The Everglades: From Beginning to End?
FIU Honors Seminar IDH 4007
Ain't No Denying It!
IDH 4007 Section 1
Journal Entry #6
There has never been a man who has epitomized the Ten
Thousand Islands area of Florida more than Edgar J. Watson.
Trying to understand the incomparable Mr. Watson is like trying to
navigate through those islands in the middle of the night. There
is just no way to do it. The following is one man's attempt to
illustrate how E.J. Watson still plays a role in the everyday
activities of the area. Here is one account of how more than just
the legend of Ed Watson still lives on:
Dear Old Friend,
The most peculiar thing happens to a person once they've
entered the city limits of Everglade City, Florida. It is almost
as if that proverbial "black cloud" just suddenly hovers over your
head. Only, it is not a "black cloud"; it is more like a big
black hat. Of course, only one man in Ten Thousand Island's
history can ever get away with wearing that black hat. That man
was Edgar J. Watson. "Who's Edgar J. Watson?" you ask. Why, he
is only the most infamous man in Chokoloskee history. The oddest
thing is that he has been dead since 1910 or so they say. But
I'll tell ya, Mr. Watson will live on forever.
Just let me tell ya a tale of how even today in 1997, Ed
Watson makes his presence felt all over these islands. It must've
been about three weeks ago when these dang college kids come west
from Dade to visit the Smallwood store and take a little boat tour
of the islands. Well, I can tell you that ain't no college
education sinking into them. They should have known that it was
gonna be a bad day when all that rain come down even before nine
It all started when they got to Ted's old store 'bout ten in
the morning. You see, there they were all wet and eager to hear
about Mr. Watson's life on Chatham Bend. Now, I've been in
Chokoloskee all my life and, I've seen so many city slickers come
in and out that there store it'll make your head spin. I am
certain that old Ted must be turning in his grave as he watches
all them people come in and out his store. Well, soon enough them
kids sat down in the southwest corner of the store where they got
all of Totch's videos playing. So, the kids sit there and listen
to their guest lecturer as he starts talking about the life and
times of E.J. Watson. About halfway through the lecture I meander
my way through their sitting area and head out the back door.
But, as I'm walking I make eye contact with one of them kids. He
was a fat feller. Must have been at least two hundred plus
pounds; but, that ain't the only reason I laid eyes on him. You
see, I looked at him because as I strolled through I noticed that
he couldn't take his slanty little eyes off of that picture of Mr.
Watson and Mrs. Watson and lovely young Carrie. Right then and
there, I knew. I knew he was the one!
You see, every once in a while a tourist will come through
Everglade City and do everything there is to do here. And, every
other once in a while there is a tourist who'll come through and
never leave. His body may leave but his heart and soul will be
here forever. And, if you are wondering where his heart and soul
will be; it'll be at that beautiful white plantation home on
Everyone says that E.J. died that day in 1910, but I sure as
heck don't believe a word they say. I've been here all my life
and, I know what I've seen. I have seen (with my own two eyes) a
man with auburn hair and a broad black hat covered in a dark
overcoat walking through the streets and riding a skiff out in
them entangled islands. Now, the funny thing is this figure
always has his back to me. So, I can't tell you it is Mr. Watson
for sure but, the betting man would definitely put his money on
Edgar J. Watson.
The most unusual thing about the dark figure is that he only
appears when some tourist has something unfortunate happen to him.
I swear that I'd seen E.J. that same morning before that class
come into town. I seen him out on Chokoloskee Bay grinning his
way into them lush tropical islands.
Anyhow, them kids went for lunch out towards what is now the
Everglades National Park Visitor Center. They all ate their
lunches except for the fat feller. They ate anything from
sandwiches to fruit to yogurt and not one bit of all that food
touched the lips of that plump boy. You see, it had already
begun. E.J. was playing with his mind. Back in the store, the
kid couldn't take his eyes off of Ed because Ed wouldn't take his
eyes off of him. It was as if Mr. Watson had said something to
the boy that no one else heard. Well, once E.J. has got their
attention he makes sure never let's it go.
About two o'clock them kids got on one of them boats and head
out on the bay towards all them mysterious islands. And, yes,
that kid still looked all dazed and confused. Sure enough, they
docked on Sandfly Key around three o'clock and, it was then that I
knew it was all over for this feller. Halfway into that deep
green trail on Sandfly Key, the other kids claim they heard
something like a buckshot out of a double-barrel shotgun. Now, if
that wasn't enough to scare the daylights out of them, they
noticed that the fat kid was gone. At first, they figured he was
just pulling some wild prank but, soon enough, they began to worry
that maybe he was lost out there in the wilderness. So, they set
up a search party see if they could find him before dark. The
only thing worse than being lost in the Ten Thousand Islands is
being lost in the Ten Thousand Islands at night. Just about when
they'd given up, the rangers and others heard a scream. It'd come
from just about where that patch of cactus was growing. There he
was! The other kids say that when they found him he was sucking
on his thumb and his cap had been knocked of his head. One of the
rangers told me that cap was so full of buckshot holes that it
reminded him of a block of Swiss cheese. Now, I saw that fat
feller as he left this place and let me assure that E.J. Watson
got to him. They had to call an ambulance for that boy. One of
the rangers told me that the boy was still in a catatonic phase
and, the doctors said they can't tell when he come out. If you
ask me, there ain't no way that boy is ever coming back out.
"Why?" you ask. Well, because E.J. Watson has got his heart and
soul down there on Chatham Bend.
Later that night I could have sworn I heard a deep chuckle
coming from those islands and, I'll bet you anything that it was
Mr. Watson laughing at his newest addition to the plantation.
Now, I can't tell you why it is that Edgar J. Watson still haunts
the Ten Thousand Islands area but, my guess is that he is just
taking care of some unfinished business and loving every minute of
Please make sure that you take care of yourself and your kin
if you ever come to Everglade City because Mr. Watson may just be
waiting for you.
"Little" Robbie Watson
P.S. I guarantee you that Grampa is just fine."
There is some question as to who the author of the letter is
but, if it is the grandson of Mr. Watson it would definitely be
quite a development. You see, it was believed that none of the
Watson clan has ever come back to this part of the world in fear
that they might be executed in the same fashion dear old Mr.
Watson was. Nonetheless, it appears that one thing is certain:
apparently, Mr. Watson has never left the Ten Thousand Islands.
If there was ever a man who belonged in the Ten Thousand Islands,
his name would have to be Watson.
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