Florida is a watery state. No place on this shrinking peninsula is more than 60 miles from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. It has 320 known springs, 20 rivers, 700 streams, 4 major aquifers, and many lakes. Some are huge like Lake Okeechobee. Orlando has several water parks including Aquatica, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Ruth and I did not get wet while there. We ended up seeking smaller pleasures.
The Timucuan Indians, who lived in what would become the State of Florida for 12,000 years, used local and abundant cypress trees to make dugout canoes that became their main means of transportation. They were interesting people. Timucuan men let their fingernails grow long to, it’s assumed, use them in fighting enemies. They created huge trash heaps, some 75 feet tall, that became archaeologists’ delights. I learned a lot about them in the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando.
This is not your typical local culture museum. It’s a 5 Compass Smithsonian affiliate situated in an old courthouse with both excellent temporary and permanent displays. The Orange County Regional History Center describes the Timucuans as “Tattooed, pierced, and adorned with shells.” The engraving above shows them treating the sick with drinks, tobacco and smoke.
Some of Orange County Regional History Center’s other permanent displays fully explained the orange industry, Florida Crackers, this state’s importance in the aviation and cattle industries, and a lot more. At one point I found myself taking a photo of a recipe for Baked Possum, not that I plan to make it any time soon. It’s current temporary, Smithsonian-influenced show is “Genome–Unlocking Life’s Code”, which is on exhibit until January 6 of next year.
As I wandered the displays, I found myself constantly surprised. Items of high interest were everywhere. For example, I really liked Harold Newton’s atmospheric Florida landscape painting below.
Most people who visit Orlando end up in a water park. Maybe next time.