Tag Archives: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Happy Birthday Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

DSC09504More than 120 people turned out to help celebrate Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 121st birthday in Cross Creek on Saturday.  They were treated to a fish fry with all the fixings including fried fish, grits, hush puppies, coleslaw, cake and sherbert made from tangerines and oranges from Marjorie’s grove on the farm.

 

See video highlights of the event below:

The Friends of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Farm and the staff of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park sponsored the event with support from Visit Gainesville/Alachua County.  Northwest Seafood in Gainesville donated and fried the fish.

Visitors were treated to the jazz tunes of the band, “Uptown Swing” as they ate their meals on tables set up all around Marjorie’s home and barn.  The August 5th event was part of the year-long activities planned around the 75th anniversary of Rawling’s publications, “Cross Creek,” and “Cross Creek Cookery.”  For more information about upcoming events go online to marjoriekinnanrawlings.org

Animal Exhibit at Yearling Restaurant (1)Meanwhile, at the Yearling Restaurant in Cross Creek, visitors can see a Florida wild animal exhibit which showcases the animals made popular in the literary works of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Owner of the Yearling Restaurant, Robert Blauer, has recently added the colorful taxidermy-mount exhibit featuring most of the species of wild animals found throughout Florida. Many of these, particularly the bear and deer, were made famous by Rawlings in her many books like The Yearling (Pulitzer Prize 1939), and Cross Creek (1942). Some 40 animal mounts, called “Fodderwing’s Creeturs,” belonging to Cross Creek naturalist, Jim Stephens, are displayed against a spectacular mural setting painted by St. Augustine artist, Gayle Prevatt.

Artist Gayle Prevatt and Naturalist Jim StephensBlauer is inviting the public to come and see this new attraction while also enjoying the old-time dining favorites at the eatery such as gator-tail, catfish and grits, seafood, and sour orange pie, which have made the short drive from Gainesville a memorable dining adventure.

 

 

Contact Information:

Mural Artist: Gayle Prevatt, 904-377-7917, gprevatt@aug.com
Animal Exhibit: Jim Stephens 352-466-3034, sloughfootcreek@aol.com
Yearling Restaurant owner: Robert Blauer, 352-466-3999

 

A true “Mother’s Day” story about courtship in Cross Creek

DSC08728Editor’s note: I’m tickled to say that even though he didn’t use his rifle to shoot down this year’s magnolia blossom, my husband kept his Mother’s Day tradition alive this year (2017).

 

 

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Here’s the audio version of the chapter called, “Mother’s Day” by Shelley Fraser Mickle. (full written text with pictures can be found below)

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I’m proud to call Shelley Fraser Mickle a friend.  Shelley is one of the most entertaining writers I’ve ever met.  For many years radio listeners were able to hear her commentaries on life on not only WUFT-FM, but also nationally as she contributed her talent doing commentaries for NPR‘s “Morning Edition.”  She’s also an award-winning author of several novels.

I always looked forward to the days she would come in to the station and record her commentaries because on those days we had the opportunity to catch up on life.  That being said, as a journalist I should have known that some of the “Cross Creek” stories I shared with her would one day make it into print.  I’m actually quite pleased she was listening so closely.  My family is very proud of the chapter she wrote on my Cross Creek romance called, “Mother’s Day.”  She genuinely captured some of the unique qualities of my husband Lee Townsend in our “courting days.”

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(Full text of chapter called “Mother’s Day” from Shelley Fraser Mickle’s book, The Kids are gone; The Dog is Depressed & Mom’s On The Loose.)

 

 

I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.

For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.

scan0001And you’ll know when the courting gets serious if a fella invites you to ride a boat out into the cypress woods after a big rain to watch the water run into the lake.

 

 

 

Let's Go Fishin'But no matter if you are fishing, gigging, or watching water, it’s a pretty sure fact that all the while, a certain magic is being practiced on you. So that afterward, it is very likely, your life will never be the same.

Creek men are aware of their power. And they strut it comfortably. For instance, it was reported that at the Marjorie Rawlings’ house, the staff spotted a snake sneaking into one of the rooms, and out of desperation, called one of the Creek men. After all, a man who has grown up at the Creek knows more than you ever want to know about snakes and how to handle them.

Chicken Snake MKR pump house A 2012-11-04_12-36-26_781As the story goes, this Creek man sauntered up the steps to the house, saying he’d handle that snake, just point him to it. Then went into the room where the snake was and shut the door. In a few minutes he came back out and announced, “That’s a female chicken snake. And it won’t take me but a minute to get her to move on out of here.”  One of the caretakers was really curious and asked, “But how do you know it’s a female snake?”  The creek man didn’t even blink. “Because she quivered when she looked at me,” he said.

sweethearts 1985I guess that really does say it all. Yes, the men at the Creek have a certain powerful charm. And it’s said that everybody knows when a creek man is seriously courting a woman, because that’s the only time he wears shoes.

