Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

I had occasion to meet a delightful older woman in the Florida panhandle a couple years back who is a proud seventh generation native of the State. During our visit she told me about the difficulty of the depression years for rural Floridians and how her father and grandfather struggled to maintain the extended family and hold onto the family farm. With too many to take care of on what little they could make from the crops they raised they were forced to turn to other means to survive. Despite their strong Baptist upbringing they went to making a little moonshine. Not a lot mind you, just enough to help them get through the hard times. Very proud they were of the quality of the corn liquor they brewed and they serviced a very select clientele that included the local Sheriff (a valuable source of information for when the Revenuers might come snooping around). They even had a brand name on gummed labels for the jugs and jars – they called it Yellow Butter Moon.

Lyrics

 

 

Oh let's tip back a jug tonight of that yellow butter moon, A pull or two on that hard home brew'll make you crazy as a loon, It'll light a fire inside you, make you step to a lively tune, C'mon let's tip back a jug tonight of that yellow butter moon. Yellow butter moon shine down through me with a light so true, There's love and life in the burn and the bite of that yellow butter moon. My grandpa made corn liquor, had a still back in the woods, He woulda made his livin' from farmin', but the times they weren't so good, When your married with six children, a lotta hungry mouths to feed, You do anything you gotta just to give them what they need. Yellow butter moon shine down through me with a light so true, There's love and life in the burn and the bite of that yellow butter moon. Now the Sheriff and his deputies loved grandpa’s corn squeeze brew, And thirst came way before duty if it’d save them a jug or two. So when a Revenuer came callin' one hot Flor'da night in June, He thought he old grandpa' cornered, thought he’d tree'd him like a coon, But when he jumped into the clearing he must have felt like a buffoon, 'Cause all he found was a paper label that read "Yellow Butter Moon." Yellow butter moon shine down through me with a light so true, There's love and life in the burn and the bite of that yellow butter moon. Oh there's love and life in the burn and the bite of that Yellow Butter Moon.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

The Everglades have long reached out to the outlaw and the untamed among us. For hundreds of years, that area of the Glades in Southwest Florida beyond Chokoluskee and the Ten Thousand Islands has been the ultimate haven for those running from something – the white man, the law, slavery, or just something within themselves. Whites, Indians, Blacks and others intermingle and co-exist on live and let live basis. But, no paradise ever survives the march of civilization. Though this wild area of Florida, full of moonshiners, poachers and outcasts has stubbornly clung to the mangrove swamps and the sawgrass, it is fading away. Through the eyes of this loner culture this is my lament to the inevitable demise of this uniquely Florida way of life.

Lyrics

 

 

There’s a bad wind blowin’ off Okeechobee He’s seen lightnin’ in the sky, And he takes it as a warnin’ This might be his last good chance to fly, This might be his last chance to fly. Hangs his hat in a shack near Chocoluskee, Works the charter boats just to pass the time, Had a brush or two with the local sheriff, Back when he was raisin’ cane and makin’ shine, He used to raise some cane and make some shine. There’s just some bridges that are meant to be burned before, You reach the other side, When today is just tomorrow’s past you know, The best get’s left behind, Over on the other side. He knows those ghosts back in the mangroves, And the sawgrass spirits out in the glades, Gator flats keep him in the money, Raw moonshine’s what’s gonna put him in his grave, Moonshine’s gonna put him down in his grave. Ten Thousand Islands and a river of grass, No paradise ever survives at last, No where to run to and no place left to hide, Stranded by the falling tide, Over on the other side. Now when he looks out across the river, There’s a land he doesn’t recognize, The face looks so familiar, but there’s, Something missin’ in the eyes, There’s something missin’ in those wild old eyes. There’s just some bridges that were meant to be burned before, You reach the other side, When today is just tomorrow’s past you know, The best get’s left behind, Over on the other side.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

