“Cause in the swamp I’m surrounded by my old friends…”
He stood in front of me bare chested, was 400 feet tall, wore a straw hat, a red bandana around his neck,
and had a machete in his mouth.
I had just spent several days in the backseat of a 1957 Chevy.
I was 7.
My parents had just driven from Buffalo, NY to Miami, Florida without the help of any Interstates.
It was 5 days on Route 1-S.
The 400 foot tall bare chested machete in the mouth man was now growling at me.
Every other year we would make the trek south to spend Christmas with my Uncle Sandy and Aunt Rita.
Uncle Sandy was a Lieutenant in the Miami Beach Police Department, he was the first person to ever hand me a coconut that wasn’t in a can.
The 400 foot tall bare chested man had a string of teeth around his neck.
The first beach I ever stood on had the Atlantic Ocean attached to it. It was December, I was in white “Clam Diggers,” and sandals, back home my friends were in snowsuits and “Artics” (winter boots).
And suddenly the 400 foot tall bare chested man yelled, “Who goes there,” but…since this was the first time I had ever goed anywhere I didn’t in fact know where it was that I was going, but I did know that in some very short seconds I was going to cry.
I was pretty sure though when the 400 foot tall bare chested man yelled asking where I goes, he didn’t want to hear I was goes to crying.
But I couldn’t run away.
I was standing on this rickety old rope bridge thing (that 40 years later would once again freak me out in Disney’s Wild Kingdom) and I couldn’t turn around because I was about to cry ‘cuse I was afraid of letting go of the ropes.
“WHO GOES THERE!”
That did it, I start wheezing and crying and I cry even harder when I realize my inhaler is probably a million miles away in a snowbank in Buffalo.
“I SAID WHO…”
And the 400 foot tall bare chested man sees me crying and wheezing and maybe just a few moments away from peeing my pants..
“WHO…Donnie, are you Donnie Barone…”
And the 4 ½ foot tall crying, wheezing, possibly peeing in his “Clam Digger” pants boy from Buffalo, tries to hold in some sniffles and the stuff that runs out your nose in a time like this and looks up at the 400 foot tall bare chested man holding a machete and in crying heaves says to the man…
“…that cold dark water…”
The 400 foot bare chested man with the machete in his mouth was named, Glover.
In all the years that I knew him, I never knew his last name, I never asked, he never said.
At our first meeting there when I said “No,” I wasn’t Donnie Barone he suddenly started belly laughing, dropped his machete and reached out onto the rope bridge, picked me up under my arms and gave me a hug bare chested bear hug while laughing all the time, and saying to my Uncle Sandy, who was standing just a foot behind me so I wouldn’t fall, said to Uncle Sandy, “Love this kid…I’m keeping this one.”
And he did, every other year when we went to Florida for Christmas vacation I would spend one week at my Aunt & Uncles home, and one week out in the Everglades with Glover.
Only Glover, and Uncle Sandy knew that at:
Age 9, I was given the stick to my first Air Boat drive.
Age 11, I went on my first Alligator hunt.
Age 13, took my first (and only) gator.
To me, there are only a few magical people, a few magical places on earth, and my dear, now passed, friend Glover, is one, and his home where he lived in a thatched hut without electricity, The Everglades, is another.
Glover took a crying, wheezing, may be peeing kid from the city of Buffalo, NY, and showed me a place on earth that a city kid could never imagine.
To me, the ‘Glades, are sacred ground. I don’t see, Swamps, when I cross the Bayou, I see my friend Glover, and his love for what he only called, “Home.”
So when I went to meet and do a story with T-Roy Broussard, B.A.S.S. Opens Angler, and one of the stars of the History Channel’s hit show, Swamp People, I didn’t care much about him and TV, didn’t care much about him and gators.
What I wanted to know about was him,