Jr. and I took the JEEP deep into Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area for some manual transmission, clutch pushing, gear shifting driving lessons. He's 15 and that Restricted Driver's License is burning a hole in his pocket.
It was an excellent afternoon, made more interesting by his apparent habit of driving with his eyes closed. As soon as we pulled into the 7,000 acre park, I turned the Jeep over to him and moved to the passenger seat. (GULP!) He drove really well as it turned out. We saw deer, anhingas, carnivorous plants having sex, and beautiful scenery. Those pics are another post.
The scenery was pure Florida wild and the conversation a rambling one. At first, there was lots of driving tips, ... how to start off, shifting smoothly, remembering to push in the clutch when I made him stop for repeated photos. Then somehow, the conversation flowed to oil, the need to replace it as our primary fuel and why oil powered dictators like Iran's president and Venezuela's Chavez are such an irritation, and yet popular with their country's poor. Yes, I shared some of our historical errors in dealing with South America and the Mideast.
A pair of deer interrupted for a few minutes when we stopped to watch, then it continued ...
Talking about Chavez got us to Castro's history from rebel to dictator and what Cuba might be like in a few years. Then we covered the China/ Taiwan dispute with a brief history of the Nationalist defeat and retreat to Formosa and why China wants it back. We talked of China's changing social situation, how their economy was surging as was their military budget, and how the rising middle class in China might make a future war with us less likely due to our increasing similarities. It's harder to jump to swordplay when you have so much to lose.
It went on. I was not monologuing, he was full of questions. Whose our best ally? Is an ally who says "I support you no matter what, or I support you when you are right? What was NATO? (How did he miss that in his education?) We covered the French, Brits, Germans, ... I think we skipped the Spanish, but we hit the Italians. I pointed out that the French and the Germans got a lot of bad press, for their lack of support for the Iraq War and yet they flew CAP over the US after 911 and did not hesitate to fulfill NATO responsibilities in Afghanistan. I thought their bad press was unfair and told him that...
The rutted dirt road twisted and turned through the swamps and forest while the JEEP conversation turned and twisted from one ally to another. I explained NORAD, the DEW line, and a little about growing up in the cold war. (Ever get nostalgic for the cold war?)
Eventually we made it all the way through the forest and came out on to the highway at Blue Springs.
"Do you want to drive back fast on the paved highway or turn around and drive home slow through the swamp again?" I asked him.
He turned the JEEP around and headed back into the swamp.
A pileated flew ahead of us and landed on a cypress tree.
"See that swoopy flight? When you see that, you know it's gonna be a woodpecker." I said.
The muddy rutted road twisted through a dense palm, bay, cypress swamp and the conversation turned back to the wildlife around us.