Though devastating in its impact, Hurricane Katrina was not the most powerful storm to ever strike the US. Almost 70 years to the day before Katrina struck the most intense hurricane to ever make US landfall hit the middle of the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. Like Katrina, this killer storm struck at a spot where there were people ill equipped to protect themselves, get out of the way or deal with the immense power of the typhoon. And, like Katrina, those responsible for their safety and well being failed to act in time to save them. In 1935 approximately 600 WWI veterans (including some women and children) were camped in makeshift houses of plywood and metal working on the construction of the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys as part of the WPA during the New Deal era. Though the storm was monitored from positions of safety in Miami and Key West by supervisors of the project, work continued until the winds of the storm were actually being felt. A train was sent down to pull them out but it was far too late. The hurricane struck with sustained winds of over 200 mph and a 22 foot storm surge. 450 of the 600 stationed there were lost. Earnest Hemingway lived in Key West at that time and drank in the local saloons with many of his fellow WWI veterans. He took his fishing boat up to the area to lend aid to survivors, but found only bloated floating corpses. Outraged at the treatment of these brave men who had served their country so well he wrote scathing essays and was able to get a Congressional investigation of the matter commenced. However, also like Katrina, the public outrage sis not last long and the investigation accomplished little. As a consequence of his crusade on behalf of those lost to the storm it is referred to now as “Hemingway’s Hurricane.”

Lyrics

 

 

Hemingway lived down in old Key West, And he drank in the bars with Uncle Sam's best, And when he heard how they dies he flew off in a rage, His mighty pen roared at how they'd been betrayed, Oh his mighty pen roared at how they'd been betrayed. It was Labor Day, '35, Pressure falling on a rising tide, South by southeast, great wind with no name, Remembered as Hemingway's hurricane, Remembered now as Hemingway's hurricane. Now who left you there and who knows why, Old Papa demands with a firey eye, Careless or callous, no less blame, After three score and and ten relive the shame, And remember Hemingway's hurricane. Doughboys who fought World War I, Hard times upon them, Depression brung, New Deal jobs in the Florida Keys, Highway to build, the Overseas, Highway to build, the Overseas. C'mon send down that train, she's starting to blow, Too little too late no where to go, Just shacks and shanties of plywood and tin, Oh Lord watch over the souls of these men, Oh Lord watch over the souls of these men. Now who left you there, who knows why, Old Papa demands with a firey eye, Careless or callous, no less blame, After three score and and ten relive the shame, And remember Hemingway's hurricane. Then in 2005 another killer ‘cane blows, And the whole Gulf Coast drowns as the levies let go, Now was it careless or callous, more whitewash and blame, And after three score and ten we get more of the same, And remember Hemingway’s Hurricane. It was Labor Day, '35, Pressure falling on a rising tide.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

A major industry through the Southeast US and down through north Florida in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was turpentine – the production and distillation of turpentine, mineral spirits, etc. The base ingredient is pine sap gathered by cutting a series of v-notched grooves in the trees (called a “cat’s face” because of its appearance). Gathering the sap, boiling it over huge wood fires in iron pots, then distilling it to the final raw substance was dawn ‘til dusk, back breaking, life depleting work done mostly by former slaves or their descendants under the often cruel iron hand of the “woodsrider” – the foreman in charge of the work crews. Like the coal mines in West Virginia, the pay was small and any money they made was spent in a company store at inflated prices making it so that you always owed more than you could repay. The blacks working those camps didn’t call it turpentine – they called it “teppintine.”

Lyrics

 

 

Well from northwest Florida down the old Spanish trail, Men have been livin’ in a Teppintine hell, They been workin’, drawin’ that sap out of those pines, Singing good God almighty get me out of dis teppintine. Work all day for a dollar or so, You spend twice what you got in that old company store, On credit, then they own you until you die, Well, good God almighty get me out of dis teppintine. Got me a one room shack and a woman they owned, We got three kids, Lord we’re bound to have more, And I don’t know how I’m ever gonna keep those kids alive, Well, good God almighty get my kids out of dis teppintine ‘Cause there ain’t no law to help a teppintine man, That old woods rider he’s got blood on his hands, Don’t you cross him, you’ll earn yourself a shallow grave up in the pines, Well, good God almighty that’s one way out of dis teppintine. Now you don’t get into teppintine, You’re born in to it and you spend your time, Tryin’ to get out of this hell up in the Florida pines, Singin’ good God almighty get me out of dis teppintine.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

