Cave Dwellings: February 2016
Cave Dwellings

Buckhorn Creek, Lake O' The Pines, Jefferson, TX

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It’s a cemetery thing for me.

Some of you might remember that I spent my teenage years living in a cemetery. My Dad became the sexton of Oak Ridge Cemetery in Sandwich when I was an 8th grader. Imagine my chagrin when we told me we would be moving to a cemetery…Oh, the agony of it..and the embarrassment! My horror was soothed when my parents informed me I would be getting the upstairs bedroom with the balcony..God, I loved that old house. Anyway, I developed a passion for strolling through graves and imagining the stories and lives involved. So, I was extremely excited to see the sign “Shiloh Cemetery”, with an arrow pointing down the road our campground is on.  You can be sure we visited it…and I found a  very unique thing or two about Florida cemeteries.



First thing we noticed were the shells, and then the “chairs”..Some were cement benches, ..and some were lawn chairs…and some were tall chairs…But, oh, the chairs. I looked it up and found that these are called “mourning chairs” and are a place for friends and family to rest when visiting their loved one’s grave. This cemetery tradition was never practiced in our cemetery, but once in a while you did come across a cement bench . Those white lawn chairs were slightly surprising..and the grave in the photo on the right, you can see a tall metal chair to the back left behind the grave in the shadow.


Above photos show Dennis standing next to one of the cement benches..and the right photo the bench is inside a chain linking fence you can notice in the foreground…


This is the first time I have ever seen this type of thing and it fascinates me..But so do the shells…


It turns out, the practice was quite common across the South in the Victorian era and not only in coastal areas. They seemed to be particularly plentiful in Texas, although there are quite a few across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, most dated from the late 1800s to before 1910. According to "The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture”, seashells were a representation to slaves of returning to Africa: "They said the sea had brought them to their new country and the sea would return them to Africa when they died.However, many of the seashell grave covers are found in cemeteries where only white settlers are buried. Some theorize white people took the tradition from slaves while others have other ideas on the origins of seashell graves.”

Crossing over is another theory..”Placing a shell on a gravestone when visiting the site is an ancient custom and may in fact have several different meanings depending on the cultural background of the people placing the shells. The idea of crossing over a body of water to the promised land or crossing the River of Styx to the afterlife, the final journey to the 'other side' is also part of the symbolism of the shell."“

Protection for the dead is yet another idea.."The traditional method of marking a grave (for the less affluent) in South Alabama during the early years and especially during the Reconstruction era was to create an earth mound 12- to 18-inches wide and from 5- to 6-feet long.  Needless to say, the rains washed these mounds away quite easily ... it was found that seashells, laid as one would lay shingles or a tile roof, would effectively protect the mound of earth from the rain and yes, the seashells were also decorative. "

And finally, “making do” is another explanation.”If a grave marker is found in a pioneer model, southern-folk cemetery, this is where the art of 'making do' is seen." What is missing most often from a pioneer southern folk cemetery is commercially produced gravestones or granite or marble...A common decorating practice in southern folk cemeteries still seen today is the use of shells. Conch shells, among others, are frequently seen. The shells are used to varying degrees, from a single one at the head of the grave to a line of them down the center of the grave or as a border. Sometimes the entire grave will be covered with shells."



Some of these are so old that the grass and earth is taking them over…I found this very sad, but probably there is no one alive left in the family to take care of them.

While I am on a history kick, our campground is 5 miles from a place once called Rosewood.  This town is no longer there, as it was burned back in the 1920’s . I stopped at the roadside Historical Marker and took these two photos explaining what happened..Please read is a horrible part of our history….They began the story on one side of the sign  and finished it on the other ..





There was also a movie made and released in 1997 depicting the true story of this tragic time in our history..Here is a link to learn more about the movie..Rosewood, the movie.

So that is the end of my US History lesson for today..I never realized when we drove into this park that there were some hidden treasures to learn about and discover…We leave here Tuesday morning and drive to Pensacola where our son and his wife and her son Dylan are going to meet us. They will  stay with us a few nights so they can visit the Naval Air Station Museum. Kelly was stationed on the USS JFK from 1988-1992, during the Persian Gulf War, so I am sure he will love this visit!!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Horrible tragedy is a reminder to us RVers..

Just a short blog to show the damage and destruction a tornado can cause to an RV park..This tornado went through the Gulf Coast last.Tuesday night, Feb. 23rd. Dennis and I were up from 3:30AM when our weather radio woke us up with a Tornado Watch..We were fortunate it didn’t hit anywhere near us in Cedar Key..This is what is left of Sugar Hill RV Park in Convent, LA..St. James Parish. 160 trailers were totaled, 40 were injured (7 critically) and 2 killed…Please head all of those warnings, and make sure you have a weather  radio..Also know were the nearest concrete structure is from your camper..





