I went over to North Fort Myers on the western side of Florida to visit old and new friends at Carefree Resort, a very nice women's community. I stayed with Chic & Marilyn, maybe you'll remember those names, as I stayed with them before both at Carefree and in upstate NY this past summer. Linda Panthen was there this week with her motorhome - she is just getting started as a fulltimer after retiring from a job with Home Depot in Rensselaer, NY in November. I also recognized other people I met in prior years or at the RVW National Convention in Charleston, SC in September.
While there, I drove over to Pine Island, which is the size of Manhattan, but very rural with only a couple of two story buildings on it! There is a rich cultural heritage on this island, because it is believed that the center of the Calusa Indians was situated here. They called their village Tampa, but map makers goofed and put Tampa further north, where it is today. I found the Randell Research Center and walked along the Calusa Heritage Trail to learn alot about these Native Americans.
Calusa Indians were prosperous, powerful, and artistic people who lived in Southwest Florida for hundreds of years before finally being driven out in the 1700s. Spaniards tried to control them and convert them to Christianity in the 1500s without success. Other Indians and colonists captured them and sold them into slavery, before those that remained were able to flee to Cuba.
They built their abodes on top of shell mounds, built up from empty shells after eating the meat within. In other words, they used their trash to their advantage because the mounds raised them up from sea level and allowed them to see all around them better. Some of the mounds are still present, although not nearly as high as they were originally. There is one remnant of the canal system they also built to allow them to travel from their homes to the waters all around them. They buried their dead in a sand mound that was set apart from their village and surrounded by water, like a moat. They had sophisticated rituals and spiritual beliefs which were different from other Indians that I read about. The Caloosahatchie River which runs through Fort Myers means "River of the Caloosa" - an English spelling of Calusa.
I had lunch at a local eatery on the south end of the island, which is more populous. When I walked in about noon, there were only a few tables occupied, but by the time I left the place was packed. The 2 waitresses knew almost everybody and what they usually ate and drank. I had a cheeseburger and fries - what else?
On the way back over "the fishingest bridge", I stopped to wander the street of the town called Matlacha (Mat-la-shay) because the buildings/stores were small(cracker houses), colorful, and full of eclectic artwork. I was especially taken with all the wall ornaments of the sun. They should be featured on the Sunday Morning show! This town also has a little park with separate boat and kayak/canoe ramps. I'll have to come back here with my kayak!