National Geographic : 1930 Jan
FLORIDA-THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH Whether you ride into Florida from Mobile over the Old Spanish Trail or come south through Georgia over the Dixie Highway, the same smooth, easy-riding pavement, often lined with graceful pines, sweeps onward into scenes of ever-chang ing beauty. To ride down the ridge, as through Gainesville, Ocala, Orlando, and on to Winterhaven, Lakeland, Tampa, and Fort Myers, among lakes and orange groves, is to enjoy one of the scenic journeys of the world. Waving palm trees stand in the vast cabbage patches here just as they wave over the tobacco fields of Luzon. One or more of the main highways reaches every port in the State. It is easy to see what this means to commerce, com pared with parts of China, for example, where coolies still push wheelbarrows of freight a thousand miles to reach the sea. Here, as elsewhere, the truck and motor bus help boats and trains to handle traffic. WHERE TIIE TRUCK IS KING To collect and distribute fruit, lumber, and other freight, Florida now uses more than 40,000 trucks. Millions ride the busses, and in one year 1,230,000 cars are estimated to have crossed the Gandy Bridge over Tampa Bay. Out-of-State motor cars, going south or coming back, cross the great St. Johns River bridge at Jacksonville in a steady stream. During the rush season, cars from the North. spattered red with clay, have poured through Lake City for the resorts farther south at the rate of nearly two a minute during daylight hours. To save time and distance for this ever growing stream of motor vehicles, the State has built miles of handsome bridges. One of the most useful is the Victory Bridge over the Apalachicola River. Be fore it was built, that part of Florida to the west of it was seldom seen by trav elers, except those who sported wings and tail feathers. Florida has no bond issues to meet road costs. Aside from county and Federal aid, roads are paid for from a five-cent levy on gasoline and from taxes on motor cars. Half-wild cattle snort and "high-tail it" back into the palmetto scrub when you ride suddenly upon them. Native cattle, "mostly hoofs, horns, and tails," as Texas cowboys say, roam by the scores of thou sands over the vast open wood range of north and middle Florida. These small, underbred animals are descendants of cattle introduced long ago by Spaniards. As they tug and chew at some of the wild, tough plant life, one wonders how they masticate it without pain from spines and splinters. HOW FLORIDA IS BUILDING UP ITS CATTLE HERDS Here the fever tick has long been the bane of bovine life. For decades this pest has militated against both the increase and the improvement of herds. To guard against it, Georgia built a double fence along her Florida line. Now systematic tick eradication is under way. To date, nearly half the State has been made tick-free and strict quarantine is enforced against counties where the pest still prevails. This and the wide introduc tion of purebred bulls is slowly building up a better cattle industry. Florida hopes in time to supply at least her own beef, butter, and milk. Results from cross breeding with the humpbacked, fever-re sisting Brahman cattle about Brighton, north of Lake Okeechobee, and Aberdeen Angus cattle in the Quincy region have been most satisfactory. This has likewise proved successful in the island of Jamaica and other of the English West Indies. At a recent Liberty County fair the calves of native cows and other varieties of purebred sires were exhibited, weigh ing from 400 to 450 pounds at eight months of age. Aberdeen-Angus yearlings have been grown here which tipped the scales at 1,3oo pounds and more. Many herds already number 5,000 and upward. They are increasing steadily, as more and more counties are freed of ticks. Over much of Florida, cattle can graze from eight to ten months out of the year; and the best way to make vast areas of cut-over lands yield enough to pay taxes, Floridians say, is to run cattle on them. That program, as well as better fire and tick control, is now a fixed State policy. Also, to develop additional forage, various experiments are being made, as at the Gainesville station, with imported grasses, such as Napier, Bermuda, Guatemala, and others.