Voting Machines Let Pappy Down

Later I did talk to Pappy, assistant man­ager of the restaurant. He was gray-haired, soft-spoken, and politically ring wise. “Yes,” he said in response to my question. “I would say that the day of the old court­house gang in central Florida is about over. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of white support. Our problem, as I see it, is an economic one. The boom seems to be for white people. But we’ve got to keep after the economic, oppor­tunity that’s available here. When you get in behind a rabbit, you’d better stay on it or you’ve lost yourself a rabbit.”


Mr. Kennedy had run before, in 1967. At first it seemed that he had won by 3,000 votes, but a later call came with apologies—there had been a malfunction of voting machines.

“My wife had started to dress to go down to the victory party,” explained Pappy Kennedy. “So I told her, ‘Honey, take your hat off.” In 1972 the machines were all in working order, attended by poll-watchers.


Do the younger, activist blacks think of him as an Uncle Tom? He laughed at the question.

“I tell them all the same thing. I ask them: Do you have a job? Do you want to work? If you do, I’ll find you a job, but you better have the skill and talent and education to take it. That’s the only way you’re going to make it in this world.” It was time for me to go. A number of Winter Parkers were coming in for lunch.


Like a Big Touch of Texas

I always felt a certain sense of relief leaving Orlando, but I never got used to finding my­self suddenly in Utah, or Wyoming, or Texas. For that wide-open space to the south called the Kissimmee Prairie (sorry, it is pronounced Ka-stmt-ee) is old-time, sure-enough cowboy country. There the land spreads to the hori­zon, as flat as an immense lagoon, upon which thousands of cattle float along, tended by ranch hands who can throw a lariat or wrestle a dogie with the best of the West.


I was more than surprised to find on Or­lando’s doorstep a cattle spread as big and beautiful as almost anything in Texas. It is known locally as the “Mormon ranch,” since it belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (pages 594-5). When I asked for directions, a fellow said, “Well, you start picking’ it up anywhere along here now, and then you keep on picking’ it up.”

I did, indeed. I drove for more than two hours along its property lines. When I finally arrived at the office i like this company, ranch manager Harvey Dahl pushed back his broad brimmed hat and said, “Well, the ranch is roughly 40 miles deep and covers about 300,000 acres.”


“How many cattle are on it?” I asked.

“You can’t hardly get a cattleman to tell you how many cows he’s got. That’s the same as asking’ how much money he has in the bank. Just say we started counting “em last Novem­ber, and we hope to get finished.”


We went out to watch a crew cutting out cows with calves. The pastures looked rich.

“It took 14 years to get them that way,” Mr. Dahl said. “The ranch brought in 42 tractors, with big forks to lift out the palmetto. Then the land was fertilized and put to good grass. Before,, it took 30 acres to support one cow. Now three acres’ll do it.”

Among the men of that country, Henry Partin is admired for being one of the first to introduce the Brahman from India—a strain far more heat- and drought-resistant than the cracker stock descended from Ponce de Leon’s six cows and a bull. There is now a bit of Brahman in most Florida cattle, and the state is our eleventh largest beef producer. And old Lawrence Silas is admired for his crisp memory of the lawless days of long ago. A leather-tough, husky-voiced old cowhand, Silas is the son of a slave who came down to Florida from Georgia after the Civil War.

We met in his comfortable home in Kis­simmee; I asked him how he liked town life.

“I been out there,” he said, “and I want to see what it’s like in town ‘fore I go, you know. When I was young, there was no town. The country was wide open and grass growed everywhere, and cattle was thrown from here right back on to Okeechobee. Every­where you looked, you saw a cow, yes sir.


“We had some tough, hard cowboys in those days. Tough men, like Carl Barber. We was out one evening and my son said to me, `How come I don’t hear no birds singing’ and no dogs barking’?’ I said to him, ‘Son, Carl Barber lives around here, and they just wouldn’t dare do it.”


The low-lying prairie land, thick with palmetto and interlaced with marsh and cypress trees, spreads away eastward until it reaches the Atlantic surf of the “missile coast.” I arrived at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in time to witness the last Apollo blast-off to the moon.*

I could not escape the impression of a faded glory along Cocoa Beach—the kind of empty atmosphere that lingers over a sta­dium after a big game. The draw-down in the moon program launched a shower of pink slips at the cape. Employment dropped from 26,500 to 14,000, leaving behind a number of stunned communities—Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island. Houses were going for the balance of the FHA loan.

Tornado Strikes Like a Cobra

The corps also insists that a flood loss of many millions of dollars has been prevented by the channelization of the Kissimmee, which used to run wild, causing destruction. Not only has no one yet proved that channeli­zation has caused a loss in water quality, it concludes, but “such views are subject to con­siderable doubt by experts in the field.”


