Everglades Patrol by Tom Shirley
By Tom Shirley
[Hardcover] 288 pages
Lantana Call No: Fla 363.68 Shi
South Floridians…who remembers when water stretched everywhere we looked or stepped, in the savannahs of sawgrass, as well as hammock islands of pine, palm, mahogany, and cypress, brimming with life?
Or remembers beautiful intra-coastal lagoons of lush mangrove and the fresh or sweet waters Miami, Loxahatchee, and St. Lucie rivers?
Or remembers the rollicking life of Hialeah, the poachers of Homestead, and the famous Opa-Locka airport?
Tom Shirley remembers, of course. He recalls much of it for us with gusto in his memoir of his service in the Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission, from the 1950’s into the 1980’s.
With South Florida’s urban sprawl and the Everglades in retreat, it is impossible to know of the drained wetland and coastal shelf we actually live on, its shifting boundaries with the natural world, as well as the dangers and challenges it once posed, as the Seminoles and glades people once did or perhaps still do.
While working his own businesses and while in service with the Commission, Shirley was one of several pioneering men to re-design and improve on Glenn Curtiss’s famous Scooter airboat and recreational vehicles, first introduced to Florida in the 1920’s. These airboats and RV’s enabled modern travel into one of the last unknown areas of the United States.
Shirley and fellow patrol officers spent thousands of hours tracking, chasing down, and arresting armed and dangerous poachers and monkey fisherman, rescuing wildlife including distressed and stranded deer and ornery alligators. When not out in the glades, he also traveled widely — including trips with his family to the Amazon.
Readers also learn of Shirley’s efforts for the restoration of the Everglades. (See his website, Evergladesrestorationfear.org).
See also the Sept. 6, 2012, article in the Tampa Bay Times article by Terry Tomalins, “A man for wilder times.”