Against the backdrop of the southern and western edges of the Okefenokee Swamp, long isolated from mainstream Georgia by a lack of exploitable resources, poor roads, vast swamps and protected by swarms of mosquitoes, biting flies and some of the largest rattlesnakes in the United States, these are my stories.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1969 a young Marine returning to civilian life after a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam found refuge in a remote and primal place in the Deep South, the Okefenokee Swamp. The Marine's name was Bob Keefe, and he spent five wonderful years in the swamp, working as a forester and beginning the long, slow process of healing the wounds of war. "Stories from the Okefenokee" (2010) is his story, begun when he left the swamp and published 40 years later from a memory as vivid and enduring as the land itself. All the stories are true and none of the names have been changed. According to Keefe, the Okefenokee Swamp, which covers 438,000 acres in southeast Georgia including 25,000 acres of islands and 60 named lakes, is a "wonderful mosiac," a "veritable treasure trove of life." It is a land all but forgotten by time where life is reduced to its basics and people and even animals struggle to survive. This enchanting collection of stories subtitled "An Anthology of Rural Life in the South Georgia Swamps and Flatwoods in the 1960s and 70s" is Bob Keefe's thank you gift to the people who lived on the edge of the Great Swamp for the "kindness and hospitality" they showed him during the years he lived and worked among them. Keefe writes that his book is a "glimpse back in time," a snapshot of a unique way of life that was beginning to change even as he lived there and which may no longer exist. Keefe's lively tales about life in the Okefenokee provide the reader with an intimate and fascinating excursion into a strange and often savage land where the inhabitants "generally lived outside of the normal societal and legal restraints that were found in mainstream cultures." These hardy and enterprising people lived off the harsh and unforgiving land, eking out a living by hunting, fishing, gathering, and trapping, as well as keeping bees and ranging hogs and cattle through the piney woods. Despite the fact that violence and lawlessness were common, Keefe observes that " civility, hospitality, honesty, and loyalty were genuine hallmarks of these swamp people." However, life in the Great Swamp was not always a struggle. Even in the harshest of lives there can be moments of pleasure. For Keefe and others who lived on the edge of the swamp there were gatherings at Artie C's cafe, the "heart of Fargo" where no one was a stranger, and playing in a band Keefe and his friends called The Flatwoods Band. Music and moonshine filled the piney woods. After living and working for five years in the Okefenokee, the timber company transferred Keefe to Alabama where he now lives, but he never forgot the place that nurtured him and helped him begin to rebuild his life. "Stories From the Okefenokee" is his tribute to the Great Swamp and the people and wildlife that call it home. I highly recommend this book. It is also suitable for mature young readers.