Bonnie Van Allen was a sculptor by training, raised in Miami, Florida. She taught art in the Miami Dade school system until her husband died young and unexpectedly. With her life turned upside down, her family and friends encouraged her to live out her life long dream of making a living from her art and moved north to New York. She spent years (and all of her savings) struggling as an artist in the Big Apple before her work began to get noticed and things began to turn around for her financially. She longed to escape the big city and return to her Florida roots so with what little money she managed to save she put a down payment on a small piece of property near Cedar Key jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico. She moved in with all of her inventory, equipment, supplies, etc. and for about 9 months things went well sending pieces north to New York galleries for sale. But one night in late 1993 an unnamed tropical storm swept through the Gulf striking Bonnie’s haven head on. Everything she owned was swept away in the wind and the water. Now later in life and no means by which to reestablish her art studio she remembered a complaint her father had about fishing – inevitably when the fish start to really bite you run out of bait and have to go all the way back in to get more. Bonnie found a derelict pontoon boat and some abandoned bait traps and with shear determination and desperation established herself as the only floating bait shop in Florida out among the fisherman at Marker 26 west of the mouth of the Homossassa River.

Lyrics

 

 

At the mouth of the river, sunrise to sundown, There's a beat up old pontoon boat with bait traps scattered ‘round Marker 26 it ain't Madison Avenue or Park Place, But that’s where Bonnie’s found her heart and a special kind of grace. Bonnie was a sculptor, a rising New York star, Just a poor south Florida teacher, who never dreamed she’d go far, But the New York life wore Bonnie thin and back to Cedar key she came, Then a storm blew through in ‘93 and swept it all away. Nothing left of her life’s work and too late to start again, So she turned her hands to a simple trade and set her soul to mend, She found herself in the sacrifice and she found herself in the fear, And she found herself in a courage that would dry away her tears. Now at the mouth of the river, sunrise to sundown, You'll find a beat up old pontoon boat with bait traps scattered ‘round Marker 26 sure ain't Madison Avenue or Park Place, But that’s where Bonnie’s found her heart and a special kind of grace. Life ain’t always easy and life ain’t always hard, It sure as hell ain’t always fair and you’re bound to get some scars, Bonnie’s surely had her share of tragedies and trials, And she’s learned its not how far you’ve come, its what you’ve done with the miles. So at the mouth of the river, sunrise to sundown, You’ll find that beat up old pontoon boat just hangin’ around, Marker 26 it ain't Madison Avenue or Park Place, But that’s where Bonnie’s found her heart and a special kind of grace. Island Bait at Marker 26, and Bonnie’s special kind of grace
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

Lewis Powell was born in 1844 in Alabama, but the family soon moved to north central Florida near Live Oak in the late1840’s. Barely 17 when the “great war of northern aggression” broke out, Lewis, against the wishes of his Baptist minister father and doting mother, immediately ran off to join the cause of the Confederacy. An infantry soldier, he was wounded at Gettysburg and captured, but before long escaped. Then, mysteriously, he seemed to change direction. He crossed the Union lines, swore allegiance to the United States government, changed his name to Lewis Payne and moved off to the Baltimore, MD. There he took up residence in the boarding house owned by Mary Surratt and became part of John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy to revive the Southern cause. On the night Booth shot Lincoln, Payne’s role was to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward while another conspirator assassinated Vice President Johnson thereby throwing the Union government into chaos. Though the pistol he carried misfired, Payne fought through guards at the Seward home, attacking the man in bed where he was recovering from serious injuries sustained in a carriage accident. Payne stabbed him seven times, including once in the face, but failed to kill him. He fled the house, was caught three days later and then was hung with three others, including Mary Surratt, in Washington just 60 days after the assassination of Lincoln. His family fled Live Oak in shame, though his mother maintained that her baby boy was innocent of the charges. Payne’s body was kept in government custody, at first buried in a prison grave site, then later kept in the Smithsonian. The Powell family petitioned for more than 120 years for the release of the body so they could bury him in the family cemetery plots and for more than 120 years the Seward family objected. Finally in the mid 1990’s the Powell family prevailed, received what was left of Lewis’ body and buried it with his family in Geneva, a small town just north of Orlando.

