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September 25, 2007

Land Remembered

Patrick D. Smith – 9781561641161

After sitting on my shelves for four years I finally decided to read this Florida classic and found it better described as an American classic which just happens to occur in, and chronicle the lives of, frontier settlers in that state. With drought instead of hurricanes, skeeters replaced by locusts, greed for land rather than gold—Miami or Immokalee for California and Sutter’s Mill--it could have been another of myriad American stories.

It reflects courage, resilience, pride, intrepidity, will and determination in the face of overwhelming odds; family, love, friendship and loyalty; wanton greed and misplaced goals with the destruction of irreplaceable assets and natural (and retrospectively necessary and appropriate) landscapes and the displacement if indigenous cultures by that of the invaders.

In this case it is the chronicle of three generations of the fictitious MacIvey family; crackers who migrated from Georgia to Alachua just before the Civil War to escape abject poverty and to begin a new life. Hardships are many, but they survive and prosper to a wholly unexpected level because the founder of the dynasty preserved his hard earned cash. Believing that the land belonged to everyone, he stored his money for future security. His son saw the need to preserve the land, which required ownership, and he eventually purchased vast tracts of wilderness. He changed the cow hunting business into ranching, and cultivated enormous orange groves on hundreds of acres of his land.

In turn, with a prosperous cattle and orange business, his grandson again purchased even larger tracts of land, much further south, which he eventually developed into a garden vegetable empire, along with another land empire in the Miami environs.

There was no fourth generation. Sol, the last survivor of the clan died alone—by choice—reluctantly admitting that he had destroyed everything he touched, and reflected upon the destruction of the natural environment which had been Florida . . . forever and irrevocably authored something he despised.

Throughout this great yarn are multiple vignettes, many tragic, which cement the unified whole into a wonderfully readable tract reminiscent of The Yearling and Huckleberry Finn; a rich history of Florida’s pioneer spirit and the natural world in which they strove for survival to become land barons who participated in exploitation of the environment far beyond human need.

Posted by respeto at September 25, 2007 5:24 PM