Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fires In The Everglades

This shot was about 35 years ago and in posting it I'm breaking about all the rules of good journalism. I was taught that a story should always tell "The Five W's": Who, What, Where, When, and Why. At this point I can't remember who the person was or why I took the photo, but I kept it because I liked it.

I think it's someplace in downtown Miami in the fall of the year after the rainy season is over. Every year it's the same thing. The rains stop and the marsh dries up, the saw grass prairie turns from green to brown. Thousands of years worth of decaying vegetation has built up a layer of peat many feet thick. Then either a stray lightening strike or a careless hunter who didn't put out his campfire set the place on fire. The winds blow the smoke eastward into the metropolitin area. The air is pungent, even acrid and the setting sun fills it with a brilliant golden glow.

Pipe smoking was still fashionable at the time, and a nice hand carved Danish briar like this might cost $25, maybe $50, perhaps even more, and tobacco shops offered custom blends. You could smoke anyplace, offices, restaurants, department stores, and nobody said a thing. Of course the air inside, even with the tobacco smoke, was cleaner than the air outside. We were thankful that we lived here in south Florida rather than the industrial northeast and midwest where both factories and buildings belched black smoke from furnaces and machinery largely running on coal and oil. A sign of prosperity they said.


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