Campfire songs about nature
As contradictory as it may sound …
Sometimes saving a forest means cutting trees.
Stay on afterwards for the exclusive interview after the song
Specifically I’m thinking melaleuca in the Big Cypress Swamp, and even more specifically than that I’m thinking about a botanist named Tony Pernas. This Bobby Angel classic was written some 20 years back when Tony announced he was leaving Big Cypress National Preserve for the greener pastures of the Everglades and sung at his farewell party. Backstory: Tony had mentioned to me in passing that One More Cup of Coffee was his favorite Bob Dylan tune. Thus when it came time to write his farewell song, it only made sense to use the same chords.
More backstory: As is the case with all prodigal sons, Tony eventually returned — we call it “the missing 15 years” — and eventually went on to become the Resource Management Chief of Preserve. Fast forward the clock eight years later, and word just broke: After over 40 years of government service, Tony is retiring. Or “hanging up the ax” as exotic plant eradicators like to say. Not to worry: Tony will still be involved in a Phantom 2.0 type of way (i.e. filling swamp-rat extraordinaire Fred Dayhoff’s old shoes).
To say that Tony will be leaving behind a void is the understatement of the year. And by void, I mean all the melaleuca trees he cut down. Be sure to stay on for the interview after the song to hear Bobby Angel riff on comparisons to Bob Dylan, what makes Bob Dylan and Michael Jordan great, why he gave up guitar for 20 years, and why melaleuca is such a scourge.
This Bobby Angel song remembers the life …
Of the swamp’s most famous (and orneriest) WWI veteran.
Stay on after the song to hear the interview
Old Jim Dill was a friend of mine, a hermit who live at the end of the line. A man who didn’t have a lot to say. A man who died but never went away.
He kept his medals and he kept his gun, when returned at the end of World War I. But somehow things weren’t the same, so he left it all behind and he went away. Into the swamp to the end of the road, where he build him a cabin and called it home. ‘Coon and a gator he kept as a pet. Orneriest man you’ve ever met. Old Jim Dill was a friend of mine, a hermit who lived at the end of the line. Didn’t say much didn’t have a phone. Wonder if he ever felt alone.
Didn’t change at all and then it changed real fast, the new guard breaking away from the past. They chopped the trees and dug the earth, with not a care for what it was worth. Troubled by what he saw, but so goes the swamp under frontier law. Only thing them the didn’t want, was run-in with the hermit of the swamp. Old Jim Dill was a friend of mine, the hermit who lived at the end of the line.
Guarded his home with a gun and a horse, ‘til the day he was killed by a snake on his porch. Venom punctured through his hide, finally killed the pain inside. Comforted by a nurse at his bed who held his hand to the very end.
Old Jim Dill is a friend of mine, think about him when I pass the sign. Dead end then and a dead end to most, haunted by Jim Dill’s ghost.
Walls have a reputation for not speaking …
But if you listen closely enough they usually do.
Interview with Bobby Angel on his song about Oasis VC
The trick? You have to be very (very) quiet. That usually means that nobody (or not many people) is around, it’s just the building and you. Another must is having a long history of spending time with said wall. Even then, admittedly, it’s hard to hear, and usually you don’t fully understand what the wall is saying until a day, even a week later. The untold truth about walls is that listening is their best trait, especially in a place like Oasis Visitor Center where over the years many people have passed through. I’m not saying the wall remembers every conversation, but I have a hunch that over the decades its probably forgotten more than any of us know. Thus the reason for the wish: if only walls could talk.
You can’t control everything …
During a wildfire.
Stay on after the song to hear an interview with Bobby Angel
But you can hedge your bets on making it home safely, and making sure others make it home the same way. The trick? There is no trick. It’s called experience and good training, and people with experience giving good advice and relaying lessons learned to the new guard moving up the ranks. There’s a saying that an thorn of experience is worth a wilderness of warning. Multiply that by a thousand on the fire line. And just when things are looking up, conditions can worsen quickly, requiring a fire fighter to recalibrate. That doesn’t mean you give up, but it does mean you don’t bet all your chips. Or to quote the song: “With Three Jacks you stay, when you’re playing cards … with your life.”
About this song: I wrote it as a farewell song to wildland firefighter extraordinaire Jack Finley when he left Big Cypress National Preserve way back in 1999, or maybe it was 2000. Jack may have left, but his tradition of safety lives on.
Nature is all around us …
And in our dreams.
Bobby Angel’s song about restoring nature
In this original song, singer/songwriter Bobby Angel explores the cross roads between the idealism of youth and the harsh realities of life, and in particular our relationship with nature. About those dreams: Sometimes those dreams inspire, other times they haunt. And each sunset is a promise to make it right the next day.
Stay on after the song to hear an interview with the artist.
Bobby Angel’s plays every night …
And his shows are usually sold out.
Rare interview with Bobby Angel
The reason: Typically he only performs around the campfire.
That means there isn’t much room except for an occasional raccoon or marsh rabbit hoping around. Some nights bobcats, bears and even panther show up. Rumor has it that Bigfoot even attended one show. Later footprint analysis revealed it to be a 6′ 7” park ranger named Rudi. What are Bobby Angel’s biggest hits? Ballad of a Florida Panther is close to the top. Other hits include: The Pre-Drainage Song, Midstream, and New Dawn (at last), Man of Honor and more.
But to answer the question: Start a campfire and yes, don’t be surprised if Bobby Angel shows up.
How to you make a road safe …
for the panthers (and other animals) that cross it?
Bobby Angel is a troubadour of the Nature Folk Movement (NFM)
In this Bobby Angel standard, the singer/songwriter recounts the story of a transportation engineer named Krista who was called in to help prevent panthers from getting hit by vehicles on the Tamiami Trail. It’s one of the swamp’s most scenic roads, but also one that crossing wildlife often finds itself in harms way. At some point the song veers off into fantasy with the transportation planner and panther escaping into nature and forging a relationship for life — but is it fantasy, really, or just how life should really be? To answer that question, you’ll have to watch the video and judge for yourself.
Be sure to stay on after the song to hear an interview with Bobby Angel about the song. Topics discussed include an exclusive inside scoop on the making of the smash hit, including never before revealed details on his first sighting of (what he thought initially) was a “large dog,” why they used to be more rare than seeing Ivory-billed woodpeckers, the movie magic of he videos opening scene, and how the use of silhouettes really make the video pop.
Bobby Angel brings down the house …
With his sprawling masterpiece on the destruction of the Everglades and the power of dreams to both haunt us and inspire a new way.
Keep listening after the song to hear an interview with the artist
If you’re a history buff …
You’ll rejoice in the many references to the pre-drained Everglades, how it changed over time, and the quest with hydrologic restoration to get it right. As an alternative to listening to the song, you may also be interested in River of Interest (2012) by Matthew C. Godfrey and Theodore Catton, or David McCally’s The Everglades an Environmental History (1999) or Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise (2006). However, if you are in a pinch for time, I recommend this song which was only written after extensive study of the books listed above. All of Bobby Angel’s song are similarly deeply researched as you’ll discover in the post-song interview.
Bobby Angel may not have all the answers …
But boy can he sing a Nature Folk ballad!
The plight of being a park ranger …
And being stuck in a visitor center.
The song as sung by Bobby Angel
Nobody knew that better than Ranger Rudi.
And nobody knew its history better either.
A photographic memory and reading a lot didn’t hurt. But mostly it was his penchant for delving into deep conversations about with anyone he met.
History was never a closed book with Ranger Rudi.
You rarely saw the man without a book in hand, dog eared at various spots. His pursuit of history has been a life-long never ending quest.