Lyrics

 

 

Well they say that on that dreadful night, When Booth shot Lincoln and took to flight, A Florida boy had a hand in the deed, In John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy. And Lewis Powell was his given name, A Live Oak boy who would come to shame, He went to war in the infantry, And he wore the gray of the Confederacy. Now chile' ain't you heard, them devils done hung my baby boy, Ain't you heard, my baby boy was hung in Washington, He didn't do what they say he done. Now a war can steal a boy's heart and soul, And Lewis' soul turned black as coal, He was taken at Gettysburg, but soon broke free, Then he turned his back on his Confederacy. He deserted the cause and to the Union came, Changed his name to Lewis Paine, He swore an oath of loyalty, To the Union and Lincoln's presidency. But it all seemed part of a darker plan, For in Baltimore he joined up in Booth's band, And at the boarding house where the evil plans were laid, Young Lewis' life was cast away. For on the night when Booth took Lincoln's life, He first met with Paine and gave him a gun and a knife, Another Yankee man was to die at young Paine's hand, Lewis made the attempt, but he failed and he ran. Well, three days later they had their man, And declared him part of the assassin's plan' He died on the gallows as Lewis Paine, Though Powell was his given name. And the family in shame from Live Oak fled, With heavy hearts and hanging heads, Mrs. Powell cried a mother's tears' And she sobbed these words for all to hear. Now chile' ain't you heard, them devils done hung my baby boy, Ain't you heard, my baby boy was hung in Washington, He didn't do what they say he done.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades have shrunk in size and water volume by more than 50% in the last 100 years. This natural resource, so essential to Florida’s environment, has been depleted by large scale sugar cane operations and development pressure in South Florida generally which dramatically impacts the water flow through the region. In 2004, even though tropical storms had dumped much needed rainwater all across the State, Okeechobee’s water level continued to fall exposing its shallow bottom made up of nutrient rich muck and peat. Dried by relentless sun the muck soon became tinder for large scale wildfires that poured thick black smoke which was carried by winds to the West Coast of Florida effectively shutting down normal activities for days and making the air unbreathable. At times the fire burned so intensely that it went underground creating hidden cavernous infernos that lay waiting for a careless fire fighter to step on the wrong patch of ground and plunge through. Okeechobee is dying and, unless we wake up and take heed, so will all of South Florida.

Lyrics

 

 

Oh …… Oh ……. Oh……..Oh Okeechobee, Okeechobee’s callin’, Okeechobee’s callin’, Okeechobee’s callin’ me down, Okeechobee’s callin’, Okeechobee, it’s an ancient and hallowed sound. Well for thousands of years the waters flowed here and spilled over her shallow sides, But where sugar is king it’s a thirsty thing so hard to satisfy, And now, Ocheechobee’s cryin’, Ocheechobee’s cryin’, Ocheechobee’s cryin’ now, Ocheechobee’s cryin’, Ocheechobee’s tears are fallin’ on bone dry ground. ‘Cause when the sawgrass stands in the path of a man who’s got progress on his mind, The dams and dikes wet the appetites that betray the hearts of all mankind, And now, Okeechobee’s dyin’, Okeechobee’s dyin’, Okeechobee’s dyin’ now, Okeechobee’s dyin’, Okeechobee, the circle of life unwound. I’m goin’ down to Okeechobee to share in that wild sunrise, Walk the ground where panthers still wander, listen for their mournful cries, Hope I hear their mournful cries, Oh …… Oh ……. Oh……..Oh Okeechobee. There’s a cloud in the east, an ominous beast, black as a sinner’s soul, The smoke burns my eyes as I realize it’s all gone out of control, And now, Okeechobee’s burnin’, Okeechobee’s burnin’, Okeechobee’s burnin’ now, Okeechobee’s burnin’, Okeechobee, the fire’s gone underground, Lord the fire’s gone underground. Oh …… Oh ……. Oh……..Oh Okeechobee, Okeechobee’s burnin’, And Okeechobee’s dyin’ cryin’, cryin’, Okeechobee’s callin’, callin’ me down, Oh Okeechobee, Oh Okeechobee.
Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

