Jonathan Garrett (jonathangarrett) wrote,
Jonathan Garrett


About15 years ago, when I was working for the State of Florida, we did a lot of archaeological / historic resource surveys on state forest lands. Sometimes we came across abandoned turpentine camps from the 1920s and 1930s. Other times we documented "skidder trails" where logs had been hauled through the forest. The most interesting, however, was a survey of an old cypress lumbering company town called "Centralia." I remember looking up information about the town in the state library, and coming across a fascinating typewritten manuscript entitled "Florida's Perpetual Forests." It was the memoirs of someone who'd worked in the lumber industry during the early 20th century--the peak years when Florida's old growth long-leaf pines and cypress trees were being cut out. It was full of interesting tidbits, such as how an experienced turpentine man knew when the processing was at the right point by the sound of the still. He talked about innovations in band saws, and about the rowdy, sometimes dangerous life in the forest "jook joints."

Fast forward to last week. I am going through a pile of old pulp fiction paperbacks that I've kept around for years (mostly as decoration because the covers are so wonderfully lurid). Lately, though, I've been trying to whittle down my stuff, and so looked at the stack with an eye to getting rid of them. I decided I might as well read a few first, though, giving each one a few minutes, and if it wasn't interesting, to move onto the next. The first one I picked up was called "The Iron Spiders" by Baynard Kendrick It looked like this:

To my surprise, the story turned out to be set in the Florida Keys during the 1930s, and was a really fun read. So good, in fact, that I thought I might share a copy with my family members back in Florida. Unfortunately, though, the paper was so old that the book was practically falling apart in my hands as I read it. So I decided to look online and see if I could find another copy.

There are various websites I use for finding old books, and I typed in the author's name and found that he'd actually written a couple pulp novels set in the Sunshine State. But that's not what really shocked me. At the top of the list I saw a book called "A History of Florida's Forests." Something clicked, and I knew, just *knew* that this was somehow related to the manuscript I'd read at the library all those years ago.

A few clicks later, and I found this.

"In the 1960’s, Florida historian Baynard Kendrick was commissioned by the Florida Board of Forestry to write a history of Florida forestry. His manuscript has been brought up to date by Barry Walsh and the resulting A History of Florida Forests, documents the importance of Florida's forests in the state's development for 500 years."

Serendipity is a really cool thing sometimes.
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