Wednesday, November 25, 2020

7 Questions With Michael Tucker, author of the Cracker series

Born and raised in rural central Florida, Michael Tucker has lived and absorbed the very fabric of the Crackers. He embodies the voice of his Scots/Irish and Creek Indians in his novels about old Florida. His books are available on and at other booksellers, or you can visit his website: 

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?

Born in 1943 in Pasco County, lived in orange groves, country, or in small villages ( Cedar Key, Gulf Hammock, Otter Creek etc. ) Until I was 13 we had wood cook stoves and fire place for heat ( It was a constant hunt for fire wood )  and  carried water from a well, hand pump or creek. Once a week my brother and I had to fill Mother's wash pot and two #2 tubs for rinse water before school. And "out houses". We had gardens and chickens, Mother and Grandmother caned vegetables that people brought to them for shares, until I was thirteen and we moved to Williston Fl. where I saw my first miracle "Propane cook stove", running water, indoor bathroom and elec. lights. No more hunting fire wood or hauling water ! Went to school with no shoes until Williston. (7th grade)

What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

The rules we were taught growing up was simple--You didn't bother other peoples things, when you went fishing or quail hunting in other peoples farms/ranch you made sure the gate was closed behind you and you don't shoot at the cows. Your neighbor didn't have to ask for your help, you just gave it when needed. I have spent my life trying to live by that independence.

How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?

 I was taught that if you wanted something you made it happen yourself.

Why is studying/knowing history important?

Your values came from somewhere.  I raised my two daughters with the values I was taught by my parents, who was taught by their parents, etc.

What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

The period after the Civil War, when the south had to survive and rebuild.

6 Tell us about the Cracker book series and how it came into being.

I have always wanted to write as long as I can remember, I would write short stories and then throw them away because they weren't finished. I started the Cracker series when my wife and I was cruising on our sailboat ( we spent twenty years living and cruising the Eastern Caribbean ) and after our last cruise ( almost eight years ) we found out my wife's mother had Alzheimer's and we came back to care for her. ( My wife was the only child ) I decided it was time to finish my novel and had decided to write about all the things I had heard from my Dad and Uncles around a fire at night at family reunions. Between stories around the fire and researching my family history in Florida it turned into a historical fiction series. I am now working on the third novel in the series. Cracker Stories are unique to Florida's history.

7 What makes the Florida Crackers unique and worth reading and writing about?

Cracker stories are unique to Florida. The Crackers were a group of people after the civil war, who rounded up wild Spanish cows left to roam wild for over 300 years with cow whips cracking over the cows head to move them out of the scrubs and palmettos and push them to Tampa or Punta Rassa where they were bought with Spanish gold doubloons and then sold to Cuba. ( Confederate money was no good after the civil war ) Gold from the sale of cattle was the only hope for money for many.

Monday, November 16, 2020

7 Questions with Robin Richards, Selfies With Dead Presidents

Robin Richards is a history and government teacher residing in Athens, Georgia. Originally from Kennesaw, GA, he attended the University of Georgia, where he obtained a BA in History and an M.Ed in Social Science Education. He later obtained a Specialist's in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College. 

Robin has been teaching at Commerce HS in Commerce, GA, since 2017. Before that he taught at Cedar Shoals HS in Athens between 2004-2017. At Commerce he coaches the Volleyball team as well as the academic team. 

In the little free he does have, Robin travels, visits historic sites, plays trivia games and is an avid UGA sports fan. Robin is also a published author, writing a history of the UGA Redcoat Marching Band on the occasion of its centennial year in 2005. 

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?

Growing up in a very historic area certainly helped. I grew up in Kennesaw, home to the Great Locomotive Chase and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. All around my neighborhood are Civil War cannon pits and other relics. 

But for an unknown reason history just came naturally to me. I have always been a learner, even when I was a little kid. I would check out books on historical people and events and even took to read the encyclopedias my grandmother had. Since then, I've retained and built upon my knowledge and eventually became a history teacher in Georgia. 

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

To me, history has always been about making connections. While some people think it's "boring" and just "names and dates," if you really look into it, history is, as James Madison once said "INSERT QUOTE." By finding something interesting that a person might be able to relate to, you've made that connection. 

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?

As mentioned before, I teach HS history and government so pretty much it *is* my professional life and career. Without it, who knows what I would be doing (I did consider law school before going into teaching but figured there were enough lawyers in the world).  

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

Aside from the cliche about history repeating itself if we don't learn from it (which is true to a degree), knowing our past helps us form our future. In some cases, discovering a way from the past could well help solve a problem in the present (think leeching with modern medicine). In some cases using words and wisdom from past leaders can also guide us in tackling the problems of today. 

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I have always been a fan of the Cold War. It might well be because it's the first period of history I teach which I actually got to experience growing up! While the possibility of nuclear winter does not appeal to many people, those involved and the events that took place during this time are both fascinating and still affect the world today. That and the Cold War era gave us some unforgettable music and movies  of the era. Imagine the world without "War Games" or "Red Dawn" (the first one, not the remake)?

6. Tell us about the presidential quest that you are on and how you got started.

In the Summer of 2015 I began to toy with the notion of visiting the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. It was first the idea to go along with a friend of mine, a UGA Economics professor, until his untimely death. In 2017, I began to piece everything together and it turned into a 10 day, 10 state epic road trip. Anyone who knows me knows I "collect" presidential gravesites and state capitals. This trip was no different. During this trip I got four new capitals (WV, OH, IN and MI) added two new states (WV and MI, making for 38/50)), visited new Presidential graves (Hayes, WH Harrison, Garfield Harding, Ford, McKinley, B Harrison and Taylor) while recollecting others (Jackson and Polk). My way of remembering these sites was to take a selfie in front of them, thus creating

Also during the trip, I visited other historic and pop culture related sites (Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Notre Dame) and even ventured into Canada for an hour or so (picked up my 6th country where I have eaten Chicken McNuggets!), where I can say I have driven a car in a foreign country (which wasn't much different except for the metric system). All told, I drove over 2,500 miles during what became known as the "Dead Presidents Road Trip." 
7. What are some of the interesting things you’ve learned on your quest? How much more traveling have you got to do? What’s next?  
Going to the Harding home in Marion, OH, taught me a few new things about the President. I did not know he helped establish what would become the Veterans' Administration. Riding in a Model A at the Henry Ford I learned the MPG on those cars are not that different than some sedans made today. I also found out Gerald Ford, while playing football for Michigan, helped get a fellow African-American player to play in a game against Georgia Tech by threatening not to play either (Michigan beat GA Tech that year for their only win).

Down the road, I hope to make a trip up to New England during Spring Break (assuming COVID has subsided by then) to pick up capitals and Presidents in MA, ME, NH, VT (hopefully the 39th state I'll add) NY (Albany and van Buren only), CT and RI along with other historic sites en route. I have a cruise to Alaska and a drive around the Pacific NW planned for June 2021 and maybe a small trip through DE, PA NJ and maybe western NY for the Summer and as always, selfies will be made.