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A certain widowed guajiro who had made a meager living growing oranges in his twenty acre grove happened to exist during the time of the great Florida canker scare.  The state government had figured out a way to pay back its greatest political contributors by creating an all out attack on a minor disease of citrus—canker.  This harmless disease blemished the skin of the fruit but did in no way affect the sweetness within.  As the citrus industry depended almost exclusively on the juice industry to dispose of its oranges, the canker was of relatively little negative commercial impact.  Nevertheless, state money flowed into the pockets of chosen landscapers to eliminate all citrus trees from homeowners’ yards and from small groves (an extra benefit to the cutting was indeed the reduction of small competition), and to the giant company Mart Mart which held exclusive rights to the vouchers with which homeowners who had been affected could buy non-citrus foliage. The farmer lost all his trees in a massive controlled burn one night and day (a process which itself spread the airborne disease for miles around).  And, since his was a commercial grove, his infected trees were declared of zero commercial value, annulling any claim he would normally have to insurance or remuneration.  The farmer was almost broken by the tragedy.

For days after the burning, he drank rum and coffee and cursed the land.  Yet he could feel the eyes of his dead wife on him, judging him, scolding him for his weakness. One day he awoke and made a pot of black coffee without any rum chaser. He rented a back hoe and dug out the stumps of his burned trees and then kept digging until he had dug ten great ponds which he filled with fish.  The fish he grew out and sold to nearby Oriental markets.  The widower had found a way back. He felt his wife smiling with him.

One day the local code and zoning agent stopped by and told the farmer that the ponds were illegal.  The city wanted to develop the area and the ponds would threaten the water supply.  Nothing was further from the truth scientifically, but the city like the state cared more for progress and payola than truth. They condemned the farm again.

Now the man was finally broken.  He could hear his dead wife weeping. He declared, “At my age, I can no longer cultivate myself. La vida. Ya me no gozarlo… Que no puedo ganarse la vida la tierra. I’ll make a grave of it then.” One starry autumn night, he tied his ankle to a large rock and threw both it and himself into the largest of the ponds and drowned.

A wealthy developer filled in the ponds and converted the land into tract housing under the name Ten Lake Estates.  Every year on Halloween, the farmer’s howls and screams of anger can be heard in the high wind that swirls through the landscaped trees before rising to the now barren harvest moon.

 

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