Thankful For, Glover
By Don Barone
"So on and on I go…"
Dateline: The Everglades, 1960
He lived on the shore of the River of Grass.
In a hut made of the branches of palm trees.
A roof of woven Palm Tree Fronds. Yet his World War II cot was dry.
Walls of straw were lashed to massive tree trunks that formed the four corners of the hut. Somehow though, the heat stayed out, and the cool of the earthen floor stayed in.
There was no running water, except what flowed through the River of Grass.
There was no electricity except for the flashes of lightening in the South Florida sky.
The only way in, was on a long, creaky, rocky bridge of rope and hand hewn boards. Where it started was concealed by a six foot tall moveable bush.
The first time I ever saw him he ducked to walk out from his grass hut, he wore a large brimmed grass hat, and he had a machete in his mouth.
His skin was leather.
His hands were boxing gloves with fingers.
His feet were bare.
What used to be a white sleeveless tee shirt was tucked neatly into green army pants, a brown canvas belt wove through a beat up old army water canteen.
He smelled of earth, sweat, and old tales. I heard the earth being sucked between his toes as he walked my way. Then suddenly he stopped and knelt down on one knee, his smell swirled around me and ran up and down my tiny back.
I was 8.
The giant kneeling in front of me, was not.
He took the machete out of his mouth, and stabbed the earth between my legs with it, and on breath aged for months, if not years, he boomed in my face, "Are you a kid, I don't allow kids here, If you are a man though, you can stay. So are you a kid, or a man?"
I looked back to my father who had his head down looking into a black Kodak camera. When he saw me turn he looked up, but he said nothing, his eyes though said, “Answer the giant.”
So I did.
I looked the giant right in his eyes, and the cigar he was chewing in his mouth, and I said this, "A man."
And then I started to cry.
At which point the giant flipped the cigar over my head, got down on both knees and with a monster of a thumb, wiped the tears from my cheeks, and leaned in and whispered softly to me, "I know."
And that giant was named, Glover.
"…the seconds tick the time out…"
Back then, in the early 1960's, every other year or so my parents would put me and my two sisters in the back of the 1957 Ford Fairlane and drive down to Miami, Florida to spend Christmas with my Uncle Sandy and Aunt Rita.
It took a week.
To get there.
We turned left out of Buffalo, drove to New York City and turned right, spent the next 6 days on Route 1 south when Route 1 was the ONE.
One Sunday I'm in snow, the next Sunday I'm in sand. To an 8 year old, it was a magic carpet ride.
It was between Christmas and New Year's, 1960, that I met the giant of the Everglades.
I had never met anyone like him in my life.
He had never met anyone like me in his life.
Me, an asthmatic pale white kid from up there in New York.
He, ah, you know, a Glover. Pretty much my own fairy tale.
Over the years, he became, my "outdoor dad." For decades in my wallet I carried the tiny black and white photograph that my father took of my first meeting with Glover.
A few years ago, when my wallet was stolen out of my minivan, it was the loss of that photo that hurt the most.
Glover lived in a zoo without walls.
It was Glover who took me on my first airboat ride, who first handed me the stick and pointed to the River of Grass and said, "Go."
It was Glover who was the first, and only one, to ever hand me a snake.
It was Glover who taught me that the easiest way to get coconuts out of the tree, was with a rifle.
It was Glover who told me he didn't "need no TV or radio," that "listening to the Glades told me everything I ever need to knowed."
It was Glover who taught me to "never hurt nothin' you ain't about to eat."
One day, around 1968 or 1969 I spent the morning helping Glover shoo an alligator out of his hut and camp. I kept telling him to just shoot it. He could of easily done just that. He had enough firepower around to rid himself of a swarm of gators. But instead, he just ran around with a long stick bopping it on it's head, sticking it in its side, until finally, with some gentle prodding, he steered it into the creek both he and the gator bathed in.
It was the last time I ever saw Glover.
"…there's so much left to know…"
Glover died before I ever got back to see him. His hut, his camp was swallowed by the River of Grass he so loved.
It was something he "knowed" would happen, "it's as it should be. It's the Glades place to take back what we took."
Glover knew I never much liked being inside the outside. He never made fun of how creeped out I was of the bugs and critters around his place. Never made me do anything I didn't want to do…or eat.
But it was Glover who told me over and over, "Doesn't matter none if you like it or not. What matters some is that you knowed it is there."
Knowed it is there. Probably one of the greatest pieces of advice in my life.
Knowed it is there. Glover's way of telling me to respect others, and what those others do and love.
Never for a moment did Glover ever try to make me an outdoor kind of guy. But every moment we did spend together, he spent, in his quiet way, schooling me in having a respect for being inside the outside.
A few years back at a used book sale at my local library I came across a very valuable book that sold there for a buck, but would sell on the collectible book market for several hundred's of bucks.
The book, "Rivers of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas is signed by the author and even has in the book corrections she made in pencil of a couple misspelled words.
I could make a real quick buck selling the thing.
It will never be sold. For any amount of money.
It sits on my writing desk at home. It is my touchstone of "knowed it is there."
In it's pages, Glover is still alive.
I am forever thankful for the giant of the grass hut.
Thankful that the universe introduced me to the soul of the outdoors.
Thankful for, Glover.
Who somehow "knowed it is there," and that I would end up in it.
And who showed me the way to be…
…inside the outside.
"I'm on the road to findout."
On The Road To Findout