It always amazes me, and disappoints me, that folks think they’ve been to Florida when they’ve been down to Daytona Beach or Disney World or the resort areas in the southeast part of the state.  The real Florida is comprised of vast, lush cypress, pine and oak hammocks, farm land, cattle ranches, citrus groves and beautiful rivers and lakes.  This is my Florida, the Florida I grew up in and that I love so much.  It’s the Florida that Gamble Rogers told endless stories of and about which Will McLean and Steve Blackwell sang so passionately.  State of Dreams celebrates this largely ignored and unsung Florida that so few even know exists.

Lyrics

 

When you see the Suwannee lying bright and black by the light of a winter’s moon,

When you see the sunrise out across Payne’s Prairie with the spoonbills and the loons,

When you smell the orange blossoms in the springtime and you know that the honey crop’s gonna taste so good,

Then you know that you’re livin’ in a land of sunshine and a state of dreams.

 

When there’s Zellwood corn lined up in rows just as far as your eye can see,

When the strawberry farms down around Plant City are growing thick and green,

When you’re catchin’ bass out on Okeechobee and redfish in the Gulf around Cedar Key,

Then you know that you’re livin’ in a land of sunshine and a state of dreams.

 

Way down upon the Suwannee River, never that far away,

That’s where my cracker heart will live forever, all my tomorrows and my yesterdays.

 

When the whips of the cracker cowboys pop and echo out in the scrub,

When the hot sandy soil beneath your feet seems to seep right into your blood,

When you see those thunderclouds come rollin’ and the wind in the Spanish moss just feels so good,

Then you know that you’re livin’ in a land of sunshine and a state of dreams.

 

Way down upon the Suwannee River, never that far away,

That’s where my cracker heart will live forever, all my tomorrows and my yesterdays.

 

When you can hear the notes ringin’ loud and clear out of Gamble’s old guitar,

When you’re singin’ the songs of Will and Steve just remember where you are,

And take a moment in grateful silence to be thankful for the greatest gift by far,

To be livin’ down here in the land of sunshine and the state of dreams.

 

Don’t you know that you’re livin’ in the land of sunshine and the state of dreams.

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

“The Senator Cypress” stands in a small preserve in Longwood, a northern suburb of Orlando. Over 3,500 years old, it was growing here when the Hittites sacked Old Babylon and ended the rule of the descendants of Hammurabi in that kingdom. Another cypress nearby (“Lady Liberty”) is younger and probably started growing here when Jesus walked the Earth as man. It is nothing less than a miracle to visit two trees of this age and size still growing in the middle of 21st Century Florida. Bald cypress trees are special to me and symbolize the ancient history of this state. Big Bald Cypress is my tribute to this magnificent natural phenomena growing right here in my own “backyard.”

Lyrics

 

I got a big bald cypress out in my back yard,

Cypress knees all weathered and hard,

Bark is stripped, battered and scared,

I got a big bald cypress out in my back yard.

 

300 years before the Spaniards came,

That old cypress tree stood much the same,

Hurricanes and fires and the loggers’ saws,

That big bald cypress survived them all.

 

And when a strong wind blows I can hear history,

Whispered between those old cypress knees,

This lord of the swamp wears a grey beard shroud,

And has stood the test of time so tall and proud.

