Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stepping back in time

Anybody that has read my blog at all knows that I try to spend the majority of my time away from modern society. The Florida Folk Festival, while filled with many modern comforts, is a place where I sometimes go back in time

At first glance it seems that these pictures could have been taken 50 or 60 years ago. Sitting underneath our ancient tent looking out over this spectacle and listening to people square dance in the distance, I can imagine being back in old Florida. Back in a simpler time. Back when people had a sense of identity and a sense of place. Back when Floridians didn't have to put a disclaimer on our heritage.
This feeling overcomes me even more while at the annual Battle of Olustee reenactment. Dressed in gingham and wool and warming my hands near a fire in the middle of an ancient longleaf pine forest, I can hear "Dixie" and the yells of people joyously dancing echoing through Old Florida. For a time, I have an inkling what life may have been like for my great, great, great grandfather.

Standing in the middle of a tick-infested battlefield sweating by the gallon while being rocked by cannon and musket fire all around me, the sulfurous smell of black powder thick in the air, the screams of men giving orders, the screams of men falling around me. I can, for a moment, feel the terror, the confusion, the treachery that my ancestors experienced while fighting in battle. I am humbled as I fully realize the courage of the men in that war, Southern and Northern, who stood honorably in defense of their families and country while their boyhood friends died in agony around them.

We don't need time machines to bring us back in time. All we need to do is seek out places like the Florida Folk Festival and the Battle of Olustee reenactment, and we can imagine what it was like to live years ago.

Have you ever experienced something that brought you back in time?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Florida Folk Artists

In my first post about the Florida Folk Festival I stated that the friendships and connections I make with other people are some of the most valuable results of the time I spend there.
Last year I met an older man who made an impression on me with his outstanding performance and honest advice. Carl Sharp, "Florida's Cracker Cowboy Poet," recites his original, humorous poetry about life as a cowboy so expertly that all of his poems seem to blend together into one big story.

Last year I asked Mr. Sharp to critique the poem I then called "adirolF" and told him, "Be honest." He was honest, and pointed out all of the errors in meter and poetic agreement that needed to be changed. He caught some sharp words from Uncle Stu due to his seemingly harsh criticism of some parts of my poem, but that is the way artists critique each other...Telling me "It's good" does not help. I later posted an edited form of that poem on this blog under the original title. Since then, however, I have changed the name to "The Cry of a Cracker" and changed the wording and verse in multiple areas of the poem. In Mr. Sharp's own words, I "Douched it."

That picture does not do it justice. Some Florida readers may recognize this work of art by Regina Stahl Briskey from the cover of the book Wiregrass Country by Herb and Muncy Chapman. I had never heard of the book until I talked to Mrs. Briskey and purchased this, which caught my eye as I sifted through a stack of prints of her artwork. It will hang, along with other Florida paintings, in my dorm room this coming year.

Where will that dorm room be? Don't worry, you'll find out soon!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Folkin' it up

How did this teen spend his first weekend of the summer and celebrate the unofficial end of his high school career? He spent it with the best folks in America, of course, at the Florida Folk Festival.

I was disappointed when my Uncle Stuart Pacetti informed me in the end of April that he would not be able to make it this year, as he would be visiting his son in Tennessee. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late for me to sign up as a participant, so I could not set up a little castnet display of my own. Therefore, instead of spending the weekend working on castnets under our usual sprawling live oak tree, I spent the weekend with my dad talking about reenacting with passing spectators. Of course, we had a great time doing that, too.

The Olustee CSO's old tent has seen better days, but that worn look caught the attention of a lot of people. It respectably held its own against Friday morning's driving downpours of rain. Nonetheless, it will probably be replaced soon, and this nice A-frame tent will likely end up in my hands in exchange for a donation to the CSO. Yet another step soon to be taken to become a full-fledged authentic reenactor!

This is a first-person view of how I spent much of my weekend. Shaving down a cow bone for a catnet gauge stick, working on my net in progress, and spinning embellished tales with some old crackers were favorite pasttimes. I really seem to fit in better with these old folks than with people my age. It's not that I'm a loner at school...That's a post for another time.

The 7-foot mullet net, my first, is nearly finished! Two more hours of work, and it's ready for the water! I finished attaching the leadline and eight pounds of sinkers at the festival, and it will be completed as soon as Uncle Stu returns from Tennessee.

The most valuable results of attending events like the Folk Festival, besides the experience of being among kindred spirits, are the connections and friends that one makes. My dad and I happened to be set up next to the Save our Suwannee organization, and I had a good talk with the people there about the river. When one of the members heard that I cast my own sinkers for my castnets (I melt down scrap lead and mold them into sinkers), he came over and informed me that that he had two buckets of lead he needed to get rid of. He used to be a diver and a stained glass artist, both of which required lead, and he had a lot of scrap that he was willing to give to me. I came home with about 40 pounds of good scap lead that will make about 500 sinkers.

In the absence of his father, Sam Pacetti awed the crowds yet again with his amazing fingerstyle guitar picking. I will post some videos of him playing soon, but you can visit his MySpace page and hear his amazing work now if you wish.

I have rambled enough for tonight. More on the Folk Festival will be posted on Tuesday. HurricaneTeen's officially returned for a nice long summer of hopefully blog-worthy events.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008


My high school years are over, I am afraid. I am overjoyed right now, but I am sure once the realization sets in that I will never return to my school as a student, I will be a little saddened by it. But for now, I have three more exams I need to take next week, and I am finished permanently.

I WILL BE SPENDING ALL THIS WEEKEND AT THE FLORIDA FOLK FESTIVAL IN WHITE SPRINGS, so if any of my Florida friends want to visit me down there I would be happy to see you.

Friday, May 09, 2008


No crackerism today as I run off to school and then work afterward and then to my brother's house and then I'm gone all day.
Just a little update:
Datil peppers are coming in like crazy. Just how many, you wonder? You will find out.
Squash and collards are growing beautifully next to each other! But the collards will be gone soon.
Okra and bush tomato plants are still flowering yet.
The AP Calculus test went off pretty well. Some of the questions were impossible to even comprehend after three hourse of pure, rigorous math, though.
Yes, I do know where I am going to college. Yes, it is in Florida (i'm sure that comes as a shocker!). Yes, you will find out where soon.
I went to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Florida Division Reunion in Ocala this past weekend, and met one of my heroes. You will find out who in a later post.
I am finished knitting on my castnet, but there's still a good bit of work left to do on it. It is currently hanging with 80 pounds of weight on its bottom outside Stuart Pacetti's garage.
There will be many updates when I am free from school...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Today, I will take the biggest exam I have ever taken in my life. It shouldn't be that bad, I don't think, because I did really well on the practice exams. If you condsider scores of 65% good...But there's about a 40 point curve on the test :-D Wish me luck...And only eleven more days of school left!