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Federal Point Families

Night Sounds of Federal Point.

Federal Point Night Sounds.
"Po Queet", "Po Queet", "Po Queet". At first dusk this was one of the first
sounds that you could hear. It was the very distinct whistle of the "Po
Queet" bird. This character was very elusive and you could never ever see
him. He never seemed to move from one place to another, as most birds would
often do. I spent many hours looking for this bird, always to no avail.
Nighttime at Federal Point brought forth hundreds of different night sounds,
some identifiable, some not.
I remember Grandma Brown, huddled forward in her chair with her ear against
the radio, listening to Gabriel Heater, Lowell Thomas or some other news
broadcaster, with news from the war front. The era was about 1942, and we
were in the beginning of World War II. I never could figure why the volume
of the radio was always so low. That was a good thing, as it enabled me to
hear the many sounds emanating from the surrounding fields and swamps.
The lights were almost always off at night, so  not to attract the many bugs
that were ever present in the Florida Swamp. I would lie in the hammock, on
the front porch facing the river, and listen to the mystic sounds of
darkness.
There were some sounds that were only audible to the city boy, because he
was conscious of their ever-present drone. The old timers had heard the
noises all their lives, and their ears no longer heard them. One of these
sounds was the buzz of millions of blind mosquitoes in the surrounding
darkness. To me it was deafening, Grandma didn’t even hear it. I can only
describe it as living on the edge of a large Air Force Base, with the bomber
engines running at full speed day and night. If there was an outside light
on, it would attract so many blind mosquitoes that the light looked like a
smoking torch. The next morning there would be a great heap of dead
mosquitoes on the ground.   We would scoop them up, take them down to the
dock, and feed  the ever-present bream, sunfish, and blue gills.
The air and weather conditions had a lot to do with what sounds you would
hear.
The nights, when there was no wind and the humidity was high, provided the
most identifiable noises. You would be lying in bed and the silence would be
deafening. You could feel your blood flow and hear your heart beat.   This
was terrifying, because there were times that you just knew it stopped, and
you felt you were going to die. Somehow, life continued on. You could hear
grandma‘s ever so slight snoring from her bedroom, and Aunt Mary’s,
sometimes frightening, out burst of sleep noises from hers. After awhile,
you tuned out these noises to concentrate on the night noises. You could
hear conversations, from unknown points across the river, like they were in
your room, with you. Sometimes it would be quiet conversations, and
sometimes it would be loud and argumentative. As the breeze changed
direction, those sounds would come and go. I imagine that some of the talk
originated from miles away, and amplified as it crossed the still water.
You could hear the mullet jump, other fish churned the water, an occasional
otter family was in playful pursuit of one another, and the crash of an
alligator’s tail, as it swatted the water in chase of it’s next meal.
You could hear the water lapping, ever so slightly, against the boats that
were tied to the dock. The wind would increase, and the river noises did
like wise. You could hear the waves lapping on the shore and getting louder
to where they pounded on the shore, sometimes sounding like the ocean as the
winds reached gale force.
Back to the quite windless nights. You are almost asleep. There isn’t a
breath of air stirring, and you are alerted to the cracking sound of a tree
limb starting its descent to the ground. The cracking gets louder, then a
loud snap, the rush of leaves and small tree branches being crushed as the
larger limb falls to the ground. Shortly, a final crash and dead silence.
This gets your senses on full alert. You lie awake, for what seems like
hours, listening for the encore that never comes.
It seems as if the most startling sounds always occur when the silence is so
close, you can hardly breathe. There is always that one hickory nut that
falls on the tin roof, and you sit straight up in the bed. The screech owl
that decides to emit it’s mating call from the tree outside your window, or
the old hoot owl that lets go with its scary hoot from afar. It always
brings to mind  all of the spirits in the cemetery, that is only a few
hundred yards from your bedroom. This, turns all the shadows and small
unexplainable noises into ghosts surrounding your bed. You want to go and
get in bed with Grandma or Aunt Mary, for protection, but you are to big a
boy for that, so you hide your head under the pillow and hum, so you can’t
hear the noises.
Occasionally, you could hear the lonesome wail of a train whistle far off in
the distance. I would wonder where it was, Hastings, or across the river at
Bridgeport?  I would imagine myself on the train going to some far distant
land. An occasional steamboat (???) whistle could also be heard as the boat
passed the Point. I never could figure out which boat this might have been.
Sometimes early in the morning you could hear the clank, clank, of farm
machinery working the fields. You would lie there and wonder which tractor
noise belonged to which uncle. Everybody at Federal Point was a grandparent,
an uncle, an aunt or a cousin. We were all related some way.
You are lying there almost asleep, when that one mosquito surrounds you.
First it’s the annoying buzzzzzzz, and then silence, as you wait for the
insertion of his siphon. As soon as you feel him you swat, usually to no
avail.  Then you wait for the next inevitable buzzzz, and the whole process
begins again. Sometimes you win, but most of the time the mosquito is in
control of your sleep.  The final score, Mosquito 6, and John 1. (That’s all
I needed).  Finally, peace and quite and more sounds.
Then there were the nights of the swamp chorus. What wonderful nights they
were. It would start out as being overcast; humidity so high you could hang
your hat on the air, threatening rain at any minute, and the chorus would
begin. Hundreds of tree frogs would commence to sing in unison, a haunting
melody never to be forgotten, and almost the same the world over. They would
sing constantly, until a low rumble of thunder would interrupt them. There
would be absolute silence for several minutes, and then, as if some unseen
conductor would wave his baton,  they would all start again. Sometimes this
would last all night. I’ve heard it in Vietnam, Guam, the Philippines,
Japan, Australia, Africa, Spain Germany,  Puerto Rico, and too many other
places to name. The sound was always the same. They all sang in the same
language and responded in the same way to outside noises. Mother Nature is a
wonderful thing.
The most startling night noises, were the severe electrical storms, the
lightening so rapid you could hardly catch your breath, thunder so
continuous that it never stopped, and rain coming down by the buckets. On
those nights, you went to the window and watched in amazement at natures
fireworks. You saw hundreds of different forms outside, but you were too
enthralled to be afraid or to let your imagination take control. This was
truly God at his best, and would leave no doubtful thoughts in a
non-believer. When it was over, the whole outside world lay limp, wet and in
dead silence. It would be too hot to sleep, so you would just lay there in
wonderment as to what was next.
Occasionally, you would hear an eruption coming from the chicken barn, in
the form of 500 chickens all squawking at once. You would jump from the bed,
grab the gun and head for the barn, always too late. There would be several
dead chickens, and more injured ones. You knew it was an intrusion by a Bob
Cat. Uncle bill set a trap the next night, baited with the carcasses from
the night before, and successfully captured the huge cat. Its carcass was
put on display at Brown’s store, where the decision was unanimous that it
was the largest cat ever caught at the Point. I skinned and cured its hide,
and it had a place of distinction by my bedside, until I joined the Air
Force. Sometimes when the humidity was high for several days it would cause
a little concern in the Brown household, as it would start being odorous in
an offensive way.
Then there was the infrequent time when the "River Turned Over". You would
hear gurgling sounds coming from the river (in daylight you could see
bubbles coming up like it was boiling all over the river), and then the
river started smelling like the swamp. It would turn darker in color, and in
a few days everything would return to normal. I asked about this many times
and never got any answer, other than,  "the River turned over".
One night many years later, while living in Puerto Rico I was sitting on a
Puerto Rican friend’s patio, and I heard a "Po Queet" bird. I said,  "Raul
we have those birds in Florida."  He sort of chuckled and said,  "Juan, that
isn’t a bird."  I stared at him in disbelief and said, "What do you mean?"
He got his flashlight, and we proceeded to the bush, from where the sound
came.  He gently pushed the leaves aside, and laying on the limb was a
"half-dollar sized" tree frog.  Its body pulsated every time it emitted its,
"Po Queet" bird like cry. The mystery of the "Po Queet bird" was finally
solved. In some respects it was a disappointing end to the story.
I could go on forever about the night sounds of Federal Point, but that is
enough for now. In the future, as they come to me I will add more sounds to
our tale.
John Brown
 
Not only are there physical sounds, but there are sounds as derived from an ardent imagination such as quoted below. JB
 

 
Jim Masts thoughts as quoted from "The River Valley Funlander " dated August 23, 1974.
 
" The evening hours are the best time to sit quietly on the east shore of the St. Johns River and listen to the sounds of history echoing back across time.
   You can hear the sounds of the muskets of Negro troops rattling against their field canteens. You can hear the chant of slaves as they prepare the supper meals. All the ghosts of the past noisily walk the quiet shores from Federal Point to Orange Mills."
 
This is in reference to the Negro Troops being off loaded at Federal Point and heading to Buena Vista in search of Col. Francis Dancy. You can read an acccount of this in "James M. Dancy's Memiors" on the Dancy Family page. JB.