Royal palms flew by my window mile after mile, like tall dignified sentinels with very UNdignified wild and crazy hair flopping over their faces in the stiff breeze. A levy taller than three cars stacked end-to-end offered no clue that Spouse and I were actually circling massive Lake Okeechobee in south-central Florida, until we crossed a bridge that briefly opened up our view of that boundless blue water-world from horizon to horizon.
It was quite an odd sensation following that enormous expanse of water right beside us on the GPS – barely a stone’s throw away – but not being able to see it with our own eyes. Many houses sat on lakefront property but you’d never know it. No lake was visible until you broached the earthen dike. The view was just a wall of dirt.
It seems that decades ago, the Herbert Hoover administration built the 30+ mile-long levy after a terrible hurricane claimed 2,000 or more lives in the communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee, deeming a lousy view better than death.
I suppose, put that way, most of us would have to agree with him.
As we neared my speaking event destination on the seemingly endless two-lane road, Pahokee, a teensy settling of mostly farmers and agricultural workers came into view. Sugar cane fields began to swallow the landscape as far as the eye could see on the nonlake side of the road. We passed shuttered restaurants (turns out there was only one small restaurant left in town), dilapidated buildings (including a school), and the town’s only two stop lights, evidence of a once thriving town that had since fallen on hard times.
But the people? My word, the people. Friendly, welcoming, hard-working, generous, loving, kind … simply wonderful!
Four small churches came together for a women’s Too Blessed to Stay Stressed afternoon tea hosted by the First Methodist Church of Pahokee and organized by my BFF (Blessed Friend Forever) Sandy. It was a glorious time of laughing, learning, and leaning on our Papa God together. I do believe I enjoyed it more than anyone else there!
Except maybe for one, um, very memorable moment: After the event, as I toted the first load of supplies to my car in the church parking lot (which was located right beside the levy, which was located right beside the biggest lake in Florida), I realized I’d forgotten my car keys. So I set a couple of bags beside the back tire, intending to run inside, take care of a few errands, and return to finish packing the car.
“Got any food in those bags?” one well dressed, normal looking lady asked, passing by on the way to her car.
“Well, yes – I’ve got some chocolate in one of the bags,” I admitted. “But it shouldn’t melt; I’ll just be gone a few minutes.”
“It’s not the sun you should be worried about,” she said with a grin. “It’s the fun. We have gators in this parking lot and it’s mating season; just saw two big ‘uns getting it on beneath a parked car yesterday. You’re setting out gator bait; those bags just might not be there when you come back!”
Let me tell you, lil’ Debbie didn’t need any music to practice her high-stepping that day!
Had any unusual critter experiences lately you’d like to commiserate about?