 

When Osceola was a Seminole king,

That old cypress tree was a sacred thing,

Stretching to the stars in the camp fire’s glow,

To touch a father above and a mother below.

 

And when a strong wind blows I can hear history,

Whispered between those old cypress knees,

This lord of the swamp wears a grey beard shroud,

And has stood the test of time so tall and proud.

 

So when I die oh promise me please,

Lay me between those old cypress knees,

And on that stone above my head,

Write here lies a Florida boy born and bred,

Under the big bald cypress out in my back yard,

I got a big bald cypress out in my back yard.

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

The St. Johns River is the longest river in the state of Florida and its most significant for commercial and recreational use. At approximately 310 miles long, it winds through or borders twelve counties. It is one of the few rivers in the United States to run north. Numerous lakes are formed by the river or flow into it, but as a river its widest point is 3 miles across, spanning several miles between Palatka and Jacksonville. The St. Johns has been the subject of William Bartram's journals, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' books, and Harriet Beecher Stowe's letters home. This song is the account of a fictional frontier woman who made her life on the shores of the great river.

Lyrics

 

Vista Faire had raven hair black as a moonless night,

They say she was part Seminole a daughter of the tribe,

Made her home in a pine wood shack no man to call her own,

And she lived off the bounty of the land she loved long the banks of the old St. Johns

 

Now she goes down to the water side every morning just past dawn,

To brush her hair and sing a song long the banks of the old St. Johns

 

When Debary ran his paddle wheels up from lake Monroe,

They’d often stop and pass the time with that beautiful Indian girl,

And she fed them well on fry bread and fresh shad fish roe,

And they would tell her all the news they heard as they traveled up and down the flow.

 

Now she goes down to the water side every morning just past dawn,

Watchin’ for those old paddle wheels to come sailin’ down the Old St. Johns

 

Then one day on the paddle wheel there came a gamblin’ man,

A passing stranger from New Orleans set his feet upon the sand,

And he tarried there with Vista Faire beneath the Florida sun,

But the wander lust soon came to him and he never did return.

 

Now she goes down to the water side every morning just past dawn,

Hopin’ for that man she loved come sailin’ down the old St. Johns

 

When summer came Vista Faire was heavy with his child,

She gave birth to a little black haired girl all alone in the Florida wild,

Raised that girl in a pine wood shack the two of them called home,

And they lived off the bounty of the land they loved long the banks of the old St. Johns.

 

Now she goes down to the water side every morning just past dawn, To brush their hair and sing a song ‘long the banks of the Old St. Johns

 

‘Long the banks of the old St. Johns

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

At the turn of the century (the real one way back not the one we just had) the fastest means of transport, bar none, was the steam train. The railroad companies had laid substantial amounts of track down into Florida and were prospering on the trade. They made their big money not on passenger fares, but on freight – much as they do today. In those days the most prized freight contract was the contract to haul the US Mail. Contracts were let out on a year to year basis and the recipient of the contract was determined by timed races between the available rail lines. Whichever rail company ran the desired route in the fastest time won the lucrative Mail contract for the coming year. In 1901 a race for the US Mail contract was run between the Plant and the Seaboard railroad companies form Savannah, Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida. The Seaboard engine got a good start and was running strong. The Plant company, however, was having troubles. The first engine broke down literally at the starting line and had to be pushed off the tracks onto a spur. By the time the replacement engine was brought up the Seaboard train had an overwhelming lead and their victory seemed in the bag. The veteran engineer for the Plant line, Albert Gage, would have the last word on that. Using every bit of skill at his command he coaxed previously unheard of sustained speed from his machine and as her crossed the Florida line roaring into Jacksonville he set a new land speed record in 1901 of 120 mph beating the time of the Seaboard train hands down.

Lyrics

 

 

Well in 1901 the steam train was still the king,

And that steam whistle blew in every young man’s dreams,

There just wasn’t anything faster than a steam train,

Runnin’ with a head of steam.

