Boating: Ghosts of the Calusas not just a tale
April 6, 2011
“Just at false dawn, while the night mist is still there, you can see the ghosts of the Calusa Indians dancing along the edges of the Mangrove swamps,” said our yacht club's resident historian, Boston Bob.
“You ain't getting me up at four in the morning again this year. I've been out there three years and I ain't seen nothin' yet,” said Sandbar Joe.
“You've just been unlucky,” I replied. I've seen the spirits two of the last three years and I wouldn't miss it again this year.”
“We told you not to touch land or to tie up to the trees, but you always do, and they get mad when you mess with their island mounds. They lived here for a thousand years or more and their spirits protect those trees,” said Boston Bob.
“It gives me the creeps to think about it,” said Fargo Fred, “but I can't fathom living on those mosquito infested mounds. There wasn't a Lee County Mosquito Control agency back then. Those swamp Angels must have been thick as fog.”
“They sure were tough and big for Caribbean Indians. One of their Spanish slaves wrote that they were a head taller than the regular Spanish soldiers,” said BB. “When Ponce De Leon fought them, he told his historian that they were cunning and fearless.”
“They kicked his butt back to Cuba, and he died from a wound caused by a Calusa arrow in his leg. They won that battle but lost the war, which is what happened to most Indian tribes in the Americas,” Erie Earl proudly recited from a pamphlet on the Calusa Indians.
“So why do their spirits wander the Mangrove islands of the back bay?” The silence of his fellow “Dead End Canal Yacht Club” members proved Sandbar's point. “That's right, nobody knows and they probably don't even exist. There are apparitions associated with every part of the country even if there wasn't any great battles or tragic circumstances.”
“Why is it that you are the only one not to see the dancing lights? It has to be the spirits of dead Indians don't like you,” answered Kenny from Kentucky. “You wouldn't admit it if you did see them.”
“This just might be mass hysteria. One person convinces another and in turn they convince more and finally the entire group believes, as a group,” said the Reverend.
“Sandbar's refusal destroys that theory, right? You said the entire group, so Sandbar debunks the mass hysteria thing,” I said.
“Tomorrow will be perfect,” BB predicted. “The approaching cold front will push the humidity to the top and a mist will hang in the predawn air along the water and near the Mangroves. The last time we spotted them there was a full moon, but the skies will be clear tonight. Set your alarm clocks for four and we'll rendezvous at Pontoon Paul's at five thirty!”
It was a restless night, I'll tell you. I, and I'm sure the rest of the 'DECYC' adventurers, awoke every fifteen minutes just so we wouldn't miss the boat. Our group of seven loaded up the pontoon boat and went searching the south end of Pine Island.
The Calusa Indians traveled in 15-foot dug out canoes. Rounding a sharp point against the tide was very difficult. These Indians were prodigious excavators who cut canals like the 'long cut' and 'short cut' at the south end of Pine Island. Since the history books claim that the Calusa occupied that area for over 1,500 years, we hoped to see the spirits there.
The night air was still and sticky. The weatherman was predicting wind from the west to northwest later in the day followed by rain and thunderstorms. Not good weather for a pontoon boat but the calm seas were perfect for some ghost hunting.
Two thermos of coffee had been consumed before we passed Monroe canal. Most of us were anticipating a good lunch at the 'Waterfront' restaurant shortly after eleven. Breakfast was hard tack and corn dodgers. True adventurers’ grub.
Shortly after we entered long cut, our spotlight danced through some fog. The light reflected off the intermittent patches of mist and there, deep in the Mangrove trees were the apparition of three warrior Indians, maybe four. Or could it be Indian maidens dancing.
As the light flashed back and forth the whole Mangrove forest came alive with Calusa Indian spirits. We slowly traversed the entire Indian-made canal before the sun peeked over the horizon and they were gone. How about that for Mass Hysteria, huh men? You readers have every right not believe this tale, but reserve judgment until you have tried this for yourselves. Ghost maps are available from the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club' memorabilia store.
Boatguy Ed is a retired bottom paint maker and is currently a volunteer extra on his son's Boater's Treasures television show that sells half priced dining certificates, www.boaterstreasures.com. Send your comments to boatguiEd@aol.com!