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[Writer’s Cove] “Ocala National Forest” by Flowerland

Writer's Cove "Ocala National Forest" Writer’s Cove “Ocala National Forest”

We were on our first tour to promote our debut CD release “Flowerland” and we were playing a bunch of shows in Florida before heading up to Georgia. We had just played Jacksonville and we were headed to play Tampa, St Petersburg, Port Charlotte and Ft. Myers and then back to the East Coast of FLA for more dates. We had a day off between shows and Roger suggested we stop by Ocala National Forest since it was on our way. He had been there before and said it was an amazing place.
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We made our way to Ocala and found a camp site by a lake. It was mid Spring and hot, the lake was big and blue and beautiful. We set up camp and began to morph into boy scouts. We found some fishing line with a slightly rusted hook and actually caught some fish off a mini dock on the lake. The fish looked like small flounder, but we had no idea what they were. We gathered some wood and made a fire, then we tried to cook the fish along with some canned string beans and corn in a little frying pan that we had, but in the end it all turned into watery, bony yuck…no one ate…
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Roger suggested we go to the next camp site and see if there was anything going on, he had our traveling map out “We’re over here” he pointed to a spot on the map “and the next camp site is just up the road” his finger followed a line on the map. Neither Jef nor Jon was up for it.
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“Think we’ll find any weed or beer?” I asked.
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“People are always partying around here, there’ll be something going on.” Roger answered.
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“Alright, let’s check it out.” I said. We had just finished a long drive and a beer and some smoke was just what I needed.
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Thinking that the next camp was only a short distance away, both Roger and I walked barefoot. We walked along a dirt road that eventually lead to a two lane highway.
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“We take a left here and the next camp entrance is just ahead on the right.” Roger pointed up the road.
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We started to walk on the road, but it was scorching hot and full of small, pebble-like gravel. We ended up walking single file on the white line on the edge of the road. The white line was much cooler and the few rocks on it were easily seen and avoided. However, we soon found out that every ten minutes or so an eighteen wheeler would come barreling down the highway at 75 miles an hour. We almost didn’t realize the first truck that came along. We both heard a faint noise in the distance and thought it was a plane. It wasn’t until the noise got quite loud that we looked behind us to see a huge truck just about to run us over. We jumped out of the way as the horn sounded a booming blast. Not having a moment to look before we leaped, we landed in a bunch of small pricker bushes that lined the highway. It was not pleasant. None the less, our quest to find beer and pot and the belief that the next camp site was just a little further, drove us on.
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During our walk, at least five more eighteen wheelers would pass by like blasting thunder. By the third truck, we recognized the distant rumble and walked off the road in plenty of time to let the truck pass, sparing our scratched and bloody feet further pain.
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“Where the fuck is this place?” I asked Roger. We had been walking for a while now. Well over an hour.
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“I thought we would have gotten there by now. It can’t be much further.” He answered.
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Truck after truck passed by until I noticed the sun beginning to sink lower in the sky. But just as dusk began to set in, we saw the entrance to the camp site just ahead of us.
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“There it is!” Roger pointed, his voice full of relief. However, the moment faded in an instant. We got to the entrance only to gaze down a long path full of stones, with thick forest on both sides and no one in sight.
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We entered the path and started walking in silence, leaving the highway and trucks behind. There were a lot of stones and we walked slowly. We walked side by side, stepping over the stones, studying the ground in front of us. At some point I looked up and realized it was pitch dark. I had been walking in the moonlight – straight above me there was a huge full moon shining down and lighting up the path in front of me. Roger was nowhere to be seen.
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I stopped for a moment. “Roger…Rog…” I called out, not too loud. There was no reply. There were sounds all around me, whirls and purrs and chirps. Without thinking much about it, I continued walking in the bright moonlight and began singing Bob Dylan. I had been playing acoustic shows over the past year and I had a lot of Dylan songs in the set. Whenever I was alone, I would sing Bob Dylan a cappella to practice the songs and memorize the lyrics.
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I had been walking and singing for a while when I heard my name from somewhere in the darkness. It caught me by surprise. It was Roger.
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“Hey, I’m over here” I called back.
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“Hold on, I’ll be right there.” He answered.
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After a few minutes he came out from the woods on my left.
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“What the fuck!” Roger exclaimed. He was spooked. “Where the fuck did you go?”
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“Where the fuck did you go?” I asked back.
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“I think there was a fork in the road and we got separated. There’s a secondary trail that loops around and comes back to the main path. What were you doing? Singing?” He asked.
