Way down upon the Suwannee River,Far, far away, There’s where my heart is turning ever,There’s where the old folks stay.
We spent a rather leisurely day cycling toward the Suwannee River State Park, humming Florida’s official state song, and pedalling along some relatively quiet roads.
We saw that there was an upcoming country music festival. And another event, an All American
Golf Cart Parade.
The road names and attractions were quaint:
Willow Bend, Stagecoach, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.
The Suwannee River State Park is beautiful, with tall pines, Saw Palmettos, winding trails, and of course, the wending, wild, black waters of the Suwannee River itself.
We needed to buy some food for the campsite, so after we registered we pedalled to a gas station/food mart a few miles away. We have a routine where one of us goes in and sees what’s available while the other stays outside and guards the bikes. I waited outside while the cook staff prepared a takeout meal of deep fried gizzards, while fiona shopped for more demur fare.
Standing outside was an older man, smoking a small cigar and joshing with anyone who came and went from the store.
He was curious about us and our bikes. We talked about where he’d worked throughout the West installing rubber roofs on massive warehouses in blistering heat.
Then he paused and looked at me.
“They as like to kill me,” he said, scowling at his cigar as he put it on a nearby empty newspaper box.
He started unbuttoning his shirt a bit, pulling it down from the shoulder to reveal a pale upper arm.
“That’s my name,” he said, gesturing with his chin toward some sort blob of multi-coloured ink on his bicep.
I had to look a little closer and I realized it was a confederate flag.
“I don’t understand,” I said, because I really didn’t.
“I’m Rebel,” he said. “My name is Rebel Wilkes.”
About then, Fiona came out with our food, and we began to pack.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said, because it was, and frankly, I still don’t understand what the hell we were talking about.
We went back to camp and had a great evening. A great hike, met some wonderful people, but including a couple from British Columbia, an even managed to cook a pretty good pasta meal on our one-pot, one-burner stove.
Later, as we settled into our sleeping bags, Fiona told me how she saw people giving Rebel money. One said, “do you have change for a $20,” and when Rebel said no, he handed Rebel the money, saying “you strike a hard bargain,” and went on his way.
I thought about that for a while. Rebel talked to anyone when I was there. White, Black, and even us Canadians.
I thought that giving money to Rebel was a kind gesture.
I guess I’ll have to leave it at that. Try as I might, I don’t really understand the South. The contrasts leave me baffled sometimes.