"Sages are everywhere. Many in the cemetary. Peace!"
To My Local Fans: Several of you have been nice enough to contact me, with your concerns, in regard to the recent issue of the Bottom Feeder Gazette. I appreciate your thoughts.
For the last few days I have been reflecting on ageing and how that inevitability bestows certain conditions on you in the process. The maladies and the short comings speak for themselves. However, there are some good things - - - some gooder than others. After the long, but hasty, journey to seniority, most of us still skirting senility have become natural sages. Some sages I know can spend thirty five minutes describing how to take the bus to the mall. While others have life experiences that weep important facts. Erudition on the other hand is an option. Most of the time true sages find themselves in the company of fellow sages of the genuine order. The problem with this social conundrum is that if you’re a sage your head is full of experience and bright accumulations already. Therefore, when a fellow sage holds forth the information proffered goes in one ear and slides into the overflow and out the other.
Now, you would think that the younger generations would be gathering regularly at the collective feet of sagedom. However, they don’t even pretend to do that unless there are credits for attending, or someone they want to be BFF’s with, or tweet pals, are going, too. You know, the handing down of hard won knowledge by word of mouth, began its march to extinction with the invention of the Philco Predicta TV set.
The nice thing about being a sage is reflection. When you are thinking about a problem, reminiscing, or even day dreaming, it is seldom boring. Plus, there are some great revelations floating around in that cerebral stew. So, let me share a captured thought with you, this fine day.
Simply put, in reference to the above. When an individual is doing such a great job of revealing their true selves to the world, why waste valuable energy engaging, when that person is doing perfectly well depicting what they’re about? As this Sage says:
The Rednak Chronicles Chapter 13
Law! The Lake’s Gone Dry!
Starting in the summer of 1954 the water levels began to drop in Orange and Lochloosa Lakes. The first year about a foot. The next year about three feet. By the beginning of 1956 you couldn’t get out of Cross Creek into Orange unless you walked. You could push a boat from the creek into Lochloosa, on the east, because that lake was deeper and the water flow from it helped keep Orange afloat when water conditions were normal. It turned out that three sink holes had opened on the Orange Lake side and water was draining into the underwater caverns below. There had been drought conditions since 1953 when the average annual rainfall of over sixty inches had dried up.
On August 11, 1956, the Geodetic Survey recorded the water level in Orange Lake at 50 feet, 6 inches above mean sea level. All that was left water wise was a twenty foot wide trickle of creek water from River Stix, on the north, flowing down the middle of the remaining Orange Lake prairie.
The renowned outdoor writer, Horace Carter, wrote about the two lakes in his book Creatures and Chronicles From Cross Creek. The huge caverns that carried all that subterranean water had receded enough that the tops of the caverns had dried out. That layer of dirt between the caverns and the surface of the Earth is known as Fuller’s Earth. According to Carter, when it begins to dry, large fissures develop and gaping holes can cave in, sending whatever is above crashing into the abyss.
“When these holes opened in the bottom of Orange Lake, it was like pulling a bath tub plug and the water disappeared,” Carter wrote. Chet Crosby of Island Grove told Carter that he had a fourteen foot cypress boat that broke loose from its mooring as the lake water rushed out. The boat was sucked into one of the sink holes.
Crosby said, “I stood on the brink of that hole, like you might peek into the mouth of a volcano, and could see my boat way down in that cavern, lodged on some rocks that jutted out into the opening. I expected that to be the end of it, but miraculously, I eventually recovered it and still have it.”
Carter tells that some of the fish camp owners, with the help of other locals, burned the Cross Creek bed three years in a row because the tangle of brush and vines was so bad. Plus, the dry creek bed had become a haven for rodents and snakes. All of the fish camp owners were practically out of business . The level of water dropped four feet in Lochloosa but the fishing continued to be okay.
Then the summer of 1956 came. My friends and I were preparing to start our first and second years in high school. Word filtered down through the grapevine that Orange Lake was down to a five acre pool and was full of trapped fish, just floppin’ around in the shallows waiting to be taken.
A bunch of my contemporaries and I piled into the jalopy of the week, meaning the one of us who’s junker was running at the time. We headed down to McIntosh and turned onto the dirt sawmill road that was the short cut to Cross Creek from U.S. 441. This track crossed the River Styx on a wood bridge. Just before the bridge, to the south, was a bay that during the rainy season sometimes flooded over the road. Looking out, the surface of the mud bog of a pool, was electric with activity and splashing. On the high mud spots stood buzzards and pond birds gourging on the mass of marooned animal life in the shallows. Immediately over their heads clamored gulls with a few terns mixed in. And above them riding the hot updrafts of the wetland stench were thousands of vultures - - buzzards, common and turkey vultures with the telltale red heads - - - Nature‘s garbage corps.
You could hear voices bouncing back and forth on the breeze crossing the wetland. The high pitched cacophony of women and children and the deeper tones of male laughter. Slashing, smacking the water, and the occasional “Whoop!”
We drove on down to the Indigo’s cabin on the bank of River Styx Creek. It was about four hundred yards north of the road. If you didn’t know it was there - - you wouldn’t know it was there. This was the home of three surviving generations whose run-a-way slave great grandparents had settled here in 1834. They had hidden out and squatted on the swampland, but it was the family’s now by process of adverse possession long ago accomplished. The original cypress log cabin still had a dirt floor and clapboard window opening covers. There was no electricity and no running water. The water ran by about fifty feet to the east as the creek found it’s way from Payne’s Prairie to Orange Lake.
We visited with Sable Indigo as he cleaned fish and turtles, his bounty from the natural disaster down the road. Sable was the family patriarch now. His father’s father had escaped to this place more than a hundred twenty years earlier. He seemed pleased with the provident windfall but confused over the consequence of this strange turn of events. He offered us some potato sacks and a large basket and we returned to the mud bay.
It took about thirty minutes for the three of us to wade out through the waist deep, stinking, syrup of watery mud joining what seemed like a thousand other fools who were splashing and thrashing the water’s surface as they attempted to catch the mud encrusted fish, stuff them into sacks and peach baskets, and then founder their way to dry land with the prize.
Towards the lake side of this pool about forty people with three john boats were trying to pull a seine net in about three feet of water. They appeared to be having success as they struggled to catch largemouth bass of huge proportions. The fish were struggling to get air in the roiled up, muddy water and they were easy to spot as they gulped like gold fish at the water’s surface.
A man down from us said that they had captured more than three hundred bass weighing over ten pounds since the day before. They were taking them to Cross Creek and releasing them into Lochloosa Lake. In the weeks afterwards it was reported that the Game and Fish people, with their volunteers, had moved many fish, among them a number of bass near fifteen pounds and one over seventeen pounds. It stands to reason that probably a few of those fish grew to world record size but, no world records have been caught since the big natural draw down.
Many ideas on how to plug the sink holes were floated among experts and shade tree philosophers alike. A dredge was brought in and car bodies were barged out to the sink holes and dumped in. Over eighty car bodies, two school buses, and tons of appliances, junk, dirt, sawdust and eventually cement went into the sink holes. Finally rains came in the winter - - torrential rains long overdue. And the water began to rise again.
By Spring a new problem made its presence known. Hydrilla began to emerge but this spurred the bass spawn and bass angling results soon climbed to levels no one thought they’d see again.
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1. A retainer dam was built at the south end of Orange Lake during the mid-sixties, at the point in Orange Creek where the Black Sink Swamp began.
2. In 1969 it rained so long and hard that water was over two feet above the retaining dam at Black Sink/Orange Creek.
3. Then in 1975 another drought set upon Orange/Lochloosa and for two years the lakes began to recede again - - Many thought another sink hole had opened.
4. When this natural draw-down began to subside a new problem emerged. Hydrilla bloomed dramatically across the lake. Machines were brought in and at one point in 1977 only 1,000 acres of the 13,000 acre lake could be fished. But, that bad time was corrected when the rains returned, the lake recharged and the influx of fresh water plus low temperatures knocked back the hydrilla.
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