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‘A LAND REMEMBERED’ AND MY FAMILY’S HOMESTEADING HISTORY
S outhwest Florida has a rich history of among these homesteaders. My great-great-grandparents were awarded a 160-acre plot in Northwest Cape Coral by the federal government in 1928, after five years of toiling to improve the land. homesteaders carving out a living from the untamed wilds. Peek at just a handful of previous decades and it becomes clear that many of our local communities are built upon the efforts of early settlers. My family can even be counted It’s hard to imagine what my ancestors went through when air conditioners and running water weren’t common home luxuries. As much as I’m proud of my Florida heritage, I’m not sure if I have an ounce of the grit they must have demonstrated on the daily, between the oppressive mosquitoes and the unpredictable storms. Ever since I was young, I’ve fantasized about what it must’ve been like to be there.
As far as I know, anyone who has ever read “A Land Remembered” loves it. It’s one of those pieces of art that people tend to identify with and rally around, and for good reason. Every 10 years or so, I’ll pick the thing up and read it again, cover to cover, engrossed in the struggles and small victories of the MacIveys. And every time, I get caught up in it again. Despite how challenging it must’ve been for the MacIveys, there’s always a part of me that would have loved to be there, to experience an unsettled Florida.
I’m sure my family’s experience in those early days wasn’t quite as dramatic, but honestly, half the stories my grandaddy told me from his youth would fit right into Smith’s pages. When I watched he and my grandma carefully tend to their citrus trees, I could easily picture them back in the day, weathering storm after storm in southwest Florida. The other day, my buddy Dave Porter mentioned that his kids were reading “A Land Remembered” in school, and I just went off about my love for the book. I actually just found out that my son's fourth-grade class is going to be reading it too. It’s funny to think that a few of those kids will probably make the same connections I did, back to their ancestors making their way to Florida a century back, and the book will stick with them just like it did with me.
This is probably why Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered,” which I read way back in high school, resonated so much with
me. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you Floridians have already read it, but if not, here’s a breakdown: The book is a fictional account of the MacIvey family, who put down meager roots in Florida in the mid-1800s and, through sheer hard work and determination, established a successful dynasty over the next century. From generation to generation, they endured the brutality of wild Florida and worked the land, building a small empire based on cattle and oranges.
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