On my first day on support crew, the group decided to try a slackpack day. So we were up early, much too early. The faster hikers wanted to get out on the trail by 5 AM. Slack packing would mean that we didn’t have to break camp at Big Cypress Campground, and the hikers wanted to take advantage of the cool morning. Chuck told them if they could find someone willing to get up that early and drive them, it was okay with him. With the set of keys to the other van in my pocket, I guessed that would be me.
We chose a 5:30 departure time, which put them on the trail just before 6 AM. They got out early, and I got a bit more sleep. We drove the rest of the group out to the end of Deerfence Canal an hour or so later so they could begin hiking back toward the campground.
Chuck drove Chenango to Clewiston to have an infected toe checked out. I went back into the reservation to pick up water and Gatorade. Later I drove back out and met the group. Handing a hot and sweaty hiker an ice cold drink makes you feel good! Being a hiker and a trail angel as part of a group is a wonderful experience.
As we stayed in the same campground, no setup time was required. Everyone had time to wash clothes or relax in the pool or hot tub. Plus, we were all invited to attend an ice cream social and a local history presentation. How could we refuse?
At one o’clock the campground clubhouse was filled with RVers and hikers ready to learn about the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, just a short walk away, and enjoy a couple of scoops of free ice cream. I had tried to visit the museum earlier in the day, only to find it closed. They are only open Wednesday through Saturday.
On my way back to camp a Seminole fellow rode by on a little go-kart. On the reservation it is common to see three and four wheel ATVs used as transportation. So the kart isn’t what caught my attention. The driver was wearing a very beautiful, very weathered, Seminole patchwork jacket.
Back in the 1970s, I was very active in a Boy Scout program called the Order of the Arrow, an program with strong ties to Indian traditions. I traveled out of state often to National Conferences and Regional training events. Unofficially, my group had adopted wearing Seminole patchwork jackets. I purchased my first jacket in 1975, used, for $100. They are handmade pieces of art, and have always been very expensive. So seeing one being worn by a Seminole as just as an everyday piece of clothing, without regard to its value, made me smile – and made me wish that I still owned one that fit.
I still have that first jacket, and years later, I purchased a second used patchwork jacket. I traveled many miles and visited several states wearing both of those jackets. But as the years have gone by, I’m not quite the same size as I was thirty-something years ago. Maybe one day I’ll find another used one, in my size, and add it to the collection, wearing it proudly as Sandy and I travel around the country.