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Posts Tagged ‘Walt Kelly’

Buttercup: “That’s the Fire Swamp. We’ll never survive.”

Wesley: “nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

— From the Princess Bride by William Goldman

Note: Yesterday I used part one of a  travel writing class assignment as my blog. The second part,  which is below, was to write about the same subject with a different voice. Do you think I succeeded?

It’s All About How You Write It

A Pogo welcome to Swamp Park — Photo by Pat Bean

A million years ago, a sand bar along Georgia’s Atlantic coastline cut a basin off from the sea, eventually creating a freshwater wetlands that extended the state’s coast by 75 miles. We know that wetlands today as The Okefenokee Swamp, a place made famous by the antics of Walt Kelly’s political comic strip “Pogo.”

I got my first look at  this home to alligators, lakes (60 of them), screaming panthers, and a dozen islands at Swamp Park, a small section of the 600-square mile whole located near where the 266-mile long Suwannee River begins life. The Okefenokee also gives live to the 90-mile long St. Mary River and both streams flow through the park to the ocean..

Park gardeners had a fondness for green animals. — Photo by Pat Bean

Okefenokee means trembling, or trampoline, earth, a reference to the land’s spongy moss base.

It was autumn when I visited but wild flowers were still growing and green leaves peeked out from the thick strands of moss that drooped from tree limbs.  In an attempt to mimic Disneyland, a  black, red and gold painted engine dubbed the Lady Suwanee took passengers on a tour around the park, past huge stands of saw palmetto, a chickee (a raised wooden platform with a thatch roof used as a shelter by Indians), and past a moonshine still. Bootleggers once found the swamp a handy place to hide from the law.

Book Report: Travels with Maggie now stands at 35,367 words.  I spent all morning rewriting, which is why you got something already written for my blog. I hope you didn’t mind.

Bean’s Pat: The Serenity Game http://tinyurl.com/bw3m6bk I like this take on “Atlas Shrugged,” a book I read at a time when I was rearranging my entire world.

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Bridge standoff at Okefenokee Swamp Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Pogo

Travel With Maggie

 It was a fall day in 2006 when I visited the Okefenokee Swamp, a place I had once thought was as fictional as Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. I knew it only as the imaginary home of the animals in Walt Kelly’s comic strip “Pogo,” which ran in newspapers across the country from 1948 to 1975.

 Many a Sunday morning would find me curled up somewhere reading all about Pogo the possum, Albert the alligator, Howland the owl, Porky Pine the porcupine and a host of other animals that grew out of Kelly’s imagination.

 In its early days, I saw Walt’s colorful drawings as simply a comic strip about the four-legged and winged creatures that lived in a swamp. As an observant animal lover, I understood the human attributes he gave his creatures, but it wasn’t until I was about 25 that I realized he was satirizing human nature as well.

When the water levels are higher, visitors to Okefenokee Swamp Park are given a boat ride as part of the swamp experience. A drought in the park in 2006 meant no boat ride for me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 My discovery that the Okefenokee was more than the byproduct of a vivid imagination came even later than that. While the Texas school I attended taught me a lot about the geography of Texas and the rich oil fields that lay off its Gulf of Mexico shoreline, it skipped completely any information about Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.

 I had to learn that on my own.

For the record, the Okefenokee Swamp was once an ocean floor. It lay beneath the salt water until a sandbar, formed about a million years ago, cut the basin off from the sea. Time and the elements eventually turned it into the freshwater wetlands that today extends Georgia’s eastern coastline by about 75 miles.

Of course I compared what I saw on my day in the Okefenokee to my memories of it from Kelly’s comic strip.  What I saw made me glad Pogo’s home was not just an imaginary place.

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