ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria Island Historical Society members were treated to a presentation at Roser Church on Friday about Patrick D. Smith’s well-known book, “A Land Remembered,” the story of a fictional Florida pioneer family.
Smith’s son, named for his late father, is perpetuating his dad’s legacy of 10 books, particularly “A Land Remembered,” with a presentation featuring videos that he made of his father telling stories about old Florida. A Mississippi native, the author was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1999 and was the recipient of the Florida Historical Society’s Greatest Living Floridian award.
Smith wrote about underdogs, his son told society members, including Seminole Indians, migrant farmworkers and poor “Florida Crackers” like the MacIvey family, an amalgamation of people Smith had learned about from interviewing elderly Floridians who remembered their ancestors’ stories.
The term “cracker” is not derogatory, he said, explaining that it refers to the cracking sound of a whip used by Florida cowboys to move cattle and communicate over long distances, as the sound could be heard for long distances.
Florida pioneers in 1863, when the story is set, had to bring their tools and supplies with them to the state, he said, as there were no stores, cut lumber, tools or even roads at the time.
The book follows the fictional MacIvey family through the Civil War, two major hurricanes in the 1920s, the start of the citrus and cattle industries and the arrival of railroads and developers, all historically accurate, he said.
A major theme of the story is the development boom in Florida and its impact on nature.
Smith recalled a trip his father made to Florida in 1933, eating fruit from roadside trees, fishing from bridges for supper and visiting towns all over the state before they were cities.
You could drive for 60 miles in Destin along the beach without seeing any buildings, he said. Naples had about 400 people, and Cocoa Beach, home of Kennedy Space Center, had about 30 people. Florida panthers were a common sight. Flocks of birds in the Everglades were so large they blocked out the sun.
“Progress ain’t reversible,” Smith said.