Watersheds of south Florida

Behind the song

Behind every great song …

Is the story behind the song.

Bobby Angel discusses his song about the Gunpowder River

In this exclusive interview, singer/songwriter Bobby Angel provides cryptic clues and other nuggets about the making of the song. Topics include why he chose the Gunpowder River over the Mighty Susquehanna River right next door, why the song shares similarities to a parking lot at a trailhead, and why the Gunpowder River is more complicated and has a richer history than at first glance.

Backstory: The song took about a week to write from the start to finish. The opening line came to me while hiking the river trail on the Little Gunpowder with my brother a few days after Christmas. I abandoned an early “simpler” version of the song a day later in favor of a more complicated tale between the “old mill” run of the river and its upstream modern-day reservoir. But it wasn’t until a week later in Florida that I tied the song together with a few tweaks and the final two lines of the last stanza.

But a song is never complete for a “nature folk” troubadour as myself until sit down for the “interview after the song.” I’ll also have to sing it a couple dozen times to really seer it into my memory. And even then, songs have to be played over and over again to really meld the vocals with the guitar and bring the true meaning and feeling of the song out.

Read the lyrics

Listen to the song

End of road?
Or just a momentary reprieve

There’s a saying that …

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Well, sometimes you don’t even have to wait that long. That’s where campfires come in. There have been a lot of major inventions over the eons. The toaster. The comb. Just as seen on TV products. The list goes on. But has there ever been as good an invention as the campfire? Maybe the wheel. But that’s splitting hairs. The truth is that the there’s really no other antidote out there for what ails the soul than spending some quality time around a campfire. At least for my money. And campfire’s are usually free. That’s the best part.

Find out more about the campfire talks at Campfire Park at https://campfirepark.org.

bobby angel

Ode to a river
Pretty Boy and the Gunpowder music video

To be honest I was miffed:

How could cartographers leave the Gunpowder out?

Words and music by Bobby Angel

My response was to right this song. Yes, the Susquehanna River is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary, and the Potomac River is bigger too and also drains the Shenandoah Valley. But to look at a map of the drainages of the Chesapeake Bay and to leave the Gunpowder out downright irked me on too many levels to count. But what is a hydrologist to do? And who do I complain to? My philosophy: Never complain and never explain, and rather get down to the business at hand. And specifically, that means telling the story of a pretty special river that sadly people don’t know exists, or sorely misunderstand. The opening line to the song came to me while hiking the river trail just above Jerusalem Mills. I refined the lyrics in the following days in the loft overlooking a brook that feeds the river. But it wasn’t until returning to Florida that I finally put the final touches on the song, and in particularly the last two lines.

Where does this song rank in the Maryland song canon? Behind the Star Spangled Banner and Maryland My Maryland, I’m having trouble coming up with a third. That being the case, I’ll rank it 2nd since Maryland My Maryland is a knock off of Oh Tanenbaum.

Talking Tree
Firelight Radio presents

Welcome to Firelight Radio …

Where we tune in to the Nature Folk Movement (NFM).

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

What exactly is the NFM? It’s the feeling that wells up into our hearts and minds when we gather around a campfire — the crackle, the glow, the aroma and the strumming. Here at Firelight Radio, we’re campfire inspired and guitar guaranteed. You’re always gonna hear a little crackling and you’re always gonna a little strumming. It’s where we get back to what’s important in life.

On today’s episode, we talk to a tree.

Actually, it’s the tree that does most of the talking.

bobby angel

One more melaleuca
For the road (to retirement)

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.

bobby angel

Old Jim Dill
Thank you to all who served

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

Lyrics:

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.

bobby angel

If the walls could speak
An interview with Oasis VC

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.

Listen to the entire Bobby Angel song and interview on Oasis VC by clicking HERE.

Song: Three Jacks
Ode to the godfather of fire safety

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.

More than just a Rock
Introducing Rock E

You know the old expression:

“If the walls could talk.”

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In the Everglades, the same applies to the rocks, but with a twist: Even when people notice them they are just as quickly ignored. The reason? It probably has something to do with all the other sights — wading birds, alligators, flowers … the list goes on. Also factoring in is the flatness of the landscape and the fact that most of the underlying rock is covered with water or a layer of peat. Another knock against Everglades rocks: There are really no scenic outcrops or dramatic geologic outlooks.

I’m not saying you have to forget that other stuff, but we can’t forget that the underlying limestone forms the foundation of it all. And rocks, believe it or not, are a lot more charismatic than you think.

And if you don’t believe me, watch the above video and listen to what “Rock E” has to say. I think you’ll be impressed.