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People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades

Laura A. Ogden

Publication Year: 2011

Little in North America is wilder than the Florida Everglades—a landscape of frightening reptiles, exotic plants in profusion, swarms of mosquitoes, and unforgiving heat. And yet, even from the early days of taming the wilderness with clearing and drainage, the Everglades has been considered fragile, unique, and in need of restorative interventions. Drawing on a decade of fieldwork with hunters in the Everglades, Laura A. Ogden explores the lives and labors of people, animals, and plants in this most delicate and tenacious ecosystem.

Today, the many visions of the Everglades—protectionist, ecological, commercial, historical—have become a tangled web of contradictory practices and politics for conservation and for development. Yet within this entanglement, the place of people remains highly ambivalent. It is the role of people in the Everglades that interests Ogden, as she seeks to reclaim the landscape’s long history as a place of human activity and, in doing so, discover what it means to be human through changing relations with other animals and plant life.

Ogden tells this story through the lives of poor rural whites, gladesmen, epitomized in tales of the Everglades’ most famous outlaws, the Ashley Gang. With such legends and lore on one side, and outsized efforts at drainage and development on the other, Swamplife strikes a rare balance, offering a unique insight into the hidden life of the Everglades—and into how an appreciation of oppositional culture and social class operates in our understanding of wilderness in the United States.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

Map of Southern Florida and the Greater Everglades Watershed

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pp. vii-viii

Map of Everglades National Park

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The fieldwork for this book began more than a decade ago. Between 1996 and 1997, I conducted an oral history project with Glen Simmons that documented his experiences as an alligator hunter in the southern Everglades during the early part of the twentieth century. ...

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1. The Florida Everglades: An Entangled Landscape

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pp. 1-20

As a landscape, the Everglades has epitomized all that we think of as nature at its most uncultivated: an icon infested with frightening reptiles, botanical excess, swarms of mosquitoes, and unforgiving heat. This is the alien and impenetrable Everglades that stymied the attempts of early surveyors and settlers ...

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The Queen of the Everglades

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pp. 21-24

In pulp fiction, a narrative form that at times resembles ethnography, Laura Upthegrove would have been called “low-rent” or, more charitably, a “bad apple.” Her story unfolds, as we will see in this book, along a tragic trajectory, until it ends in a small-town grocery store located along the eastern shore of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. ...

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2. Landscape Ethnography and the Politics of Nature

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pp. 25-35

The Bill Ashley Jungles is a remembered landscape. Glades hunters named the Bill Ashley Jungles after a band of outlaws who hid out in the Everglades during the 1920s. Although there is an actual mangrove swamp within Everglades National Park that corresponds to the mangrove swamp old-timers used to call the Bill Ashley Jungles, ...

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The Notorious Ashley Gang

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pp. 36-42

For such a notorious figure, John Ashley was slightly built. In one photograph, he countenances a rakish vulnerability, a quality Laura Upthegrove must have found attractive. Though he stares coolly into the camera, he looks uneasy in his suit. Perhaps the suit is borrowed. Certainly, the sleeves are hemmed too high, exposing his delicate wrists. ...

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3. Earth, Fire, and Flesh: Territorial Refrains

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pp. 43-66

Several years ago I was walking with Glen Simmons, then in his late eighties, down a weedy section of the Old Ingraham Highway, a remnant road within Everglades National Park that once served as a major thoroughfare for backcountry hunters. The day was warm, that welcoming warmth of a southern Florida winter afternoon, ...

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The Theatrics of Everglades Outlaws

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pp. 67-72

After DeSoto Tiger’s body was discovered, Sheriff George Baker of Palm Beach County dispatched two deputies to bring John Ashley in for questioning. Rumors suggested Ashley was hiding out at a camp near Hobe Sound. As the deputies made their way through a heavy growth of palmettos along the Dixie Highway, ...

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4. The Travels of Snakes, Mangroves, and Men

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pp. 73-90

There is no stillness in Robert Walser’s landscapes. Instead, his prose meanders along country lanes and through forest meadows, with hardly a pause for the bustle of a village’s town square. Walser was born in Biel, Switzerland, in 1878, and when not writing in sparsely furnished rented rooms, he spent much of his life out walking. ...

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The Gang Vanishes into the Mysterious Swamp

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pp. 91-94

Though a jury convicted John Ashley for the murder of DeSoto Tiger and sentenced him to death by hanging, Ashley was never imprisoned for the crime. For reasons that remain unclear to me, Florida’s Supreme Court reversed the jury’s decision. With understandable frustration, local prosecutors then tried Ashley for bank robbery. ...

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5. Searching for Paradise in the Florida Everglades

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pp. 95-119

So far in this book I have shown how in the hunter’s landscape the human and nonhuman worlds are entangled, like a rhizome that is on the move. Enormous snakes lurk in mangrove jungles that are constantly growing and changing even as hunters hack their way through their enclosing roots and branches. ...

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The Story Doesn’t End with the Ambush on the Sebastian River Bridge

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pp. 120-124

On November 1, 1924, sheriff ’s deputies ambushed John Ashley and three other gang members as they tried to flee the state. The months prior to the gang’s final flight had been marked by increased violence and decreased community support. ...

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6. Alligator Conservation, Commodities, and Tactics of Subversion

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pp. 125-152

It speaks to the sheer ingenuity of culture that the alligator, such an unlikely creature, has been called upon to meet so many different human needs. The reptiles may weigh hundreds of pounds, can grow to sixteen feet (though about thirteen feet is considered large today), and are certainly cumbersome to transport. ...

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Epilogue: The Bill Ashley Jungles: Trace Impressions of a Forgotten Landscape

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pp. 153-158

In this book I have used the term “territorial assemblage” to describe those collectives of humans and nonhumans engaged in tasks that result in the demarcation of territory. Landscapes are the product of these assemblages. The territorial claims upon these landscapes extend far beyond the boundaries of southern Florida. ...


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pp. 159-178


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pp. 179-186

E-ISBN-13: 9780816677023
E-ISBN-10: 0816677026
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816670277

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011