My Story


Photo Galleries

Body for Life

Ideas &


Contact Me

Please Sign Our Guestbook

Design & Graphics by

Investigative Solutions

Memorial Day Weekend
Bad Luck on Day
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2004
(Click the pics to Enlarge)

"Bad Luck" means different things to different people, but here in SW Florida, "Bad Luck" is the name of an expansive Everglades prairie that may be one of the world's largest adult playgrounds - not that children don't play there too. On Memorial Day Weekend 2004, we spent several memorable days on Bad Luck Prairie in the 'Glades.

A "prairie" in the 'Glades is a tract of flat land at, or near, sea level that is sparsely covered by by grass and pockets of trees called "hammocks" during the dry season, and pretty much a completely underwater "river of grass" when it's wet. When it's dry it can be very, very dry, but when it's wet . . .well, for one thing, that big rut in the picture won't be visible when the rains come.

That can make for some serious excitement. There you are, tooling along, enjoying everything Aretha can do with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and fine tune fiddling with your radio, when eight inches of water suddenly becomes four feet deep.

That will make you "sho nuff" glad/wish you had a snorkel.

Bad Luck Prairie is one of the best known "secrets" in SW Florida. On any given weekend, there may be hundreds of people out there on Jeeps, ATV's, Swamp Buggies or Air Boats . . . but I promise you that you'd never find your way in without help -- and I do mean NEVER!

There's almost no way to get there from here, wherever "here" happens to be.

I understand that swamp buggies and airboats are local inventions. I don't know that I have ever heard of them being used anywhere else, although it seems to me that they would be useful elsewhere.

There are those who look down smug noses at these homemade vehicles, but as a guy who spent most of his life worshipping at the Shrine of Some Immaculate Contraption, I admire the hard work and ingenuity involved.

If you've never looked at a weld as art, you might not understand; but I do believe that some of these backwoods boys could build a space shuttle from stuff they could find at garage sales.

Why do they call this particular piece of South Florida prairie, "Bad Luck?" Well, I dunno, I guess that will forever remain a mystery to me.

If I had to guess, I'd suppose that the place is called "Bad Luck" because someone must have had something go wrong out there at some time or another - but that's just a hunch so don't quote me.

At any rate, it was the Memorial Day Weekend, 2004, and after consulting with Ms. Megan, our six-year old who actually controls all things here, we felt that we all deserved a little time off. Our friend Carl, and his wife Colleen, agreed to meet with us at the trail head, so Jeremy and I packed the cooler, loaded the family into the Jeeps, and off we went to go play in the mud.

That's Carl with the blue Wrangler and my son Jeremy by the yellow one.

The trial into Bad Luck Prairie winds along a canal with a nice canopy of trees for much of the way. There is nothing that would stop anyone in virtually any car from making the trip from the trail head to the prairie entrance when it's dry.

It's not a rough ride, but some sections are washed out into a series of rolling swells tat will get your suspension going in a sort of harmonic undulation that will bottom it out if it's a heavy vehicle. My Rubicon is a good bit heavier than the stock Jeeps, partially because of the equipment we installed, and partially because of the load that equipment is designed to carry.

The rear bumper, tire carrier and rack system are by Garvin Industries. They are seriously heavy and seem "over built," until you consider the fact that the 76 quart cooler perched at the top weighs over a hundred pounds, and each gas can weighs about thirty-five pounds when full of fuel. The 35" tire and wheel is heavy as is the hi lift jack that bolts in behind it.

The whole thing probably adds four hundred pounds to the weight of the Jeep, not to mention the top rack and the winch. Counting all that as well as the weight of the people, tools and miscellaneous "stuff," I suspect that the Rubicon weighs at least a thousand pounds more than it did on the show room floor.

It's a good thing that "Mikey" [Mike Thoman], the mechanic at Bob Taylor Jeep who installed my lift, recognized that the springs that came with my kit were not the right ones for this kind of application. I am very happy with it, but had they installed the kit they were sent, it would have been a disaster.

The weight can be a good thing, especially when you need to pull something heavy - like a big Dodge truck for example.

It was about that time that our friends Bryan and Molly appeared on the horizon in their black Jeep.

Although both had elected to install snorkels on their Jeeps, neither Bryan, nor Carl had gotten around to doing the installation. The Prairie was getting wetter with each day's rainfall, and the days for Jeeping with snorkels had pretty much come to a close. The very next mud hole got him.

