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xi ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 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. The University Press of Florida published the results of this fieldwork in 1998 in the book Gladesmen: Alligator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers. Simmons began the process of writing a book early in his lifetime: beginning in the 1940s, he jotted down observations (“hundreds of curlew on Joe River Camp”), funny sayings, and hunting records in small pocket-sized ledgers. He then transferred these notes into stacks of larger, spiral-bound notebooks that he gave to me. I used the notebooks as starting points for an almost daily, yearlong interview. We took many trips together into the backcountry, searching out the sites of former hunting camps, me sitting in the bow of a gladeskiff while he poled us through the dense saw grass marshes. When Simmons tired, I would wade through the waist-high waters, scanning for alligators, as I pulled the boat along. Other days we spent scrambling over and under the tangled prop roots of the mangrove swamps, a difficult feat for a nearly blind man, seeking the sites where moonshiners’ stills had once been hidden. On these trips, Simmons taught me more than the human history of the area. From him I learned how to interpret nature’s subtle signs—the meaning of alligator scat and deer tracks, and the beauty of fresh growth after a fire. Certainly, this book would not have been written without the support of Simmons and his wife, Maxie. Other ethnographic material in this book derives from two projects that I participated in while under contract with the Florida Department of State, xii Acknowledgments Division of Historic Resources. In 1998, I was involved with a broad survey of traditional folklife in southern Florida, with my research focusing specifically on coastal and Everglades culture. I conducted ethnographic interviews with commercial and recreational fishermen as well as with Seminole artisans living on the Big Cypress and Hollywood reservations. Research from that project was presented as a traveling museum exhibition. The following year I completed six months of fieldwork for a “Swamp Culture” research project, also funded by the state of Florida, and worked in the village of Palmdale (within the Fisheating Creek swamp area), the community of Corkscrew (within the Corkscrew Swamp), and in Everglades City and Chokoloskee (island towns within the Ten Thousand Islands). I interviewed former alligator hunters, commercial fishermen, frog and turtle hunters, and families associated with traditional Everglades tourism. During this second research project, I met H. Pete Whidden of Corkscrew, who graciously allowed me to interview him on several occasions. Like Simmons’s recollections , Whidden’s voice emerges as a central narrative within this book. I thank him for his time and patience, and I recognize that without his insights (as well as those from all the others who let me into their lives), this book would not have been possible. While working on these projects, I received ample guidance and support from my colleagues Bob Stone, an independent scholar and ethnomusicologist, and Tina Bucuvalas, state folklorist with the Florida Folklife Program. Bob and Tina are terrific collaborators and substantially contributed to my emerging skills as an ethnographer. Much of this book is historical, written at the time when discourses of Everglades ecosystem restoration planning and implementation shape our understandings and attitudes toward the Everglades. My insights into ecosystem-restoration planning began with a two-year contract with the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, a multiagency and community-planning organization established by former governor Lawton Chiles in 1994. As a commission staff member, my primary job was to work with other social scientists to develop a research agenda for Everglades restoration planning and implementation. I have written elsewhere about the commission’s work and my involvement with restoration planning, and I am exceedingly grateful to Barbara Rose Johnston and Bonnie Kranzer for their guidance and for the opportunities that this work afforded me to experience, Acknowledgments xiii firsthand, the politics of nature that are transforming the contemporary Everglades. My collaborators at the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) have been fundamental to my understandings of ecological theory. The LTER program provided an intellectually challenging and open environment to discuss and debate the humanity of ecology and...


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