A Cold Day In The Everglades

Back in November when I found out that The United States Secretary Of The Interior David Bernhardt made it free for life for U.S. Veterans to enter America’s National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and other public federal lands – first of all I was extremely grateful. It’s probably the best gift that has ever been given to me as a Veteran. After all this is a gift that keeps on giving every single day – not just on Veterans’ Day.

I live between two U.S. National Parks – Biscayne National Park to the east – and Everglades National Park to the west. Both are about 10 miles away from my home. Biscayne does not charge an entry fee. It’s free for everyone. Everglades charges $30 per vehicle for a 7 consecutive day pass, or $55 for an annual pass. I no longer have to pay either fee. I’m free !

I actually got in to Everglades National Park for free during 2 consecutive winter seasons (2015-2016 and 2016-2017) when I worked out there as a volunteer (in uniform) giving tours at the NIKE Missile Site (HM-69). I worked 31 Saturdays out there showing hundreds of visitors from around the world a sampling of authentic military history from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s (when it was an active duty base out in the middle of the Park).

Back in November I said to myself that I would visit the Park on a cold day this winter season, and so last Saturday was that cold day. With temperatures in the upper-40s and lower-50s at dawn I entered the Park for the first time since my last Saturday working out there in March of 2017. It was like a homecoming for me. I actually drove the entire 38-mile main park road down to Flamingo on Florida Bay. It was my first visit there in nearly 7 years. I took a fun 90-minute organized boat tour up-and-down the waters north of Flamingo. I took the same tour almost 8 years ago.

After the boat tour I did a lot of walking all around Flamingo and then at a couple of stops along the way back up the main park road. I took a lot of pictures. I walked over 13,000 steps / 6 miles.

The Park was packed on that Saturday / day after Christmas. Everyone else had the same idea as me to visit during a rare cold South Florida day.

Now I need to figure out what my next fun cold day out will be here in my local area. Maybe Vizcaya ? (also free for life for U.S. Veterans)

All rights reserved (c) 2020 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries

The Legend Of Fluffy The Manx Cat

Merry Christmas Eve to all of my friends all around the world. I wish you God’s abundant love and everlasting peace on this day and on every day.

Today I’m bringing back a Christmas classic that’s been featured on my blog before in various forms. It’s the story of the greatest Christmas gift ever – the arrival of a cat.

It started out as a morning like any other, but just a few hours later it would become a morning that forever changed the lives of me and my little brother, and our Mom and Dad.

Exactly 37 years ago yesterday morning on Friday December 23RD 1983 me (age 16½) and my little brother (age 8½) looked out our living room window at the snow and the ice on the ground of our backyard. It was a bitter cold morning in McLean Virginia 2 days before Christmas, and we were happy to be warm and comfortable inside.

But there was a creature stirring outside that was not warm and comfortable. It was a lonely young cat with no tail that was wandering around aimlessly on our ice-covered backyard patio deck, and it was shivering in misery. Me and my brother decided rather quickly that it did not belong in the harsh elements of the outside at that moment, so we opened the door and she walked right in to our more sheltered screened-in ‘Florida Room’.

We gave her some milk to drink. She loved us for it. We gave her some love. We heard a strange sound coming from her that we hadn’t heard before. It was the friendly and inviting sound of her purring. We let her in to our warm and comfortable home. She never looked back. In fact she refused to leave after that. We pretty much named her ‘Fluffy’ that day, and she instantly became an important part of our family – the missing link if you will.

That’s a young me in 1985 holding a young Fluffy. I was about 60 pounds lighter than I am today.

She was the 5TH member of our family, and she was the start of nearly 30 years of felines in our family. Fluffy loved us all, but she clearly adored me the most. During her younger years she anxiously awaited me to open the basement / laundry room door for her first thing in the morning so that she could run (and beat me) to my bedroom upstairs for a long round of petting and purring. During her later years in Jacksonville Florida when she was slowly dying she literally came back to life over and over again and jumped and loved on me and ran upstairs to my parents’ guest room whenever I arrived for a short visit. She lived a long, happy, and healthy life (until April of 2001), and she provided lots of love to our family starting with that very first Christmas of 1983.

There have been other cats and dogs within our family over the years since then. Fluffy eventually gained a feline roommate with Barney (also known as “the cat that never liked me”). After Fluffy’s death Barney eventually gained his own feline roommate with Pumpkin. Boots was my own loving cat and housemate for 12½ years here in Homestead Florida until his (expected) death on May 17TH 2007. He was the coolest cat that ever lived.

But it all started with “Fluffy The Manx Cat”. She was the Matriarch of all of our family pets (to this day). She was the Queen of her castle. She was the stability of our family. She was our family’s common denominator. She was the center of attention. She was the most lovable cat that ever lived.

Fun Fact: This WordPress blog is a spinoff of my former hit music based massivesmash.com web site that I created in 1995. That web site grew out of a previous web site known as “MANx On The Net”. That first web site was a spinoff of “MANx Cat BBS” (1993-1997) – a dial-up bulletin board typical of its time that was inspired by and named after Fluffy.

All rights reserved (c) 2020 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries