Wild Times on Skidaway Island, Georgia's Historic Rain Forest, details life in a unique Audubon-designated, ecologically friendly refuge. There, golfers pitch balls around endangered great blue herons, mama raccoons march their babies across backyard decks where once Guale Indians trapped ancestors of the same raccoons, and residents dodge alligators and rescue snakes.
Even the vegetation is wild. Three hundred-year-old oaks dripping Spanish moss and poison ivy surmount an under-story of wax myrtle and holly. Carolina jasmine, Cherokee roses, and endangered orchids grow wild in the rain forest. The book examines choices residents make when stared down by a bald eagle, when a red-tailed hawk mistakes a golf ball for bird food, when wakened at midnight by deer munching hibiscus. Wild Times on Skidaway Island educates about the species that residents must adapt to on this historic island.
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Exclusive Interview with Karen Dove Barr
What was the hardest thing about creating Wild Times on Skidaway Island?
The photographs! The photographs were a real challenge for me. Many accomplished photographers live on the island. They are always showing off their work, so I thought it would be a piece of cake to collaborate with one. But no, they were all doing their own thing. Some of the best photographers tarted up their photos to be “arty” when I needed realism. No one wanted to illustrate my book.
A few photographers who were really proud of shots of unusual animals agreed to let me use their photos. Thanks, Daryl Snuggerud and Don Powell. But not enough to fill the book. Finally in desperation I went shopping and bought my own camera. A good camera goes a long way, but learning to use it was a different story. One teacher told me it was impossible to photograph the big birds in flight.
At first I thought I would never convince any of the animals to pose. Finally I learned the great blues, the alligators, and sometimes the raccoons would stand still even when I pointed my oversized lens at them. But a hundred photos of three species is not nearly enough to fill a book.
Many of the most interesting and beautiful animals were never caught on film. The family who owned the bluebird box appropriated by the flying squirrel are particularly good with animals. Carolyn told me she got many glimpses of the tiny squirrel but the squirrel was way too shy to pose for a photograph.
Many of the animals are nocturnal. Deer roam the island in small groups and great herds. Their tracks are visible in my flower beds every morning. But they mostly show themselves at night. All my deer photos were taken at dawn or dusk, neither of which are good times to make a photograph come out.
I caught the little red fox at dawn with my cell phone. I’ve seen him several times since, posing just before the sun comes up, but never when I’ve had my camera.
I took hundreds of pictures to get the few that are in Wild Times on Skidaway Island. This summer, after the book had gone to publication, I caught a baby owl, an eagle sitting on her eggs, and ospreys frantically trying to keep a nest full of teenagers fed.
Maybe I’ll have enough for a sequel.
By Karen Dove Barr
Thickly needled pine branches intertwined with grapevine and poison ivy shaded the maritime forest on the northwestern prong of Skidaway Island as runners trampled fallen needles, seeking firm footing on soft mud paths, like furtive moonshiners from Modena’s past.
Skidaway’s isolation by land but accessibility to knowledgeable navigators of the ever-changing marsh made it a perfect hideout for the manufacture of illegal whiskey even before January 16, 1919, when the Volstead Act transformed moonshining from a money-making side line into a get-rich-quick bonanza. Prohibition began in Savannah in 1908, but by then tax-free alcohol business on Skidaway Island was a long-standing tradition.
Savannah Morning News' July 21, 1925 edition described Skidaway Island as “a veritable nest of moonshine stills.” The newspaper went on to say "agents swooped down on the salt water region Saturday and destroyed three stills in operation of a capacity of 210 gallons and another across the Island of 125 gallon capacity."
I bet the revenuers didn't get them all.