 

Aw steam train, runnin’ down the railroad, runnin’ down the railroad track,

Aw steam train, push them throttles ahead boy don’tcha dare pull ‘em back,

You run 120 miles an hour you know you got a steam train flyin’ down the railroad track.

 

Now they set a race between the Plant and the Seaboard Lines,

Just to see who could bring the mail in the fastest time,

From Savannah on down to Jacksonville they’re gonna make those,

Big steam engines whine.

 

Well the Plant 111 she was runnin’ just a bit behind,

She got a bad start and she was gonna have to make up some time,

That old engineer was coaxin’ her throttles like a mother bird,

Tryin’ to teach her babies to fly.

 

Aw steam train, runnin’ down the railroad, runnin’ down the railroad track,

Aw steam train, push them throttles ahead boy don’tcha dare pull ‘em back,

You run 120 miles an hour you know you got a steam train flyin’ down the railroad track.

 

Now the steel rails are screamin’ and the sparks are really startin’ to fly,

That old train was really rollin’ as she crossed that Florida line,

That old engineer he wouldn’t give her no rest,

Threw her through the curves like a demon possessed,

The fire man grinned through the smoke and the grime ‘cuz that steam train,

Had set a new record time.

 

Aw steam train, runnin’ down the railroad, runnin’ down the railroad track,

Aw steam train, push them throttles ahead boy don’tcha dare pull ‘em back,

You run 120 miles an hour you know you got a steam train flyin’ down the railroad track.

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

My grandfather ran the Army / Navy Surplus Store on Main Street in Leesburg, Florida for better than 20 years. One of his frequent visitors was a small, skinny man that everyone called “Speck.” Hard and weathered looking Speck could best be likened to a railroad spike with legs. Speck had spent his entire life on and around the Withlacoochee River that originates in the Green Swamp in Polk County, Florida and flows north winding its way out to the Gulf of Mexico near Yankeetown. It seemed to me that the river was all Speck ever talked about and, in some part as a result of all the stories he told, I’ve ended up spending a fair amount of time on the Withlacoochee myself enjoying what remains of its wild nature. Incorporating portions of Speck’s tales of the river this is my tribute to one of Florida’s natural treasures.

Lyrics

 

Now the Withlacoochee River runs a twisting northern flow,

Up from a Green Swamp mother to the Gulf of Mexico,

Oak stained waters swirling 'round polished cypress knees,

Hungry Osprey searching, dancing on the breeze.

 

Well, the old man was a cracker from the tough palmetto scrub,

And he'd grubbed a life out of the sand near the river that he loved,

He was harder than a lighter'd knot, pitch heavy heart of pine,

With nothing but that river to mark the passing time.

 

Old Withlacoochee dreamer come and set your spirit free,

Slip off on a current, black water mystery,

Like a wild and careless lover who's ways you can't control,

This Withlacoochee River still flows on through your soul.

 

He recalled the Blind Horse ferry that he rode as just a boy,

When the whistle from a steamboat still filled his heart with joy,

When the cypress trees were bigger than six men could reach around,

Cut and floated up the river out past Yankeetown.

 

Old Withlacoochee dreamer come and set your spirit free,

Slip off a the current, black water mystery,

Like a wild and careless lover who's ways you can't control,

This Withlacoochee River still flows on through your soul.

 

And now I’ve spent my share of days among those river orchid blooms,

Drifting on the shadows of lazy afternoons.

 

But the bloom is off the flower as that time worn saying goes,

There’s few places on the river that hold the peace of long ago,

And that old cracker's long forgotten though sometimes I still hear,

His stories of the river that he loved for all those years.

 

Old Withlacoochee dreamer come and set your spirit free,

Slip off on a current, black water mystery,

Like a wild and careless lover who's ways you can't control,

This Withlacoochee River still flows on through your soul.

 

And like a wild and careless lover who's ways you can't control,

This Withlacoochee River still flows on through your soul.

