“I’m gonna have to fight you Sylvester,” The Indian Chief said with great reservation in his voice.
“You really think that’s necessary?” Sly said slowly, as if he were tasting each word before giving it up.
The chief thought about his long friendship with the centuries-old alligator that called Lake Wailes Lake home. Like his father and grandfather before him, the chief had pledged a ‘truce’ with the beast, he would not intrude on the gator’s swamps after sunset and in return the gator would allow him and his tribe to use the lake in safety in the daylight hours. But the balance had begun to swing in the last year, things were bad for the chief and his people.
“I’m afraid so,” the chief said with a stiff jaw. “The tribe is convinced you are to blame for all the bad luck that has descended upon us like a heavy cloud these last few months. They believe that you have been snatching up their papooses and swallowing up the herds of deer that once thrived on this shore,” he continued sadly.
“Chief, you and I both know it is not me responsible for such atrocities,” the reptile replied quietly.
The chief nodded solemnly. He knew well who the culprit was. A small camp of white men and their women had set up a small town on the fringe of the chief’s land more than 10 years ago. Now, the town was a bustling outpost and more and more of the land was being converted to citrus groves, driving out many of the native species of wildlife that had called that land their home, including the deer.
“And the children? What say you to their disappearances? We have lost 12 in the last year alone,” the old man looked away before emotion betrayed him. His own granddaughter was one among the missing.
“Little fingers make good and quick work in the groves of the white man. And the work pulls a pretty penny for their parents,” Sly offered none too delicately. It was time the old man woke up and took stock of how far his tribe had fallen.
The chief knew these words for truth. Hadn’t he had confirmation of this deplorable act when entering his son’s home and seeing the pile of white man’s money being quickly hidden from his sight? He had only been met with hollow self-righteous indignation from those he questioned. The guilty parents, led by his own son, had quickly looked and found a scape goat for their troubles, or more accurately, a scape gator. Demanding their chief take action against the perpetrator, the tribe led by those who had more money to gain and the fear of those still ignorant of the truth had come to a solution- the Chief must battle the ancient alligator to the death. It was the only way to bring peace back to the tribe.
So here he stood, decked in his battle garb and weaponry, ready to fight and kill if he could the creature who he called friend.
Seeing the resolve in his friends’ eyes, Sly knew the old man would not be persuaded to walk away. “What a waste of good sense is man’s pride,” he muttered to himself.
The battle raged for three days and three nights. Then on that final night, as the entire tribe watched (save for those poor children left alone amongst oranges) the chief and mighty alligator collided with such force that they both exploded into a million particles of light that were instantly swept into the nearby swamp by the night wind. The boggy ground sank beneath the weight of the two great spirits- one of man, one of beast and the night was torn by a single, mighty thunder clap.
The tribe did not last long without its true chief. Soon, under the misdirection of the chief’s crooked son, the noble people were enslaved by the white man’s promise of a better life as pickers in their groves. The story of the great chief and his battle with Slyvester became legend in those parts of the Florida swamplands and soon it was twisted to include the peculiar qualities of a nearby hill. Today, a white line on the road and a plywood sign, painted with a cartoon ghost tells what’s left of that legend, wrongly claiming that Spook Hill is guarded by the Indian chief or cursed by the mighty gator, whichever suits your purposes better.
The chief and Sylvester must get a kick out of that as they watch the tourists drive to the line and then ooo and ahhh as their vehicle drifts backwards up the incline while in neutral.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Today Andy and I met my friend Joanna and her boyfriend Matt in Lake Wales, FL to tour the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens. It was really lovely, despite getting caught in the rain and the ensuing mugginess that made it hard to not end up looking like a sweaty hose-beast.
After strolling the gardens and snapping some pictures, we called it a day and bid our friends ‘adieu’. On the way to the tower, Andy saw a sign to “Spook Hill” and as he had visited this site as a child was anxious to pay it another visit before heading home. Upon our eventual arrival to the touted hill (there were signs everywhere for this thing) we sat in confusion. What exactly was supposed to happen here? There was a sign, and a white line painted across the pavement at the base of the hill, but beyond that… So we drove to the line and put the car in neutral, as the sign instructed and looked at each other as we began to drift backwards. I guess that’s a big deal, to drift down the incline of a hill, but we failed to connect the ‘legend’ with the reality. Unless, of course this legend is but the little known and humble beginnings of another legendary Florida battle between Indian and gator…
Love & Squirrels.