Diaz is the Pine Island District Interpreter for Everglades National Park.