Bryan is a lineman, one of those agile, athletic, supremely coordinated young men who work with lots of electricity high up on telephone poles. He's uncommonly quick, and that's a good thing . . . otherwise I would have been fast enough to capture it on film when he fell in the mud trying to catch my winch cable.

Pity that - it was a wonderfully awkward splash!

Evidently, Molly thought so too, judging by the laughing. At the next mud hole, Bryan got stuck again . . . "he who laughs last," I guess.

At least she didn't fall in Bryan!

The next mud hole was nasty, slick and deep where I went thru, so Carl chose a different line of approach, making it thru without much trouble.

Bryan chose to follow the route I had used, demonstrating that the lockers in our Rubicon make a significant difference.
Yes indeed, Brother Bryan, the veritable image of grace and alacrity!
Roger was the next to get stuck; when he gets stuck, he usually gets stuck good! That's certainly not a place I'd want to be without a snorkel.
That's our Roger! He's a great guy to have along when you're out Jeeping in a place like this. He can generally be counted on to do whatever it is that seems to be the most challenging thing to do.
My kids enjoy riding around on the prairies and exploring the ATV trails, but the opportunities to play "Rubi to the Rescue" are the highlight of every trip. Roger is a very popular guy with them - naturally, after pulling him out, we had to swim our way back too.

I enjoy whatever the kids enjoy, but I was anxious to show them the place we call "Boy Scout," an abandoned house out in the middle of a hammock that is supposed to have been used by Boy Scouts once upon a time. If they really used it, I cannot begin to imagine how they could have hiked out there.

Bryan, guided by his GPS unit, led the parade.

The house is dilapidated, but most of the damage is due to vandalism. This place existed for years and years, serving as an emergency shelter for those caught out on the prairie, but I guess it was inevitable that some mindless moron would eventually find it, and they did.

Fortunately, those people are not common on the prairies. The vast majority of people we have met have been like most of the Jeep and ATV community.

We explored Boy Scout without incident, until the bandits showed up. They waltzed in like they owned the place, and I guess they do.

Cute l'il critter isn't he

I am sure there are folks who'll have something to say about feeding wild animals, but I happen to be pretty familiar with these particular coons, and I personally see no harm in it. Besides, I'm getting old, and fighting with Megan takes too much out of me.

It's funny, but when people see Megan scramble to catch a lizard, frog, or some such thing, they think I'm kidding when I yell at her not to eat it. If that coon had seen some of the things we've seen, he might have been a bit less trusting.

I'm sure it's tough for the boys to stand by and let Megs try everything first but I suppose fighting with her takes a lot out of them too.

Once she was satisfied that she wasn't going to eat the coon, and the coon wasn't going to eat anyone else, Megs moved on to exploring around, and let the boys give it a try.

Ryan lobbied for his turn first claiming, "I'm always in the middle." There was no arguing that point.

Besides which, Dook has more patience than the rest of us put together, a fact that I attribute to his being Meggie's oldest boy. Since she was a baby, it was always, "I'm going to get my boys," or "Where are my boys." She could try the patience of the Pope.
Once Dook had his turn, Megs came back to exercise a little management. She got it in her mind that Luz' life would not be complete unless she fed the coon too. Luz wasn't what you'd call enthusiastic, but Megs ultimately prevailed.
Unlike Roger and Bryan, Carl and Colleen tend to be a bit more on the cautious side. It is common to find that blue Jeep back in the middle of the prairie as clean as it was when it rolled off the show room floor.
Once Jeremy took his yellow Sport out and parked it for a picture under the clouds, Carl and Colleen decided to join him.

With thunder heads beginning to move in, we decided that it was time to start moving to the trail head - I say "we" rhetorically, the more it rains the more the kids want to stay and pull people out of mud holes.

I suppose this was more a slide show than a story, but I wanted to share with you the beauty of this place that remains as God left it within rifle shot of condos, subdivisions, interstate highways and far too many people.

I've enjoyed this place since "back in the day," when it wasn't wise to shine a flashlight in the air - a square grouper might have dropped out of the sky and hit you in the head.

This was just Day 1 of our three day weekend though, perhaps I'll do a little better with the others; or perhaps not.



Where to start

Your Finances

Wayfarer Chronicles


Other Resources