Miles and miles of sugar cane. That’s my childhood memory of the Lake Okeechobee area – now home to major citrus and sugar cane agribusiness.
Author Sally Settle, descendant of Lake Okeechobee pioneers, skillfully weaves family stories and legends throughout her novel, In the Shadow of the Lone Cypress. Through the eyes of Dr. Drew Duncan, we learn about Florida and the region during the turn of the century.
Duncan comes from a privileged Baltimore family. When called to service in the Spanish American War, he must travel to Tampa. This begins his fascination with Florida and his eventual decision to call it home. He and his wife later settle in Moore Haven, located on the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee. On his initial visit to his new home, Duncan spots the lone cypress tree, a visual and poetic landmark.
Referred to as the“Big O” or Lake Okeechobee – the surrounding land is rich with fertile “black gold” muck which speculators gladly sell, often unseen by buyers. Little thought is given to the environmental impact of canal dredging, land drainage and effects on the Florida Everglades.
Duncan’s friendship with a Seminole Indian “Gopher” introduces him to the Everglades: “…he saw before him a vast expanse of brown grass waving softly, which reached to the horizon in every direction….birds of every description….white birds; black birds; gray birds; pink birds…bald eagles…overhead…tiny parakeets, bright colors of every hue….alligators, ducks and turtles….in the grass….and fish jumped…”
We experience Duncan’s joy, heartaches and loss including the deadly 1926 hurricane which created a massive storm surge, flooding the Okeechobee Basin and Moore Haven.
Settle introduces a part of Florida that is often overlooked, but is vital to our “circle of life” in Florida. Relax and enjoy this authentic read.