 

scan0002So after my friend fell under the spell of one and married him, then stayed there to raise a family with him, she had to learn how to take on all sorts of new ways of thinking and saying things.

 

 

 

Pregnant with Ellie

When she became pregnant with their first child, she says she had to relearn how to announce that fact. For out at the Creek no one is ever pregnant. No. Rather it’s that you’re fixin’ to have a youngin’.

 

Baby Ellie

And then when the second one came, it was that she was fixin’ to have another one.Jessie

In fact, my friend says, since she has made her life at the Creek, she has found that almost everything she does has the word fixin’ it it.

File0009Last year on Mother’s Day, she was in the kitchen fixin’ to have a cup of tea when her husband sauntered up behind her, put his arms around her waist, and said to follow him, that he was fixin’ to give her a Mother’s Day present.

 

 

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He then led her outside, and on the way, grabbed his rifle, so that in only a minute they were standing under the giant magnolia that shades the whole side of the backyard. Then he propped his rifle on his shoulder and aimed it up toward the tree.

My friend says the blooms were like round white stars, perfuming the air with a sweetness that was like the smell of warm honey, or of spun sugar. Then her husband said to her, “Pick out one darlin’.”

And when she raised her hand toward a bloom near the top, he focused his eye down the rifle’s barrel and shot it down.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, as he bent down and picked up the sweet white blossom that had fallen at her feet.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Memories of her life and times in Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings & Cracker Culture
A video written and produced by University of Florida Student Monica Berra.  Script Editing assistance and narration by Donna Green-Townsend

 

Two versions of a video produced by Dorsey Lee Townsend III for a class project while in Santa Fe College:

 (Longer version with additional interview added)

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A video distributed by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection called, “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park”

 

History of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings featuring MKR reenactor Betty Jean Steinshouer produced by Visit Gainesville.

 

Interviews regarding the scheduled play, “Invasion of Privacy” which took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall of Santa Fe College in June of 2015. The interviewees were on the Ilene Silverman Show.

 

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The old Alachua County Courthouse in Gainesville, FL

The 1946 “Invasion of Privacy Trial” of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings vs. Zelma Cason has captivated lawyers and literary experts alike.  On June 18th thru June 20th, 2015 the public got a flavor of the famous trial  when the award-winning play by Larry Parr, “Invasion of Privacy,” took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College.

It was after Marjorie Rawlings won the Pulitizer Prize for “The Yearling” that she continued her success with her book, “Cross Creek,” a book which captured what her life was like as well as her neighbors in the small fishing community.  But one friend of Rawlings, Zelma Cason, didn’t take “too kindly” to the way Rawlings described her in her book and decided to sue the famous author.  Click here to read more about this famous legal case.

Park Ranger Lee Townsend being interviewed on November 13th, 2009 at the MKR home about Marjorie’s life at the “Creek.”

 

A video interview with author J. T. Glisson about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek for Putnam Schools TV.

 

Shelley-Fraser-MickleA True “Mother’s Day” Story About Romance in Cross Creek by Shelley Fraser Mickle

I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.

For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.

 Click here to read more…

 

Cross Creek Summer

MKR on her porchThe first  weekend in August of 1997 kicked off the first annual Cross Creek Summer, Arts and Culture in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Florida.  Organizers hoped the week-long event would introduce people to the Florida Rawlings loved and attract those ecotourists looking for the real Florida. To hear the report produced by Donna Green-Townsend  Click here

 

 

50th Anniversary of “The Yearling” Celebration on the MKR farm in Cross Creek in April of 1988
Includes rare video of the late Idella Parker, Cousin Thelma Boltin, Will McLean and Gamble Rogers.

 

Video with interesting pictures of Marjorie, though not all the facts are precise.

 

1979 video talking about the architecture of the MKR home in Cross Creek

Marjorie K. Rawlings: Invasion of Privacy Trial continues to fascinate

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Scene from the “Invasion of Privacy” play
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The cast of the play at Santa Fe College takes a bow

The 1946 Invasion of Privacy Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings vs. Zelma Cason has captivated lawyers and literary experts alike.  On June 18th thru June 20th, 2015 the public got a flavor of the famous trial  when the award-winning play by Larry Parr, “Invasion of Privacy,” took to the stage of the Fine Arts Hall at Santa Fe College.

