In this debut guide, a longtime swamp master explores nature, life, and himself.
The author spent years living in the Great Okefenokee Swamp, an enormous 430,000-acre, black-water kingdom in southeastern Georgia, where he felt at home among the region’s bears, alligators, whitetail deer, and innumerable snakes. It was in the Okefenokee that he learned the ways of these and other animals and gradually became “swampwise,” attuned to the rhythms of nature and wary of the allurements of modern society and technology. This book attempts to distill the lessons of that life. Okefenokee Joe accomplishes this mainly through his empathy with the other species with whom he shared so much time and so many memories. “If the plants and creatures of the natural world could speak, each and every one of them would ask of the human race the same thing!” he writes. “Stop the waste, the destruction, and the pollution all across the earth!” The author intersperses his observations about that untamed realm with intriguing bits of his own autobiography, including his experiences working in the Okefenokee Swamp Park and his eventual decision to strike out on his own in his new persona. He traveled all over the Southeast, as he puts it, “sharing my message of our responsibility to, and the understanding of, the natural world around us,” which deserves “our utmost respect, deep love, and genuine appreciation!” And although such high aims are admirable, the book’s most memorable stretches involve the author’s anecdotes about his experiences working with the wild animals of the Okefenokee. He came to be an informal field expert on the behavior of black bears and the nature of snakes (poisonous and otherwise), among other subjects. His understanding of all these creatures was instrumental in forming what he refers to as “The Golden Rule of Nature”: “If You Don’t Need It, Leave It!”—a decree he watched all the animals just instinctively obey. The effect of these stories is the warm feeling of hearing a gifted raconteur’s best bits.
An anecdotal and highly enjoyable visit with a local folk legend.