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

My good friend and fellow songwriter, Steve Blackwell, was one of the finest men I’ve ever been privileged to know. Though not a native Floridian, he loved and understood the heart and soul of the state better than most. An active conservationist and one who believed, as do I, that we need to know the history and culture of the place we call home, Steve wrote about the things that mattered most to him. One of my favorite Steve Blackwell tunes is “I Live on a Gravel Road” which celebrates his simple life centered around family, faith and friends down a gravel road in Punta Gorda, Florida overlooking Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River, encouraging us all to “take yourself a walk down a gravel road” when our lives get too stressful and complicated. When cancer claimed Steve in 2007 I wrote this song as my remembrance of my friend and my tribute to his shining example.

Lyrics

 

 

There’s a spirit ‘round this fire tonight, a whisper in the trees,

A kindred soul and a kinder heart that lingers on the breeze,

Joy comes from common places and love its gift to give,

Grace flows from the music and the life he chose to live.

 

Welcome home, lay your burdens down,

Sing songs of simple pleasures, of peace and justice found,

Lord he’s not the kind for mansions or streets of solid gold,

His heaven’s just a place out back down a gravel road.

 

There’s a presence on this river bank, a stirring in the reeds,

A sense of life eternal set free from human needs,

You know that Faith is more than words and prayers, it’s the courage to believe,

It’s the hope that can’t be broken and the peace that never leaves.

 

Welcome home, lay your burdens down,

Sing songs of simple pleasures, of peace and justice found,

Lord he’s not the kind for mansions or streets of solid gold,

His heaven’s just a place out back down a gravel road.

 

Thank you for the lessons of honor, faith and trust,

Thanks for truest friendship that’ll never turn to dust,

Tell me where did all the time go, the days turned into years,

Still hope shines through the memories unstained by selfish tears.

 

Welcome home, lay your burdens down,

Sing songs of simple pleasures, of peace and justice found,

Lord he’s not the kind for mansions or streets of solid gold,

His heaven’s just a place out back down a gravel road.

 

Lord give my friend a place out back down a gravel road.

Doug Spears
2010-01-01
Doug Spears

Story

In the late 1920's my grandfather, Clyde Spears, came to Lake County, Florida. He bought about 30 acres of sandy farm land west of Leesburg, Florida on a dirt road that would eventually become highway 44 running from coast to coast across the State. He built a two room Cracker shack without power or running water in which he and my grandmother lived as they began to work the farm. Children soon began to come and he added onto the house little by little until it grew to three bedrooms, two baths, living room, den, kitchen, dining room and large porches front and back. The house and farm stayed in our family 80 years and every good memory I have ties one way or the other back to that old Cracker farm house. Everyone has that one place that comes to mind when someone says the word home - this is mine.

Lyrics

 

This old house is still and silent, nobody lives here anymore,

Its been a long time since a footstep fell upon these wooden floors,

Four generations have stood right where I stand,

The roots of a family growing strong up from this sand.

 

And this old house . . . Once upon a time,

Was the place where everything I loved had its common tie,

And this old house . . . that I loved so long ago,

It is still the place I dream about when I dream dreams of home.

 

All the walls are stained and faded, dust is settling everywhere,

Yet everything is still just where it was the last time I was here,

But now out in the front yard near that old oak tree I’d climb,

There’s a for sale sign that tells my heart this home’s no longer mine.

 

And this old house . . . Once upon a time,

Was the place where everything I loved had its common tie,

And this old house . . . that I loved so long ago,

It is still the place I dream about when I dream dreams of home.

 

For it was here within these weathered walls that I learned how to love,

How to trust in human kindness and that grace flows from above.

 

I can still hear their voices though they seem so far away,

And I still see all their faces when I close my eyes and pray,

One last time I wander through these rooms and everything I see,

Just flickers like a silver screen of a thousand memories.

 

And this old house . . . Once upon a time,

Was the place where everything I loved had its common tie,

And this old house . . . that I loved so long ago,

It is still the place I dream about when I dream dreams of home.

 

Oh this old house,

This old house.