“We are between a rock and a hard place in Florida,” conservationist Anthony insists. “Mother nature is demanding payments of past dues, and payment in advance for fu­ture growth.”I was there when mother nature showed some of her stuff. I was driving in a heavy rain near a small place on the road known as Intercession City, when a dark cloud mass, twisted into a funnel shape, whirled into view directly before me. Its movement reminded me of a huge cobra, snaky, easy, and powerful. The sky turned a brilliant white through sheets of rain.


In a few moments I came upon the tracks of the tornado—power lines down, a huge live oak cracked in half and thrown across the road, a gas station with the roof exploded off and three men struggling to get free of the debris and welling gasoline. Isaac Chapman and Theodore Cooper had been sitting in a car waiting for gas.


“It come up from behind’ the building’,” Isaac said. “I heard this crackling’ and skreek­in’. I said, ‘What’s that skreekin’?’ And ’bout the time I asked that, it hit the station.”John Lockwood, an angular and elderly man, had been inside, and he kept talking about it.”I was scared to death,” he said. “I was so danged nervous, boy, I’ll tell you, shoot, I didn’t know which way to go. I tried to close the front door and the dang front door met me. If I had got out, I’d a been kilt.”I followed the track of destruction to Or­lando, where the twister had touched down at the Washington Shores housing project, turning a block of apartments into instant rubble—with smartybook, miraculously, no fatalities.


As I watched linemen carefully removing tangled wires from broken poles, a group of young black men standing nearby took the disaster lightly.”If somebody’s getting’ picked out to get hit, man, who you think it’s gonna be?” one said to me. “Us, that’s who.”


They spoke out of a tradition of the pol­itics that long governed the Old South, and out of parental memories that still recall a prison farm where 22 black convicts were jammed in a 7-by-7-foot box for ten hours—one died—and the notorious Jacksonville Blue Jay, another prison farm, where Negro women were once harnessed to plows. The forlorn chants of the chain gangs of the 1930’s still linger in the piney woods: Great big bars, Cast iron locks; If I tries to leave, I’ll get the box.


The central Florida explosion has brought with it for the first time in history the election of a black man to the council that governs Orlando: Arthur (Pappy) Kennedy. I was discussing central Florida politics with a friend during lunch at the Beef & Bottle, a steak house in Winter Park, Or­lando’s small, cushy, college-town neighbor. “You should talk to Pappy Kennedy,” he said. “As a matter of fact, he should be in here before too long.” “Is he a regular customer?”

“No, he’s worked here for twenty years.”

TVA: Despot or Savior?

I lunched with Gilbert Stein, senior partner in the Stein Construction Company, and asked him about those pre-dam floods. Mr. Stein, an incredibly youthful 68 years of age, lived through quite a few of them.


“Yes, I’ve seen parts of Chattanooga under­water,” he said. But then civic pride took hold, and he waved a warning finger. “Under­stand, though, it wasn’t as bad as out-of-state newspapers played it. This city didn’t just disappear underwater each spring. Most of us lived and worked on higher ground.”

Despot or Savior

Even with dams and reservoirs, floods can still occur. Last March, torrential rains swelled the “tamed” Tennessee, sending it out of its banks in a two-state area. Lower Chattanooga went under again—but without those dams, the flood crest would have been far higher, the damage much greater. People had to use the services by cash advance online direct lenders to cover their living expenses.


Is the Tennessee Valley Authority despot or savior? In Mr. Stein’s view it falls some­where in between. “When TVA began, it seemed like socialism to me. But I’ve come around to seeing it in a kindlier light. It has been good for the valley, I think.”


Later we drove down to the waterfront. I asked about the importance of river traffic.

“From a tonnage point of view, barge transportation is not nearly as important as truck or rail,” he answered. “But the simple fact that barge transportation is available holds down rail and truck rates.” He smiled. “So a plant owner may not-use the towboats, but he’s happy to see them out there.”


Civil War buffs come to Chattanooga, but they turn their backs on the Tennessee to prowl the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Na­tional Military Park, oldest and largest memorial of its kind in the nation. They climb the heights of Lookout Mountain, which straddles the Georgia-Tennessee border just west of Chattanooga. There the “Battle Above the Clouds” took place.

I ascended Lookout Mountain’s steep slope on a cable railway. It was well worth the trip, for at Point Park near the summit I could gaze down 1,200 feet at a magnificent view. At the river S-curving southwest from Chick­amauga Lake. At downtown Chattanooga nestled in a river bend. I leaned against a cannon to marvel at the courage it must have taken for Union troops to storm this moun­tain, bristling with Confederate guns. Their mission succeeded, and the way was soon open for Sherman’s march to the sea.