My cousin Hilton Sims (Hil) Hutchinson, Jr., the son of my mother's sister Anna Frances Ham Hutchinson, lived in Tifton, Georgia, with his mother Anna Frances Ham Hutchinson until she died in May 1999. After she died, her house in Tifton was sold, and Hil had to move.
If you drive southwest from Tifton on US Highway 319, you hit the Gulf of Mexico in Franklin County, Florida. Just before you get to Apalachicola, there is a causeway that ends on St. George Island, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. That is where Hil moved, renting a house near the beach.
In February 2002, Hil ran out of rent money, took a room at the Buccaneer Inn, and shot himself in the mouth with a .22 revolver that he had inherited from our grandfather George Ham. ( I had that revolver destroyed by the Franklin County Sheriff. )
When he died, Wednesday, 20 February 2002, 99 days before his 60th birthday 30 May 2002, Hil was in pretty good physical health, with no known terminal disease, severe chronic pain, or Alzheimer-type disability. He left a note that referred to The Mask of Sanity, by Hervey M. Cleckley ( a co-author with Corbett H. Thigpen of The Three Faces of Eve ). With the note, he left a Florida Lottery ticket. The note specified how the winnings were to be distributed ( over a dozen specific bequests, from $50,000 to $200,000 each, and a chair of Southern Literature at the University of the South - Sewanee in the name of of both of his grandfathers ( however, nothing to me )). I checked out the lottery ticket. It was "not a winner".
and people furled their umbrellas and left the beach
About 4 hours later part of the same cell of thunderstorms arrived at Hil's home town of Tifton, Georgia
Saturday after Hil's death, Rev. Joe Knight held a memorial service 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. ...".
On the following Sunday, about the time of the early afternoon high tide, Hil's sister Julia Young, her husband Mike Young, her daughter Laura Young, her daughter Amy Young Duggan, Amy's husband Tim Duggan, and other friends and relatives gathered at the beach on St. George Island where Hil liked to walk. While we were there, a flock of seagulls formed a ball-like formation over the water, and then spiralled in a vortex toward the sky.
The people on St. George Island were very sympathetic and helpful to Hil's family. Some of them (I may not have listed everybody, because my memory is not too good, so I will just apologize and say thanks to those whose names I have forgotten) 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 ...
According to a web page of the Florida Panther Net, "... The panther's range consists of nearly 1 million hectares in southwest Florida. ...". However, according to another web page, during the 1990s "... Nineteen mountain lions (Puma concolor stanleyana) were released in the area of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge/Osceola National Forest. ... the lions were most likely found in forested wetlands along river drainages and in pinelands ...", referring to a release map web page from which the following image was adapted:
The place where I saw a Panther was in eastern Franklin County, not far from the Ochlockonee River downstream from the area circled in red labelled T-43, so maybe I saw a mountain lion (or a descendant thereof) from a reintroduction release.
that the weather was stormy, so I waited. On Wednesday, there were storms and a waterspout in Apalachicola Bay
so again I waited. On Thursday, 20 June 202, I drove down via Florida Highway 65 through Sumatra and the western part of Tate's Hell where I saw carnivorous plants
and a Black Bear crossing the road.
Thursday afternoon the weather was good and I enjoyed my kayak in the St. George Island surf. That night I decided that I would first take some time in my room at The Inn at Resort Village to pay some bills. When I finished my paperwork, 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 to walk the beach in the rain, I decided that I would stay in. There was some distant thunder and lightning, but I didn't worry about it, and I began to regret my decision to stay in, when, a few minutes after midnight, now of the Summer Solstice day of 21 June 2002,
a Big Bolt of Lightning hit the beach where I would have been walking. It was the only really nearby lightning bolt all night.
Although I did not get hit by lightning on the Summer Solstice of 2002, on the early morning of the following Full Moon of 24 June 2002 I was admited to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta ( the same hospital in which almost a year prior my cousin Bev was awaiting surgery and procedures that were to make his last few months relatively happy ) where I awaited surgery to remove my gall bladder with about 200 stones, some of which had blocked my pancreas from the common bile duct, causing acute pancreatitis ( my serum amylase got over 3,000 ). Dr. William Waters IV admitted me, then Dr. Randy Yanda did an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) that determined that the stones blocking the pancreas had passed, then Dr. Bryant Wilson did a laparoscopic removal of my gall bladder (and stones), and then I felt a lot better.
Tony's Home Page