Our book club recently discussed Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It is the story of the people, time, and place in the Ocala National Forest where she wrote her award-winning books. Most of us didn’t finish the book, but we did gather at a member’s home to see the movie by the same title. So I suppose I should say we discussed the movie. Both revealed how Rawlings transformed a run-down shack into a cozy home, gradually made friends with the somewhat shy, somewhat suspicious backwoods neighbors, met her new husband, got the inspiration for her stories and characters, and developed them into award-winning books.
In 2007, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings farm was designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest historic recognition in the United States. It has also been a designated as a Florida state park.
One family who Marjorie met and befriended were the Longs: Mary and Calvin. In 1872, their ancestor, Reuben Long, originally settled in the forest that, in 1908, became the Ocala National Forest. It was from Calvin’s colorful stories that Rawlings first learned of a young boy, one of the earlier Longs, who raised a fawn to a yearling.
Rawlings’ 72-acre farm in Cross Creek is right here in central Florida, only about a hour away from our homes. So, on the day that we would have had our June meeting, the group traveled to see this beautiful part of old Florida. Unfortunately, I did not get to make the trip, but a friend and fellow book club member has generously shared her photos, and has given permission for me to share them with you.
After seeing the Cross Creek movie, I read The Yearling. It was set in the late 19th century, but some of the characters’ experiences are still in existence today. There are still people who live deep in the Ocala National Forest. Unfortunately, there is still extreme poverty and hunger in that population.
There are many local organizations who donate to smaller groups who go into the forest. For example, there is a local minister who grew up in the forest and, therefore, has their trust, and goes there frequently taking food and clothes, and repairing homes. The Cross Creek movie showed the poverty of the area, but did not do enough to reveal the extent of said property. On the other hand, Cross Creek was intended to chronicle Rawlings’ experiences. The stories of the people are in her award-winning books. I can’t wait to read the others.