I didn’t post this to scare you …but to make you aware just how vulnerable we are in our RV’s when a tornado comes through…Please be safe out there…and pray for all those families…

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Adjust and Overcome!

So, Dennis and I are now about 5 miles from Cedar Key Florida at a campground I reserved last August 3rd. I double checked with them a few days before our arrival date to make sure they still  had our reservation. For some reason I was a little uneasy about this one. I never received any printed confirmation. But the gentleman I spoke with said that  yes, they had our information and were expecting us…But..there weren’t any sites with sewer hook ups so we might have to be in one with no sewer for a day or two and then move..Aaaaalllll righty then!. We can do without sewer for a few days.

Long story longer, when we arrived it was a little sketchy. We went to register, and I was told we were going to be in site #1, right across from the office , just for one or two nights. I wasn’t thrilled, seeing as we reserved this last August, but being a nice person I said OK. We are now in a site with NO concrete pad (others have them), with no sewer, 30 AMP service, no picnic table, no fire pit, backed up to a wire fence and the busy highway.. and next to someone who , shall we say, could never do “go rving” commercials.  In fact, this isn’t really what I would consider a “site”. And,just for the record, after walking around the potholed gravel roads in this park, with horrific looking campers in some spots, Den I decided we would just stay were we were. The “other sites” in and around the interior of the park were scary, and there were some abandoned old campers surrounded by crap and junk.


We got here Monday. I was assured we would be moved to a “regular” site Tuesday when someone pulled out. Well, yesterday I watched a fiver and a big motor home come in and get taken around to a “regular site”. The gentleman saw me looking outside and said “Oh, we will get you a site in a day or two”..I said, “You know what? We will just stay where we are. After walking around your park, we think we have a better site right here”..Here is one reason we like where we are better than inside the “regular” sites.


…right by the dump station..and you oughta see THAT!.I rest my case.

We did our walk around an RV park that is just down the road from ours..and it was soooo much better, but pricier…Lesson to self, you get what you pay for, buy $175 for 8 days here is NO bargain either.

Enough about this debacle, we are here. Today we drove in to Cedar Key and did some driving around. Today was cool, cloudy and windy, so we kept our tour as a driving tour…




This is my fav…No way could we ever afford something like this. In fact, I thought at one time I could live here, but I changed my mind. I like to be somewhat “away from town” ,but this is a bit too far removed.  We drove through the pier area, which is pretty cool….albeit WAY too touristy for me. However, Dennis and I will come back on a sunnier and warmer day to do the “tourist” thing and maybe have an adult beverage.


Finding parking anywhere near here is NOT happening. ..and ..if I were doing the parking it would not be pretty. Parallel parking is not my forte, especially in our short turning GMC!

We have had some pretty scary weather lately. It seems that this is a banner year for Florida tornadoes..We have our weather radio, and it screamed “Tornado Watch” at 3:30AM this morning and lasted until 9AM. We were fortunate, but there were 2 people killed in Alabama at an RV Park, and another in Mississippi..That does give one pause.. I have managed to get a few decent photos of our skies…



Ok, I am done with my rant…and yes, I know that I, of all peeps, should never complain about scary and weird people…I could win that contest hands down. Dennis and I are dealing with this, and I don’t think it’s fair to name the place on my blog (although I might have mentioned it in an earlier post…). When life gives you lemons, make it a Mikes’ Hard Lemonade, right??

Friday, February 19, 2016

OK, students..get ready for yet another history lesson!

Yesterday we took a 7mile drive on a sand road to see the Fort Gates Ferry. I had run across it when looking at the Atlas...This road is part of the Black Bear Scenic Highway and we never even knew it existed. Turns out that road runs right behind our park. This is a one car ferry, opened to the public in 1914. It takes 10 minutes to cross and costs $10 a car. At the end of the road we found the ferry launch, but the ferry must have been across the river.


Above is our drive on the sand road to get to the ferry launch..When they say sand, they aren’t kidding…

It consists of a barge pushed by a tugboat converted from a 1910 Sharpie sailboat. It has a weight limit of 15 tonnes (15 long tons; 17 short tons). The tugboat, named Too Wendy, is 18 feet long and is powered by a 65 horsepower diesel engine. It was operated as a military ferry by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. This is the oldest operating ferry in the state of Florida.
Here are some of the pictures I took.


Above, left…I guess the ferry keeper lives here…Sign in the middle says “Pull up on wooden ramp. Leave headlights on. Cars $10.00 Fee. And that last photo is the ramp you pull up on. However, the ferry must have been on the other side of St. Johns River when we got there.