It was after Marjorie Rawlings won the Pulitizer Prize for “The Yearling” that she continued her success with her book, “Cross Creek,” a book which captured what her life was like as well as her neighbors in the small fishing community.  But one friend of Rawlings, Zelma Cason, didn’t take “too kindly” to the way Rawlings described her in her book and decided to sue the famous author.

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Actors in scene from “Invasion of Privacy”

Rawlings described Cason in her book as an “ageless spinster resembling an angry and efficient canary” and someone that Rawlings couldn’t decide if she should have “been a man or a mother” since she had the “violent characteristics of both.” Rawlings also talked of Cason carrying a gun and her penchant for profanity.  The lawsuit brought by Cason was based on a person’s right of privacy against an author’s constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Alachua County Courthouse
The old Alachua County Courthouse

The 1946 five-day trial held in Gainesville’s old courthouse attracted many spectators and drew international attention.  At least one book and several plays have been written about the famous trial.

The public had the opportunity to meet the director of the play, soap-opera star Judith Chapman, and the cast of characters for the play at “The Invasion of Privacy” preview party which was held on Friday, June 12th at the Matheson Museum in Gainesville.

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Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on her front porch in Cross Creek

The Invasion of Privacy Trial between Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zelma Cason has also been the basis for other plays, including “My Friend Zelma:  The Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings,” written by retired University of Florida Distinguished History Professor Michael Gannon. Gannon’s play was presented at the Limelight Studio Theatre in St. Augustine in 2010.

Deborah Dickey, who directed “My Friend Zelma,” says Professor Gannon was a friend of Marjorie Rawling’s husband Norton Baskin, both of whom lived in St. Augustine.  She says Gannon consulted with Baskin on the play when it was written and that his mother worked for Zelma Cason.

Deborah Dickey
Playwright Deborah Dickey

Dickey adds there were performances of the play in the historic Fernandina Beach Courthouse where the jury consisted of an entire group of Jacksonville lawyers and a sitting judge.  There was also a performance for the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society during a meeting in St. Augustine.

Dickey has also written her own play called, “Cross Roads:  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Norton S. Baskin in Unguarded Moments.”  The play premiered at Flagler College in 2012 and was presented again in March of 2013. Her play, based on the letters of Rawlings and her husband Norton Baskin, chronicles the couple’s courtship, marriage, and long separation during World War II when Baskin served as a volunteer ambulance driver for the American Field Service in India.

 

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Cover of J.T. Glisson’s play, “Sigsbee Scruggs”

Another popular play about the famous “Invasion of Privacy Trial” is called “Sigsbee” written by Evinston artist and author, J.T. Glisson.  The play had sold-out performances at the Ocala Civic Theatre in 2001. Sigsbee Scruggs served as one of Marjorie Rawlings defense attorneys in the 1946 trial.  Sigsbee was one of Gainesville’s more colorful lawyers. Playwright J.T. Glisson had the opportunity to interview Scruggs to gather the material for his book which takes a close look at several of the more interesting legal cases handled by the late Gainesville attorney, known for not only the cases he won, but for how he won.

 

 

 

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Writer and artist J.T. Glisson

Playwright Glisson recalls how his father Tom Glisson encouraged Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to hire Sigsbee Scruggs to represent her in the Invasion of Privacy case

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Glisson says anyone sitting in the courtroom during a trial with Sigsbee Scruggs was never bored

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Fred Mullen
Actor Fred Mullen as Sigsbee Scruggs

Fred Mullen was the actor who portrayed Scruggs not only in Ocala, but also when the play was presented in Gainesville in 2002.  Mullen says the one-man play gives the audience real insight into the famous Gainesville attorney

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Rip Torn
Actor Rip Torn portraying Marsh Turner in the film, “Cross Creek”

 

 

When the play “Sigsbee” was presented on stage on the University of Florida campus in University Auditorium it featured a special guest director.  Internationally acclaimed actor, Rip Torn, a good friend of Glisson, spent the week in Gainesville assisting with the play.  Torn, who received an Oscar nomination for his role in the movie “Cross Creek” filmed in the area, is also known for a noted acting career including “Men in Black I and II.”  Donna Green-Townsend talked with the actor about his decision to direct the play.

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Transcript of feature produced by Donna Green-Townsend on March 19, 1997 about J.T. Glisson’s play, “SIGSBEE” just after it was published.

Sigsbee flier0001Actor Fred Mullen reading from play script “Sigsbee,”— “In the trial of the case Cason v. Rawlings, it was our last chance to persuade them of the innocence of our client and their time to decide if Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Baskin was guilty or not guilty of “invading the privacy and slandering Zelma Cason.”

