Last night I watched the movie Cross Creek on Netflix. It is one of my all time favorites. For several reasons it stands out and speaks deeply to me as a native Floridian. It was filmed in 1983. At that time, I ran a small cafe in Micanopy, where much of the filming was done. I used to go downtown to watch them produce scenes. I was lucky to meet Mary Steenburgen and Peter Koyote in person. They could not have been nicer. The film crew used to come in the cafe and eat occasionally. My pecan pie was used in one scene. I regret that I never met Rip Torn, one of my favorite actors, but I’ve been told that he once visited Fair Oaks Farm, before my time there.
This film says everything about north central Florida to me. Most tourists never see the River Styx , Evinston, or Cross Creek. They are rare slices of the Florida I remember as a child. My grandmother used to take me fishing along the creek. She had marvelous stories about the folk she knew, the beautiful groves, and tall cabbage palms. I’ve always loved to eat at the Yearling Restaurant. They have the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. These old Florida towns don’t change much, thank goodness! The Alachua Conservation Trust are working hard to save the Orange Lake Overlook. I hope all of you who love this part of Florida will donate what you can to save it. It is rich with history. I have painted and photographed there endless times. The old citrus shop is still there and has been used by many businesses in its history. I clearly remember climbing up to the roof to see the groves as a child.
Many people don’t realize that there are lovely small groves still scattered about the area. Fair Oaks Farm has beautiful, meticulously cared for groves. When I was an artist in residence at Fair Oaks, I used to help the staff prepare the groves for freezes. It was darned hard work. We had huge tarps that the fellows would run with toward the trees. The tarps would settle over the tree and we would tape it closed. It was a lovely sight to watch them sail like kites. We would place lamps under each tarp. Covering the grove took all day.
As my generation begins to age, we must share these wonderful memories with younger folk. Let the tourists have the coasts and the theme parks. Let’s save the real Florida for those who cherish these old places with the rich history of home. My mission as a painter has long been to preserve the agricultural lands, trees and fields of my beloved Florida.