Glades Violent History Not Forgotten
The 1958 movie, Wind Across the Everglades was filmed in the Everglades National Park. It depicts Florida’s frontier life at the turn of the century. Back then, tropical birds were slaughtered for their plumage to decorate ladies’ hats.
The film stars Christopher Plummer in his first lead role and is loosely based on the life of Guy Bradley. Bradley was one of Florida’s first game wardens hired to protect the wildlife in South Florida.
In the summer of 1905, Bradley was trying to arrest a notorious plume hunter when he was shot in the throat. He became the first game warden murdered on the job, but not the last to meet that same fate in Monroe County. Back then laws to protect birds were very unpopular.
Bradley himself had hunted birds for their feathers as a teenager. He and his friend Charlie Pierce had run away to hunt deep in the Everglades – without their parents permission. One hundred years later, this story is being told in a book written by Pierce’s descendant, Harvey Oyer III.
His book, The Last Egret, is now required reading for fourth graders in five South Florida Counties.
Charlie kept a journal most of his life. Those entries tell how the friends came across piles of de-plumed bird carcasses at nest sites. It was hard to find rookeries that hadn’t been destroyed by hunters. After that trip, Charlie gave up plume hunting. During his life he witnessed the explosive growth of frontier life in Florida. He was even one of the legendary barefoot mailmen, who carried mail from Palm beach to Miami and back each week.
Another Everglades conservationist put up some of the funding for the publication of the book. Ron Bergeron is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner.
"My family has been in Florida for 170 years and I’ve been very blessed to be raised by a grandfather who was a game warden back in the 40’s which introduced me to God’s creation", said Bergeron.
These days he spends much of time trying to get kids to give up their ipods for fishing poles. He’s working with the state to create seven youth camps adjacent to the Big Cypress Preserve where he owns thousands of acres.
Bergeron said, "The important thing is that we have preservation with access so children can fall in love with it just like I did"