That wheel I’m standing by is what raises and lowers the ramp for the car to pull up on…Right photo..”Gilligan!! I found the Minnow!!”


Make sure you click on the pic to read this …In case you don’t, that sign on the right of the Fort Gates Ferry Facts says “Blow Your Horn To Cross”..God I love this kind of stuff!!

I took a couple photos and zooming in on the homes across the river…


Have you ever seen so much Spanish Moss in one photo???? I would love to have one of these homes!!!

This morning Den and I took our walk through the Primitive Campground here at Salt Springs..We came upon a boat launch we never knew existed!!


There was a boat launch exactly where I took this photo from. People say that there are Manatees here during the day, but this morning the sun so bright on the bay that we didn’t see any…


However, when we walked near the Springs, we saw signs of Manatee around the area we had just come from..They make a large wake and you could see them splashing and coming up for air in the distance. You can be sure that we will walk that way again once the sun is higher in the sky. In the meantime, I just couldn’t resist taking the above photo of some fishermen very near the Springs…It reminded me of a cover photo of “Field and Stream”..

Well, this is a record for me! Blogging 3 times in one week ….I guess we have seen so many neat things lately, that I just felt the need to share. Also, I am a frustrated History teacher, so you all get the brunt of my very lax teaching skills. I do my best blogging when I am excited about stuff ..especially nature and old stuff..That’s why I love MacGyver..He is part of the “old stuff” I get excited about..OK, I know.TMI…OOPS! Time for Happy Hour!! I do have a funny post about getting lost around Bear Swamp Trail a few days ago…No worries, we saw no bears, but I DID conjure up the thought.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I know…it’s only been a couple days, but here I am yet again. This blog might be a tad short as our Verizon signal is sketchy at best. MacGyver and I woke up , jumped out of bed…all ready to get things tied up and hit the dump station for an 8AM lift off. Our drive was a long one (for us) and we dreaded the traffic we knew we would be snarled in on I-27 North. Well, I pulled up the Hiker day/night shades to this…


This is what is known as Sea Poop (Pea Soup) fog…hmmmm. Not to be deterred, Dennis reassured me that the sun was up there somewhere and would burn this off before we left…Usually I think he is full of Kaka, but this time he was right..We didn’t quite make our pre-determined time of 8 bells, but came close as we pulled out of the dump station at 8:35AM.

I always dread this particular drive. On the way down to Ortona, we made the huge mistake of traveling  the Saturday before Christmas..Wholly socks!!!! Talk about a knuckle biter, that was a big one!! And….that drive didn’t lack for close calls and lots of MacGyverisms ( bad words). Well, this trip wasn’t much better…There were three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic right around the Kissimmee/Orlando area, and a hair razing attempt to get the Hiker stopped at the light that suddenly turned red as we were looming in close at the bottom of a hill . This gave me cause to look for some Rolaids in my purse. Not to mention the big jerk semi driver who pulled out in front of our rig, causing Dennis to lock up the trailer brakes and just miss him..We gave that #%&@#@%&#@!!! a DOUBLE middle finger salute as we narrowly missed..I know he saw our “table for one” fingers, I saw him laughing through his windshield..SHEESH!!!!


A cute little town named Altoona, FL is our last glimpse of much civilization for the last 30 miles of our drive up I-19N.  It was wonderful to get out of that hornet’s nest called traffic. Altoona is a slice of the Old Florida that still has some great family businesses, like Hartman’s Garage. I really must stop next time.

MacGyver and I are now settled into site 35 at Salt Springs Campground in Ocala National Forest. Our blood pressure has finally returned to a normal range (well, mine is NEVER in a normal range), and we are very close to calling an early “Happy Hour” at the HitchHiker Bed, Breakfast and Bar…


I didn’t blink an eye when the camp hostess informed us that they have a “resident’ Black Bear, so we should keep our cooler shut tight or put it inside…..This bear must like beer, because that’s all he’ll find in OUR cooler!


I loved this…Notice that Palm Tree, snuggled up to the Live Oak. He is the only Palm in this campground loop, and he is right behind our Hiker. Poor thing cannot help but try to reach for the sun through those Oak branches..Either that , or his dance card is empty and he is trying to talk that Live Oak into a slow waltz…

We will be here only 5 nights, leaving on Monday for the Cedar Key area. I am stoked about that trip. Last year we drove to Cedar Key on a day trip from Manatee Springs State Park, and I knew right away I wanted to further explore this place. We are staying at for 8 nights at Angler's RV Park, about 5 miles from Cedar Key. I do love that Gulf Coast of  Florida look forward to working our way back North exploring more of it…(I HATE to even think of heading North..I’m definitely not ready yet!)