Little Houses on the Prairies

Panorama of Chesser Prairie. Cypress houses and hammocks on the horizon. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia, USA. October 24, 2020. ©


“​The prairies – the swamp folk’s name for the open flooded marshes – are filled with a tropical luxuriance of water plants and resemble wide grassy meadows. They are dotted with wooded islets, commonly called ‘houses’ because they have enough dry land to furnish camp sites for the hunters of deer, bear, wildcats, raccoon, otter, and other small animals that live in the swamp. Maiden cane growls in dense green masses three or four feet high, and there rice rats and Florida water rats, together with the bittern, make their nests. Katydids sway on the green tips in the sunshine and dive from them into the cool water. Gators travel over the prairies from one pool to another, through acres of white and gold water lilies, beds of cream-white arrowheads and bluish pickerelweed. They are often the swamper’s trail blazers; the boatman finds easier poling down the lanes that the gators have opened through the thick reeds and water plants.”

Cecile Matschat’s work published in 1938 by the Literary Guild of America is full of colorful stories of the Swampers that lived in the Okefenokee, exciting folklore encounters with bear, boar and cannibal alligators, as well as scientific descriptions of the flora and fauna of the great swamp. It a worthwhile purchase if you come across a used copy of this collectible out-of-print treasure of Okefenokee literature.

  • Matschat, Cecile Hulse, and Key Alexander. Suwannee River: Strange Green LandThe Literary Guild of America, Inc., 1938.

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