By Charles Towne
The matriarch of our clan, my dear mama, said to me, ”As far as I know there has never been anybody in the family that was certifiable, but every one of us has brought eccentricity to a very fine degree of perfection.”
I don’t know if I’m ready for the funny farm, or just extremely dedicated? Perhaps equal parts of both. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Here I sit in a tiny camera blind, knee deep in water, in the middle of a creek, in the center of a dense Florida swamp. (Yeah. Now you’re beginning to get the picture. But let me continue.) Most of the cute little lady mosquitoes are doing whatever it is that lady mosquitoes do on a chilly day in the sunshine state. I imagine they are sleeping, perhaps dreaming of the delicious blood they are going to extract from yours truly, once the weather warms up again.
It is cold and damp as a wet clam, as well as overcast, with a depressing gray cloud-layer that bodes no good for man or beast. On top of all that cheer, it has been raining – a chilly drizzle – Florida’s excuse for snow.
Ensconced as I am in the blind, I sit on an upturned five-gallon bucket, which will, after a few hours due to the fact that I forgot my wimp cushion, begin to feel like a combination of a chunk of ice and a handful of rusty railroad spikes.
Crazy or dedicated?
The only thing that I have seen in the last hour is a retarded raccoon taking an early morning stroll. The water gently laps against the sides of the plywood blind, and as my nose runs copiously and soaks my mustache, a bitter-cold wind is blowing down my neck. Ah, what a day! What a life! The raccoon shivers, wipes his nose with one paw and, glancing in my direction, shakes his head as he decides to call it quits, hastily retiring to a hole in an old cypress tree that houses his nice warm den. And I called him retarded?! I swear that I can see smoke coming from a hole further up in the raccoon’s tree; could he actually have a little wood-burning stove in there? And suddenly my imaginer goes into its red zone.
Now, I want you to understand that this is the danger area in all imaginations; the forbidden zone, the outer limits, the “DANGER, THIN ICE” region, where even the most adventurous angels fear to tread… but… oops! It’s too late.
At the thought of the little stove heating up that nice warm den tree, I can see the raccoon removing his cute little overshoes and his scarf as Mrs. Raccoon calls him to dinner.
There they are, Mr. Raccoon and his wife, and the little raccoon’s, Bosh, Huck, Apple-Blossom, Teddy and Pinky Doodle. There they are, the entire little raccoon family sitting down to a delicious meal of fried crawdad tails, hot bread made of the finest acorn flour, and blackberry pie! The bread is all slathered real thick with blackberry preserves, and all of this is washed down with great mugs of hot chocolate swimming with lots and lots of marshmallow topping.
I begin to wonder: is there enough room for me in the raccoon’s snug den? And will they share their meal with me? My gaze lingers on the rising imagined smoke… maybe…?
Suddenly the chill wind blowing down my neck brings me back to reality. The wind is picking up and the palm fronds are making a terrible racket with their dry rattling. Any dyed-in-the-wool naturalist knows the futility of attempting to photograph wildlife while the wind is blowing; animals simply don’t like to move as the noise of the wind could conceal the approach of a predator. But here I sit, in a chilly plywood blind, in the middle of a creek, in the center of a swamp, hoping that I don’t catch a terminal case of pneumonia.
Yesiree… I bet Mr. raccoon and his family are all nice and warm, sitting around their little wood-burning stove, telling stories and drinking those huge mugs of hot chocolate, while I sit here with this darned cold draft blowing down my neck! (Yeah. Perhaps you’re right. I don’t have the good sense the good Lord gave a goofy gopher.)
Dear Papa God, please protect us from ourselves, and at the same time allow us to dream of wonderful things as we take jaunts into “the wild side”. Lead us and guide us, and help us to be what you want us to be. I thank you for giving me a mother that introduced me to Imagiland – that strange place populated with wonders of which dreams are made. Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.