Thursday, April 9, 2015

On The Road To Tybee - Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings

Friends Carol And Jeff Sutor live in Tybee Island, Georgia.  Most of you will remember a trip last year to see them and a side trip to Savannah.  Another trip to this gem location about 6 hours from Bedlam seemed like a great idea, particularly since we were invited. 

Getting there is almost as much fun as being there.  I quick trip up to Ocala on 75 through Tampa, and then veering off into the Florida scrub country magically gets you away from the traffic and cement of the city.  Once you get past this long stretch of small towns and much to see on either side, then you approach Jacksonville and then back into interstate driving.  But that interior stretch is mesmerizing - it is like seeing the real Florida, past the modern rush into a slower more majestic Southern aura that is fetchingly hospitable yet mysterious as well, perhaps with a tinge of danger. 

Nestled in the heart of this region is a small home along the road that we passed at first, then turned back to investigate with some more depth.  It was the Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings home.  MKR was a Pulitzer Prize winning author of such novels as The Yearling,   The Sojourner and Cross Creek.   Besides her literary skills, she was also a hard-drinking,  cigarette smoking independent lady who carved an existence in the Florida wilderness.   Born in Washington D.C and educated in Wisconsin, she adopted Florida and grew to love it.  

The next few days will focus on her home and the Savannah trip.  

It is a fairly long walk from the parking area to her home.  The main road, on Route 301, now paved was dirt in the  30's and 40's. She received an inheritance from her mother and she and her husband, a Mr. Rawlings bought this 70 acre orange grove out in the sticks.  

This typical Florida cracker-box style house was on stilts to allow for a breeze to cool the underside.   It remains virtually unchanged from when MKR occupied the place last in the early 50's.  

This is the front of the home with the road running in front.  The porch was not screened in her time, however, which is one of the modifications, along with a wooden roof, which was originally metal.  

All of the furniture on the porch and inside were hers.  Not much has been changed since her death in 1953.  It should be noted the car is not hers, but is similar to one she drove.  By the way she never met a speed limit she obeyed.  because of her fast and often wild driving she need up stuck a lot of the time.  When she needed help from the neighbors she had a bell out in the yard she'd ring and they'd come to assist her.  

The porch dining table was original along with the typewriter, ash tray and pack of Camel's.

All of the books you see inside in the living room were Marjorie's, as well as the furniture.  

When she moved into this house, MKR hated the single lightbulbs hanging from the ceilings.  There was too bright so she went into the kitchen and got a series of mixing bowls and used them as soften the lighting.  

This is the other side of the room.  It looks cozy and nice.  Another strange feature, I thought, was that there were several fireplaces in the home.  There is no heating in the home, and there are times, even in Florida in winter, when it can get pretty cool.  

Mr. Rawlings and Morjorie divorced shortly after Marjorie bought the orange grove.  He couldn't stand Florida and the scrub country.   More on this fascinating home and lady, in upcoming posts.   

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