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“Yeah, I was practicing my Dylan” I said.
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“Do you know there are Panthers in these woods? It’s dangerous.” Roger said heavily. His voice turned lighter, “Well, good thing you were singing and I heard you.”
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We started walking and after a few steps I started singing “I Shall Be Released” which the band had been playing live, and Roger joined in on the choruses. We walked for a while longer, slowly, over the rocks, singing in the Florida moonlight.
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After a while, we began to see flickers of light in the distance, campfires – finally, signs of life. We walked toward the lights and began to approach a campsite. As we got close, suddenly, two dogs charged at us from out of nowhere, barking viciously with deep growls. I could tell they were big dogs and I could hear their feet treading the ground towards us.
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“We come in peace!” Roger yelled, and in an instant, a whistle cut through the barking and the dogs halted. “We’re friends” Roger continued, as we walked towards a huge bon fire. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw a bunch of tents and a few cars scattered about, we had stumbled on a hippie party.
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“Come in” one of the group said, welcoming us. We introduced ourselves to one another. “Have a beer” our new friend said, handing us each a cold can. I looked over at the back of the camp where about fifteen cases of beer were stacked on top of one another next to one of the cars. “That’s a lot of beer” I said. The guy laughed, “We stole ‘em earlier today.” There were twenty people or more at the camp, a mixture of deadheads, musicians and hoodlums.
We met the other folks at the camp and they shared food with us, joints were being passed around. I couldn’t believe how things had ended up. Neither Roger nor I had said anything, but I think we both had given up hope of running across anybody, never mind a party like this, in the middle of nowhere. Fifteen minutes before, we were lost in the woods.
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I saw a guy with a pack of Marlboro’s. “Can I bum a cigarette?” I asked. I hadn’t smoked all day and I was jonesing. “Sure dude.” He went into a tent behind him and brought out a carton, handing me a brand new pack. I wasn’t expecting that. “Thanks” I said. With a full pack of smokes, Marlboro’s none the less, my night was complete. “No problem dude.” The guy paused, “Hey man, do you and your friend want some acid?” he asked. “Sure.” I said. I brought Roger over and introduced him to my new buddy. The guy gave us each a tab and the night took on a life of its own.
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The bon fire was burning way up into the night. People were drumming, eating, drinking, smoking, hanging out, dancing by the fire, telling stories. Other people had come as well and there was quite a crowd.
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At some point, awhile later, I was sitting next to the fire and Roger came over and sat next to me. “We gotta go man” he said. I wasn’t sure if I heard Roger speak or not, but I understood. The acid was really strong and we were both tripping out of our minds. It seemed everybody at the camp was tripping in their own zone, each person on a separate plane. I thought about leaving and dreaded the long walk back.
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We got up and said goodbye to the cool, very generous folks and left the camp. Before long, their campfire was just a flicker in the distance along with other campfires, scattered here and there in the pitch black night.
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The walk back to the highway proved shorter and less difficult than I had imagined. We were walking single file on the white line again, this time heading back toward our camp. Soon, an eighteen wheeler came speeding down the road, just like earlier in the day. At night the trucks were more terrifying, speeding by with blinding lights and a menacing howl like a thousand tortured ghosts. We had both reached the “laughing stage” of our trip and whenever an eighteen wheeler would roar past us we would laugh hysterically. The trucks came by less frequently at night than during the day and in between climbing down the bank of the highway to let the trucks pass by, Roger and I saw UFO’s.
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Walking the white line on the edge of the highway, we saw flashes and streaks of light filling the sky in front of us. “Dude, do you see those flashes, what the fuck is that?” I asked. “It could be the illuminati” Roger answered. “This could be the very moment in time when they’re meeting. They have chambers under the pyramids and that’s where they meet. They’re getting ready to take over the world and fuck things up.” Roger’s voice was serious. “They’ve been plotting this shit since George Washington.” Roger went on with a long weaving story.
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We would find out the next day that there was an air force base just down the road, hence the flashes in the sky. But at that moment, we walked in the Florida night, gathering the Indians, the early patriots, aliens from outer space, the news media, George Bush (senior), Ronald Regan and countless others into a crazy tale of the end of the world.
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As we walked the stretch of dirt road which lead back to our camp, the sun had risen. When we got to the camp Jef and Jon were up. They were actually worried and wondered what had happened. Roger and I were still tripping, our feet were torn to shreds and we hadn’t slept in a day. We told them a quick version of the night’s events and crashed out in the camper. In a few hours, it would be time to hit the road and head for the next show.
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"Ocala National Forest"BandFlowerlandRock.Short StoryWriter's Cove

brandonw • January 16, 2013


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