The Tropic of Cracker

Al Burt

Foreword by Raymond Arsenault and Gary R. Mormino, Series Editors

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"The Tropic of Cracker will . . . end the debate once and for all, of whether the term ‘Cracker’ is derogatory or a source of great pride. Al Burt has a masterpiece here."--Sandra Bogan, Florida Audubon Society

From the preface:
"The Tropic of Cracker survives in myth, memory, and love of natural Florida. It exists more in the mind than in geography, more in the memory than in the sight, more in attitude than in the encounter. . . . This book tells you about one man’s vision of a state struggling to remain true to itself. It mixes new essays with a span of earlier ones written during nearly a quarter century of roving the state as a columnist for the Miami Herald. All of them, in sum, help illuminate and explain the Tropic of Cracker."--Al Burt

The crack of the old-time cow hunter’s whip gave the native Floridian a nickname, but Al Burt’s Tropic of Cracker is a state of mind shared by those who love "what remains of the Florida that needed no blueprint or balance sheet for its creation, that was here before there was a can opener or a commercial or a real-estate agent."
In his years of roving the state as a Miami Herald columnist, Al Burt mapped Florida’s Tropic of Cracker, not with lines of latitude and longitude but with stories.
The Crackers Burt tells of are men and women from Apalachicola to the Everglades, from Tallahassee to the Keys. They lived in the late 1800s, and they live today--along the Ocklawaha and in the floodplains of Lake Okeechobee. They were cow hunters, Conchs, and alligator men. They grew oranges, sugarcane, and muscadine grapes. They made moonshine. They drove mules, ate fried mullet, and told yarns in a Cracker creole about Florida’s panthers, snakes, alligators, and hurricanes. There are luminaries among them--Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Virgil Hawkins, John DeGrove, Harry Crews--but mostly they are just regular folk who mark the borders of the elusive and magical Tropic of Cracker.
For anyone who loves the old Florida and still has hope for the new one, Tropic of Cracker is the state’s truest road map and Al Burt its most eloquent cartographer.

Al Burt worked as a journalist for 45 years, the last 22 at the Miami Herald. The recipient of numerous journalism awards, he has been a freelance contributor to many magazines, including The Nation and Historic Preservation, and is the author of several books, among them Florida: A Place in the Sun (1974), Becalmed in the Mullet Latitudes (1984), and Al Burt’s Florida (UPF, 1997), which was awarded the 1998 Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Book Award. In his honor, the 1,000 Friends of Florida established the annual Al Burt Award for Florida journalism.

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"An exploration of the heart and soul of Florida. . . . There is something interesting to be learned about Florida and the human character in every one of these expertly crafted stories." -- Tampa Tribune
--Tampa Tribune

"This book is a gem." -- Stuart News
--Stuart News

"Al Burt grabs for the spirit of the Florida that once was, tantalizes us, makes us nostalgic and weaves a bit of oral history as we travel with him along "The Tropic of Cracker," a collection of his writings from the past three decades. . . . A book that one can read for its depictions of life as it is or was in many parts of Florida or for the skillful depiction of any subject to which the author is drawn. . . . A good addition to any Florida library."-- Gainesville Sun
--Gainesville Sun

"It's as warm as a front-porch gathering on a July evening or a grandma's hug, as fresh as a fall breeze through the pinewoods or across an undeveloped coastal dune. . . . A book that one can read for its depictions of life as it is or was in many parts of Florida or for the skillful depiction of any subject to which the author is drawn. . . . A good addition to any Florida library."-- Lakeland Ledger
--Lakeland Ledger

The snap of a cow hunter's whip, men with crew cuts and the taste of muscadine grapes all come alive in The Tropic of Cracker.-- St. Petersburg Times
--St. Petersburg Times

"Burt's books will help people understand and appreciate the diversity and the unity of the people of the Sunshine State. The books provide a sense of time and place for us all."-- Stuart News
--Stuart News

"Burt's writing reminds the reader to treasure the best of natural, rural Florida before it's too late."-- Forum, the Magazine of the Florida Humanities Council

"Whenever I despair of Florida, whenever the whole state appears broken beyond mending, crowded beyond endurance, Kentucky-fried, Big-Mcked, Starbucked, and Taco-Belled beyond recognition -- I visit Al Burt. . . . Burt knows Florida like his own back yard, and he describes it as he has seen it himself -- a glowing kingdom within his mind and memory. . . . Tropic of Cracker is a museum of Florida's choicest people, places, and moments."-- Palm Beach Post
--Palm Beach Post

"Al Burt should be required reading for everyone who calls Florida home. . . . An apt companion to 1997's Al Burt's Florida, reminds us of the diversity and fragility of the place we call home."-- Miami Herald
--Miami Herald

"Burt gives us a keener appreciation for our surroundings and how they came to be. Tropic begs for a sequel. We are left to wonder, who are the old Crackers of today and what has happened to old Florida from when Burt left off?-- Lake City Reporter
--Lake City Reporter

"Burt's writing shows a Florida that is vanishing before our eyes. Writing of such grace that at its best approaches poetry, and at its worst gives you some entertaining characters that probably couldn't be found anywhere else but here. Burt's essays make me want to go adventuring in my adopted home state and give me impetus to talk to strangers when doing so." -Weekly Planet
--Weekly Planet (Tampa)

"The Tropic of Cracker offers a sensitive and insightful view of the history, folklife, and observation of people who have been and remain the salt of the earth of Florida's cultural landscape." - Southern Cultures
--Southern Cultures

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