He has come here to die…

​A spooky excerpt from A Florida Sketch-Book, by naturalist Bradford Torrey, written in 1895:

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, perched on a dead Cypress with Spanish Moss; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 5, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

​There—going one day farther than usual—I found myself in the borderland of a cypress swamp. On one side was the lake, but between me and it were cypress-trees; and on the other side was the swamp itself, a dense wood growing in stagnant black water covered here and there with duckweed or some similar growth: a frightful place it seemed, the very abode of snakes and everything evil. Stories of slaves hiding in cypress swamps came into my mind. It must have been cruel treatment that drove them to it!

Buzzards flew about my head, and looked at me. “He has come here to die,” I imagined them saying among themselves. “No one comes here for anything else. Wait a little, and we will pick his bones.” They perched nearby, and, not to lose time, employed the interval in drying their wings, for the night had been showery. Once in a while one of them shifted his perch with an ominous rustle. They were waiting for me, and were becoming impatient. “He is long about it,” one said to another; and I did not wonder.

Cypress Trees, Spanish Moss, blackwater of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 5, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com

The place seemed one from which none who entered it could ever go out; and there was no going farther in without plunging into that horrible mire. I stood still, and looked and listened. Some strange noise, “bird or devil,” came from the depths of the wood. A flock of grackles settled in a tall cypress, and for a time made the place loud. How still it was after they were gone!

I could hardly withdraw my gaze from the green water full of slimy black roots and branches, any one of which might suddenly lift its head and open its deadly white mouth! All about me gigantic cypresses, every one swollen enormously at the base, rose straight and branchless into the air. Dead trees, one might have said,—light-colored, apparently with no bark to cover them; but if I glanced up, I saw that each bore at the top a scanty head of branches just now putting forth fresh green leaves, while long funereal streamers of dark Spanish moss hung thickly from every bough.

The dismal swamp had me under its spell, and meanwhile the patient buzzards looked at me. “It is almost time,” they said; “the fever will do its work,”—and I began to believe it.


iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32788894

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: