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Long Water, Gone

by Rachel L. Schmidt

Just a dusty one-horse, wagon train stop whose entire existence and provision were indebted to the rutted path that bumped down the middle, and the lumber ferried across Tohopekaliga from Paradise Island, the little settlement of Allendale trembled on the edge of the Lake of the Sleeping Tiger like an afterthought to a critical conversation. The scattered huts sheltering the few brave citizens lounged under shimmering waves of Florida sunshine, enjoying the primitive remoteness of their situation while it lasted. The resounding clang and thud of nine-pound hammers, a whoosh and blast of torrid steam, the piercing scream of steel on steel, and the Sugarbelt Railway plowed its time-changing way from Peghorn Junction—hauling cane from Disston’s Mill—over Allendale’s helpless wagon path through the middle of what would soon become a town—and then a city—and one day a raging economy of sun-burned, short-sleeved, snow-bird vacationers: Kissimmee: a place where the few lonely remaining descendants of those first dusty settlers spend their days wishing for the golden coming-of-age years just after the railroad, when the city teemed with green fields of blue and white Brahma cattle and groves upon groves of orange trees glistening in the sun, with rain singing at night and cicadas drumming away the afternoon. My own grandmother sits in her dark living room peopled with ghosts and dreams of the down-town days when the Schmidts owned the corner pharmacy, the family medical practice, and the auto-mechanic shop, before the city was squeezed in the tightening grip of theme parks, monstrous hotels, and acres of Crayola-cardboard apartment complexes; progress; growth; change; the future of innocent Allendale.