I made my first visit to the Okefenokee Swamp in 1997. I wasn’t able set foot within the refuge again for many years, but I “visited” there weekly thanks to a great man, Okefenokee Joe. Being reptile enthusiasts, my friend and I had worn out our VHS copies of the PBS masterpieces, Swampwise and The Joy of Snakes. We stared wide-eyed at that old television set as Joe would drop a big Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake in a pillowcase and, fast as lighting, spin the bag and knot it. On our snake hunting excursions, my friend often went shirtless wearing blue jeans and boots to emulate Okefenokee Joe (although he didn’t have the same build as Joe!).
At the time, we didn’t know him as Dick Flood, the young front man for The Country Lads. But we were familiar with his Okefenokee music and his cassette was always playing in the car as we drove all night to another snake hunting destination. Swampwise was the “opening title track” to all of my snake hunts in my college days. And if I weren’t allergic to cats, I would most definitely have gotten one and named it Skeeter!
Since 2015 I’ve returned repeatedly to the Okefenokee Swamp and share most of these excursions with my young daughter. Thanks to smart phones music downloads (yes, Okefenokee Joe is on Spotify!), I was able to share Okefenokee Joe’s music with her while paddling the canals of the Okefenokee. That’s How a Gator has Fun is always our favorite paddling song. I chuckle as she frustratingly gets the chorus of Frog Giggin stuck in her head. And one our best experiences together was listening to The Everglades Symphony echo across the water and through the trees at dusk on the Big Water overnight camping platform.
More recently I purchased every book and CD available by Okefenokee Joe and Dick Flood. Being the gracious man that he is, he threw in a few autographed extras and sent me a nice email: “Hey Mr. William Wise! I am happy to make your acquaintance, and I am greatly honored by your kind words about Dick Flood and also this gigantic order you have placed, Do not believe I have ever received such a large order. Have to find a bigger box to put it all in. Ha ha ha! I can do that.” I plan to order a few more books for some aspiring young herpers in our Children’s Church.
His swamp music gets me in the right mindset – one of peace, tranquility and a simple life – when I sit to edit my photographs and work on blogs for my Okefenokee Photography Project. Reading Swampwise brings back all the stories I remember from the PBS shows we watched until the VHS tape was unplayable. And Snake Hunter Snake Talk – man, if we only had that book as aspiring young snake hunters in the 1990s! The devotional music on Because I Believe feeds my faith as a fellow born-again believer.
So what do you get a man like Dick Flood for his 90th birthday? Looking at his life, it is evident he already possesses all that matters: friends, family and faith. So I’ll just write him this birthday post and hope that those who follow this blog and don’t yet know Okefenokee Joe (is that possible???), will tap into the writings and music of the maestro that wrote the score of Okefenokee and the Old South. Happy Birthday Mr. Flood! You’re a good man.