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A Lesson Before Dying

The novel, A Land Remembered, is the epic saga of three generations of MacIveys. The novel begins with a flash back, from the last generation MacIvey, Sol. Sol was a real estate tycoon in Miami and the surrounding areas. He has chosen to give up his life in Miami to live his last hours in the cabin in Punta Rassa , Florida; the cabin his grandfather had built. Thus, the three generations of MacIveys in Florida ends. The first generation of MacIveys consisted of the father and husband, Tobias, the mother and wife, Emma, and their young son, Zech.

The family had decided to escape the pressures of the Civil War in their native Georgia, and move to the scrub of Northern Florida. The MacIveys experience many troubles and learn many new things during their stay in the scrub, such as meeting Indians, that will turn out to influence their life greatly. Other experiences included Tobias being recruited by Marshall Adler to drive cattle to the confederate troops and also being recruited to chop trees to build walls of defense for the confederate forces. During the excursion to chop down trees, confederate deserters raided Emma and Zech and burned down their house.

Tobias and Emma made the decision that the war was getting to close to the scrub, and that moving South would be a good idea. The MacIvey clan packed up their wagon and headed south along the St. Johns and Kissimmee rivers and settled in a hammock along the Kissimmee river. In Kissimmee is where Tobias begins his empire that turns the family into one of the wealthiest families in Florida. In the swamps of Florida, wild cows live and Tobias tries his best to capture these cows and make a drive, but without horses and dogs, Tobias makes little headway in his project.

In the woods one day, Skillet, a freed slave, was found. Skillet agreed to stay on with the MacIveys and help them start their empire. Dogs and a marshtackie were given to the MacIveys by their Indian friends they helped in the scrub. The MacIveys now popped cows out of the swamp and their first drive to Punta Rassa ended in a disaster with all the cows being lost to a great flood. The determined MacIveys never looked back and gathered another heard and the whole clan drove the cows to Punta Rassa.

In Punta Rassa, the cows were sold for fifteen dollars a head and the MacIvey empire begins. Also on this first trip, Hendry, the cattle buyer, bets a 150 acres of land that Ishmael, Zechs marshtackie, cant beat his bay horse. Ishmael beats him and the MacIveys got the deed. The MacIveys begin to make drives often where many events take place, such as Tobias and Zech meeting the Indians in the Everglades, Zech meeting Glenda, his wife, and Tawanda, his Indian lover, and the beginning of Tobias citrus empire.

The first generation MacIveys acquire land and prosper but eventually Emma dies, and Tobias soon follows. The second generation involves Zech, Glenda, and their son Sol, who concentrate on citrus and acquire valuable land in what is now Miami and Biscayne Bay. Glenda dies in a freak accident with a cow, and Zech dies crossing a flooded stream and drowning. Sol leaves Kissimmee to start a vegetable business in the everglades which prospers. Sol meets Bonnie, but never marries her because he saw his father and grandfather mourn over their wives, yet she lives with him.

Bonnie dies in a hurricane and Sol retires to his mansion on Biscayne Bay where he lives his years in solitude, until he decides he needs to move back to the cabin in Punta Rassa. The character of Tobias, in my opinion, was the most influential character of the book. His personality was that of a strong-willed cracker trying to live and make it in the uncharted lands of Florida. A particular occurrence of Tobias being strong-willed was a scene where Tobias was driving cows over railroad tracks. A train came and ran over some of his cows.

After a period of exchanging words, Tobias picked up his gun and blew a huge gash in the boiler of the train. Tobias was also quite loving, but he didnt get around to do much loving until the one he loved was gone. Tobias also lived the American dream in a land that seemed so far away from the governmental centers along the eastern seaboard. Tobias had packed his belongings in a wagon and set off to find a better life, and he found that in his citrus groves and cattle drives in Kissimmee. Tobias personality allowed him to get along well with other people, such as Skillet and the Indians.

On their first cattle drive, Skillet was asked to eat outside the cafe, but Tobias wouldnt have that, because he was family, and he went as far as threatening the server with his double barrel shotgun, which many people said resembled a cannon. Tobias relations with the Indians also proved to be of good use as the two parties helped each other through difficult times. Tobias acted uniquely because he knew that if he was kind to the people he interacted with, he would receive something in return.

Tobias only weakness was that he didnt do enough for Emma, until it was too late. Tobias had the heart of ten men and was a great leader as he led his family into a foreign land and aimlessly to a Babylon by the name of Punta Rassa. The setting the author, Smith, portrays is unbelievably accurate. Smith talks of many things that specifically include the description of the type of people that settled around the state, the landscape of the vast inner region of Florida, the tropical paradise of nineteenth century Miami, and the landscape of the Great Cypress Swamp.

Smith wrote of how the coasts were being filled up with the Yankees, and Don Groom said, ” All the Yankees congregate on the seacoasts. You get two miles inland and youre in deep Cracker country. Alligator hunters. Cattle Ranchers. Seminoles. ” The inner part of the state is portrayed as a grassy plain with palmetto clumps dotting the landscape, and the Big Cypress Swamp is described as being an area where trees touch the sky and your feet touch the water. Both of these descriptions are accurate and can be proved by not only referring to books and pictures but also exploring our Florida that has never changed.

Smith also writes of a trip to Miami, that Zech, Glenda, and Sol take, in which he describes the lush tropical atmosphere and a particular woman name Julia Tuttle who sent an orange blossom to Flagler after a freeze had damaged all of the citrus in the north. All of these descriptions are accurate, even the citrus blossom sent to Flager, by a woman named Julia Tuttle. The people of nineteenth century Florida were not by any means advanced, yet incredibly diverse. Crackers, Seminoles, and easterners all shared the land and what it had to offer, each group making a living.

Life in the center of the state was hard and coast life had more amenities. People in Cracker country feared fires and floods, and coast people feared hurricanes, but would stand up to the weather to live in their tropical paradise. I can honestly say that this book was the best book I have ever read. Patrick Smith does an excellent job of not only keeping all the facts accurate, but portraying the life of a nineteenth century Floridian accurately. The accuracy was absolutely phenomenal.

Names of people were historically accurate, names of cities, steamboats, even trading posts were exact. This book had a special meaning for me because I have seen many of these sites as I traveled around Florida, and it gave me the feeling that would be equal to reading the Count of Monte Cristo while overlooking the Champs Elysees. I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend it to anyone, so that they too can experience the life of a Florida Cracker turned millionaire family of Florida.

Throughout all three generations of MacIveys, all of the MacIvey men lose a woman who is so close to them and all of them realize once they are gone, that they didnt do enough for their loved one, when they easily could have. Tobias had three trunks full of Spanish gold, and all he did for Emma was buy her a cook stove. Zech had even more trunks of Spanish gold, and he never took Glenda on the trips to the far away places she wanted to go. Sol had a multimillion acre vegetable business and owned half of Miami, and he never married Bonnie, yet, when he lost her, he missed her like his wife.

I believe that Smith is trying to make us realize that you shouldnt take for granted what you have, when they do so much for you. These lessons are ageless, and can be applied to todays society as well as to the first ever society. A Land Remembered is a novel that truly is the epitome of a saga, that spans the trials and tribulations of three generations of the MacIvey family as they enter Florida as a family destined to start a better life and die out as one of the wealthiest families in Florida.

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