Beautiful Apala-chee-olla Bay
By Richard E. Noble
“Well, here we are son, at beautiful Apala-chee-olla Bay. I can hardly believe it. We made it boy!”
The man doing the talking above was old and gray and his “boy” was in his thirties or forties. They were standing on the shore at Marion Millender’s campground in Eastpoint. Carol and I were getting all our paraphernalia out on the dock ready to get at it. The old man and his buddy standing there on the hill looking out at the hundreds of boats dotting Cat Point were bursting with smiles. I knew they were strangers here. First of all this wasn’t “Apala-chee-olla” Bay. It was Apalachicola Bay.
They weren’t really touristy looking though. Not too many tourists camped at the Millender Campground. It was a work camp. Everyone who camped there was in the business. There were some that were from Sopchoppy or Wewa, but the majority were locals and everybody oystered.
“Where you guys from?” I asked in passing.
“We’re from Elkhart, Indiana and I’ve been dreaming about this trip to Apala-chee-olla Bay for over 35 years now.” The man spoke in an apocryphal manner. It felt like he was Moses and he was announcing his arrival at the land of Canaan to an army of loyal followers.
“No kidding. Why would you be dreaming about Apalachicola of all places?”
“Well, I worked making travel trailers up in Elkhart, Indiana nearly all my life. I worked at the same place for 40 years. I always wondered where the people who bought the camper-trailers I made went after they bought ‘em. I subscribed to the National Geographic Magazine. And in one issue a long, long time ago they had this story about Apala-chee-olla Bay. They had pictures and everything. In fact, I think one of those photographers was standing right here where I’m standing now when he took some of those pictures.”
“Really? Did he take a picture of all the boats out on Cat Point?”
“He sure did. It looked just like it does today. It was fantastic. This is like a dream come true. I always wanted to be here but I never thought that I would ever be able to do it. What do you think about all this, son? Ain’t it great? Isn’t it just like you thought it would be?” His son just gave his head a little twitch and beamed another big grin.
I couldn’t believe these two guys were for real. But I knew exactly how they felt. Ever since Carol and I took off from Miami in our van camper and hit the road, I was thrilled at everything. I was taking pictures of the highway dividing line on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was demanding that my wife pull over to the side of the road at every new hill, stream, river or mountain. Just like these two guys, I was seeing things I never really thought I ever would get to see.
I wrote a book about the whole thing, Hobo-ing America. I sent it off to this agent in New York City. She sent it back with a post note that read; YES, BUT WHY?
This rich lady in New York looking out her window on the 65th floor of her high rise office building didn’t get it. She wanted to know ‘Why’. She probably had a home in New York, one in Miami and another in LA. She probably never had to dream about going someplace; she just went. She didn’t have a job; she had a “career.”
But this guy here on the hill at Marion Millender’s Oyster Camp knew WHY. I didn’t have to explain it to him.
But I had forgotten how great it was to be living and working right here on the water’s edge at beautiful Apalachicola Bay myself. In our travels Carol and I had been fortunate enough to see not only Apalachicola Bay but Biscayne Bay, Tampa Bay, the Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, Mobile Bay and Lake Pontchartrain, the waterfront in Seattle Washington and the Great Lakes in Michigan. We had traveled up the East and West Coasts. We chugged up and over the Rocky Mountains. We camped at Cayucos in Northern California and caught buckets full of tiny red fish in Estero Bay. We fished off fishing piers everywhere. I had grown accustomed to looking and living near beautiful bays and oceans and water. It felt good to look at the “factory” I now worked on through the eyes of somebody who saw it as I once had seen it.
“Hey, how would you guys like to go out on a real oyster boat?” I asked. They started bouncing up and down. “We’re going to be out there all day, now,” I warned, “so you had best pack a lunch and get your cameras.”
They ran back to their camper and were back in a flash. They stayed on the boat with us the entire day. They just loved it! We closed off the day eating raw oysters, drinking beer and watching the sun go down in a burst of pink on the horizon. They took pictures of everything.
No, I didn’t have to explain it to those two guys. Yes sir, they knew WHY!
Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. If you would like to stock any of his books in your store or business contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-850-670-8076.