My cousin Hilton Sims (Hil) Hutchinson, Jr., the son of mymother's sister Anna Frances Ham Hutchinson, lived in Tifton,Georgia, with his mother Anna Frances Ham Hutchinson until she diedin May 1999. After she died, her house in Tifton was sold, and Hilhad to move.

If you drive southwest from Tifton on US Highway 319, you hit theGulf of Mexico in Franklin County, Florida. Just before you get toApalachicola, there is a causeway that ends on St. George Island, abarrier island in the Gulfof Mexico. That is where Hilmoved, renting a house near the beach.

In February 2002, Hil ran out of rent money, took a room at theBuccaneer Inn, and shot himself in the mouth with a .22 revolver thathe had inherited from our grandfather GeorgeHam. ( I had thatrevolver destroyed by the Franklin CountySheriff. )

When he died, Wednesday, 20 February 2002, 99 days before his 60thbirthday 30 May 2002, Hil was in pretty good physical health, with noknown terminal disease, severe chronic pain, or Alzheimer-typedisability. He left a note that referred to TheMask of Sanity, by Hervey M. Cleckley ( aco-author with Corbett H. Thigpen of The Three Faces of Eve ).With the note, he left a Florida Lottery ticket. The note specifiedhow the winnings were to be distributed ( over adozen specific bequests, from $50,000 to $200,000 each, and a chairof Southern Literature at the University of the South - Sewanee inthe name of of both of his grandfathers (however, nothing to me )). I checked out thelottery ticket. It was "not a winner".

 


A bit before 3 PM EDT on Hil's 60th birthday, there was athunderstorm at St. George Island

and people furled their umbrellas and left the beach

About 4 hours later part of the same cell of thunderstorms arrivedat Hil's home town of Tifton, Georgia


Saturday after Hil's death, Rev. Joe Knight held a memorialservice at Trinity Church in Apalachicola.

According to a Trinity Episcopal Church Historic Tour web page, from which the above image was taken, "... Trinity Church has been holding services in it's original building for more than 150 years. Construction of the building actually began in New York. In 1837, white pine was ordered out of New York then shipped via schooner down the Atlantic eastern seaboard, around the tip of the Florida peninsula and up to Apalachicola, where the structure was assembled with wooden pins. The columns at the entrance were hand-crafted. Trinity Church is believed to be the sixth oldest church in the State of Florida, the second oldest church still holding services. The church building, of Greek Revival architecture, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the first members was Dr. John Gorrie, the 19th century physician who is credited with inventing the ice machine, forerunner of modern refrigeration and air conditioning. ...".
Back on St. George Island after the service, I saw someDolphins off the beach where Hil liked towalk.

On the following Sunday, about the time of the early afternoonhigh tide, Hil's sister Julia Young, her husband Mike Young, herdaughter Laura Young, her daughter Amy Young Duggan, Amy's husbandTim Duggan, and other friends and relatives gathered at the beach onSt. George Island where Hil liked to walk. While we were there, aflock of seagulls formed a ball-like formation over the water, andthen spiralled in a vortex toward thesky.

 

The people on St. George Island were very sympathetic and helpfulto Hil's family. Some of them (I may not have listedeverybody, because my memory is not too good, so I will justapologize and say thanks to those whose names I haveforgotten) are:

Rev. Joe Knight, Linda Adair, Bill Eaton, Lloyd Summer, Stanley, Dennis Barnwell, Judy Schultz, Michelle and Burt, Jean Collins, Jerry Cook, Thad Brewer, Joan, Mark Little, Jerry Bonds, Richard and Susan Langford, Potato Dave, Debbie Flowers, Ron Kay, the lady who keeps the St. George Inn, and the crew from the Island Oasis ... and many others whose names I cannot now recall ...

  

 


 

Before dawn on that Sunday morning, as I was driving from St.George Island to a funeral home in Tallahassee, I saw a FloridaPanther in Franklin County walking along U.S. 319/98 about 2 mileswest of where U.S. 319 to Sopchoppy leaves U.S. 98 to Panacea.

According to aweb page of the FloridaPanther Net, "... The panther's range consists of nearly 1million hectares in southwest Florida. ...". However, according toanotherweb page, during the 1990s "... Nineteen mountain lions (Pumaconcolor stanleyana) were released in the area of the OkefenokeeNational Wildlife Refuge/Osceola National Forest. ... the lions weremost likely found in forested wetlands along river drainages and inpinelands ...", referring to arelease map web page from which the following image wasadapted:

The place where I saw a Panther was in eastern Franklin County,not far from the Ochlockonee River downstream from the area circledin red labelled T-43, so maybe I saw a mountain lion (or a descendantthereof) from a reintroduction release.

  


At the SummerSolstice of 2002, I went to St. George Island to try out my newsit-on-top kayak. I first thought of going there on Tuesday, 18 June2002, but I saw on the Beach Cam at Finni's

that the weather was stormy, so I waited. On Wednesday, there werestorms and a waterspout in Apalachicola Bay

so again I waited. On Thursday, 20 June 202, I drove down viaFlorida Highway 65 through Sumatra and the western part of Tate'sHell where I sawcarnivorous plants

and a Black Bear crossing the road.

Thursday afternoon the weather was good and I enjoyed my kayak inthe St. George Island surf. That night I decided that I would firsttake some time in my room at TheInn at Resort Village to pay some bills. When I finished mypaperwork, I got up to go out on the beach, but it had begun to rain,and after a period of ambivalence trying to decide whether or not towalk the beach in the rain, I decided that I would stay in. There wassome distant thunder and lightning, but I didn't worry about it, andI began to regret my decision to stay in, when, a few minutes aftermidnight, now of the Summer Solstice day of 21 June 2002,

clfpq.html#whatclifspin

a Big Bolt of Lightning hit the beach where I would have beenwalking. It was the only really nearby lightning bolt all night.

Although I did not get hit by lightning on the Summer Solstice of2002, on the early morning of the following Full Moon of 24 June 2002I was admited to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta ( thesame hospital in which almost a year prior mycousin Bev was awaiting surgery and procedures that were to make hislast few months relatively happy )where I awaited surgery to remove my gall bladder with about 200stones, some of which had blocked my pancreas from the common bileduct, causing acute pancreatitis ( my serum amylasegot over 3,000 ). Dr. William Waters IV admitted me, then Dr.Randy Yanda did an ERCP (endoscopic retrogradecholangiopancreatography) that determined that the stones blockingthe pancreas had passed, then Dr. Bryant Wilson did a laparoscopicremoval of my gall bladder (and stones), and then I felt a lotbetter.

 



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