Defense attorney “Sigsbee Scruggs” spoke to a standing-room only crowd in the Gainesville courthouse in May of 1946.  Throughout the trial of Zelma Cason vs. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings a packed courthouse turned out each day to listen to a colorful cast of characters called upon from Cross Creek to defend the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author who was being sued for 100-thousand dollars by her close friend Zelma Cason.  The suit was over Rawlings description of Cason in the book “Cross Creek.”   Evinston author and first time playwright J. T. Glisson has retained a fascination for the trial and defense attorney “Sigsbee Scruggs” for 50 years….a fascination which lead him to interview Scruggs in the 1970s ….an interview now turned into a one-man play simply entitled “Sigsbee.”

J.T. Glisson said,  “ I was away in service when the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zelma Cason trial happened which was the biggest thing that happened in Gainesville up until that time.   And I thought I’m going to stop by and see Mr. Scruggs and let him tell me, because he was a wonderful storyteller anyway, and so he lived out on South Main Street in Gainesville and I went by his house and he knew my father well and he was polite enough to say he remembered me but, what he really remembered was me trailing along after my dad I’m sure, but he invited me in.”

Glisson fondly recalls Scruggs colorful play by play account of the Cason-Rawlings trial,   “..and then he told me who was sitting where.  How many people were there.  He gave me a brief description of the judge.  He described Zelma whom he was very, unfriendly towards.  Said she was a great lady and wonderful person, interesting, real fine lady and then he desribed Mrs. Rawlings.  Of course in the description though he said Mrs. Cason was a fine lady and interesting person and as good as anyone you ever knew, helped anybody out that she could but, profane.  He said Mrs. Rawlings, he pronounced Mrs. Rawwwwlings and he said Mrs. Rawwwwlings, a profane person also. ….”

Glisson remembers how his own father, Tom Glisson, a good friend of Rawlings, encouraged her to select Sigsbee Scruggs as part of her famous defense team, most of which came from out of town,

“He said, “yes, you’re  going to have a local jury and you bring in all that high-powered out-of-town stuff and it’s not going to go well and he said if you do that you ought to lose.  She said well who would you suggest and my dad said “You’re guilty, I would suggest Sigsbee Scruggs”

????????????????????????????Cason vs. Rawlings was just one of the more interesting cases involving Scruggs.  In his half century law practice in North Central Florida Glisson writes that Scruggs, a 1922 graduate of the University of Florida Law School, became notorious for his defense in a very unpopular murder trial and his defense of local fisherman against state game wardens.  Besides Alachua and Gilchrist, this son of a Baptist deacon frequently defended clients from Dixie, Lafayette, Taylor and Suwannee counties.  Even though a family lawyer, Sigsbee Scruggs hated divorce cases.  Glisson writes he considered them the most unpleasant part of his practice.  Glisson includes in his play one of the more unique divorce cases Scruggs turned around.  It was the divorce case of Sam Hemings vs. Beth Hemings.

Actor Fred Mullen performing a scene from the play, “I said I see you folks come into town nearly every Saturday and after you finish buying groceries I see your wife sitting in your pickup, waiting while you swig down three or four bottles of beer in that juke joint out on the High Springs road.  I think it is called the Heatwave.”

His ears turned red and his face went white.  He shouted, “You just hold on there, Sigsbee Scruggs!  What the hell does that have to do with a de’vorce?”

I said, “Before I answer that, Mr. Hemings when was the last time you took your wife to a picture show or treated her to a meal she didn’t cook.”

“Sigsbee” is J. T. Glisson’s first play.  He’s already achieved recognition  for his artistic abilities and most recently for authoring the book “The Creek” written about his early recollections of Cross Creek from an insider’s point of view.  “Sigsbee” is a new endeavor for the artist and is geared as a one-man play in two acts,

“I thoroughly enjoyed “Give ‘em Hell Harry.”  I saw the Will Rogers play which are both the same types of plays where you have one person who comes on the stage and they are that person.  And I envisioned it with only the props around him and one person who had to captivate an audience from the moment they walked out there and do it which can be done.  If they can be Sigsbee Scruggs, Sigsbee Scruggs could have held an audience for six hours.

Local playwright J. T. Glisson has high hopes for “Sigsbee.”  Already nationally acclaimed actor/director Rip Torn is considering bringing the production to stage in New York.  For Florida Public Radio, I’m Donna Green-Townsend.

Cross Creek Summer

(originally aired on WUFT-FM in August of 1997)

MKR on her porch(original intro) The first  weekend in August of 1997 kicked off the first annual Cross Creek Summer, Arts and Culture in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Florida.  Organizers hoped the week-long event would introduce people to the Florida Rawlings loved and attract those ecotourists looking for the real Florida. Donna Green-Townsend prepared this report.

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