In the Path

Most everyone who comes to this blog knows I live in Central Florida. Orlando, to be precise.  Hurricane Irma is supposed to hit Florida head on, but hurricanes are unpredictable and nobody really knows for sure what is going to happen. Currently the hurricane is directly over Cuba.

In 2004, we sighed with relief when Charley went into the Gulf of Mexico. However, at Charlotte Harbor, Charley turned eastbound up the Peace River. My husband and his former souse were sitting in Orlando watching on the television as the eye of the hurricane moved over their investment home on the Peace River and leveled it. His boat ended up in his neighbor’s living room. Then, Charley headed north, and hit Orlando wide open.

Charley was small, fast and furious, cutting a path across the state before heading back into the Atlantic on the other side of the state. When it hit the Gulf, all of Central Florida had let down their guard. Tornadoes were spawned in Charley’s wake. So there was much devastation across the state.

In 2004, I had never experienced a hurricane. That night, I was off work and sitting on my front porch talking to my dad on the phone while watching the huge oak trees across the street kiss the ground in the torrential rains. My little apartment was on the ground floor of a two-story cinder block building on the NW side of town and I felt safe.

Little did I know that the SE side of town was ripped apart near the airport. I never lost power, so I had hot water and air-conditioning. But I was most fortunate, most were without power for nine days. Early the next morning I was called into work.

As an RN I was considered first responder during Charley and our employers made nurses stay at work 24/7….could not even go home to shower and had to sleep in patients rooms on the floor. I mean we chose that job…but that’s how it was. I lived five mins away and off the night of the hurricane, but was called into work that morning and had to show the police my “Disaster Preparedness Team” papers to be able to be on the interstate. I was in College Park and worked off Michigan. After 16 hours of work, they wanted me to sleep on the floor in a patient’s room because we received a huge amount of patients that had been evacuated from a facility in Lake Wales that had lost its roof. They let me go home for 8 hours, but I had to sign a paper agreeing to be back when I said I would….or risk termination.

We lost a lot of patients during that time. The Nursing Home was without power for nine days. The backup generator only supplied a few room’s outlets. The oxygen concentrators are electric, and once we ran out of O2 tanks, people started dying. We saved more than we lost, but people were literally dying in the hallways. A van of nurses came from Lake Wales to help take care of their patients every day. A couple of days after Charley went thru, the van was involved in a terrible accident in the torrential rain and two nurses were killed and one was paralyzed for life. I don’t think non-essential employees should be mandated to stay on their jobs during such a crises. But it’s crazy here and people can be fired for leaving a job at McDonald’s. Unless they live in a mandatory evacuation area, they are expected to stay.

Life is an adventure and then you die….seriously…we’ve been helping people board up homes and secure pets for those that need to leave. Some of our friends have relatives on the coast that can’t drive any distance (elderly people) so they are going to get them and bringing them to Orlando…I actually feel safer here in Central FL than anywhere else in FL at the moment.

In the aftermath of Charley all you could smell when you walked outside was Bar-B-Q. People were grilling meats that had thawed and was one big party from backyard to back yard…lol It was quite an experience. Free food everywhere….people helping cover rooftops with tarps. Chainsaw sounds were deafening.

But here is the real kicker: We just bought a house on Matlacha. The island is basically a sandbar between Pine Island and Cape Coral in the Gulf of Mexico, just behind Sanibel Island. Pine Island is a conservation island where no more development is allowed…no big condos, hotels or big box stores. Matlacha (pronounced Matt-la-shay) is that tiny red island.

The homes are three feet above sea level…the quaint bungalow we hope to retire to is on a lot that is built up by about 6 feet, and Irma’s storm surge is expected to be 6-10 feet. The Key Westy home is surrounded by coconut trees and sits on a deep water canal just a few yards from the channel that runs wide open to the Gulf. The home is waterfront with picturesque shuttered windows all around, opening views to the dock and the bay. Sanibel and the barrier Islands offer some shelter, but you just never know about these things.

So there is that. Sure hoping the 1964 house will still be standing when all is done, and the island property is not on the bottom of the bay. It’s been there for more than fifty years, so all we can do is hope it can at least last another fifty years.

 

At any rate, we have a generator for powering our a/c and fridge here in Orlando in case we lose power, and the family is gathering at our place to weather whatever part of the storm hits us here in Orlando Sunday night. There is still a sliver of hope that Irma will continue westward, but all hope of it turning north and heading up the eastern seaboard is gone at this point. It is currently bearing down on Cuba and when it hits the mountains it should weaken. The FL Keys are just starting to get hit with the outer bands, and they are warning them for Cat 3 with 105-125 winds with gusts to 145, and it’s not looking good for Matlacha. However, the house was built in 1964, has weathered many a storm, and we can hope to weather another half century.

Battening down the hatches and riding out the storm!

FREE Book for the weekend! Naked Alliances #RRBC

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Digital downloads of Naked Alliances are available 08/26-08/29

Grab a copy, and a margarita, sit back, relax and enjoy your weekend.

S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination.

Crime, eco, and social issues are at the forefront of her writing.  As a former sexual assault nurse examiner she has an interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking.  She is also a member of the Florida Writer’s Association, Writers of Central Florida, Sisters in Crime, and reads frequently to the public at the local Short Attention Span Story Hour in Orlando.

Always accused of being the class clown and a daydreamer, the crimes are heinous but the humorous approach provides entertainment, creating a lighter, softcore crime read with the Naked Eye Series.

 

Florida Native Rhythms Festival

Last weekend, we took a little trip down to Melbourne, Florida for the Eighth Annual Native Rhythms Festival sponsored by the Indian River Flute Circle and Native Heritage Gathering, Inc. It was set in Wickham Park, a lovely little wooded park in the midst of an enchanted forest, or so it seemed with the trills of the flutists wafting along on the breezes.

There was something magical about hearing Native Americans playing their tunes that most learned from their forefathers, legendary music passed down through generations, while wandering between the ancient live oaks that flanked the tall pine forest. It set me back in time.

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While we were there we browsed the vendors and came across a very kind lady who hand makes drums with different animal skins stretched across the raw hide frames…buffalo hide, deer, and elk. Each drum has its own pitch and tone, depending upon the thickness of the animal skin. Drum circles are popular events around here, especially on the beaches. I wanted one, but I also wanted a new Keurig, and coffee won that battle.

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Artists and craftsmen/women had their works displayed throughout the park and the vendors were very friendly, taking the time to teach people about their crafts. I tried to learn how to play a flute. I need a lot of work, but it was fun trying. No trading with beads and shells here, but they take VISA and MasterCard.

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But, by far, the coolest exhibit was a real teepee.

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The teepee was fashioned from dyed and painted animal hides braced on poles. We hesitated to go inside the tiny doorway, but the gentleman standing by the door told us it was not something we wanted to miss, so we went inside.

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He was right. It was stunning, and much larger inside than it appeared from the outside. There were two cots, one on either side, and a large living space adorned with trophy furs and blankets.

The costumes were beautiful and colorful with leather, seed beads and bone. Don’t see too many feathered headdresses with the Florida native attire.

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There is a short clip of some of the sort of flute and drum music we heard playing. The weather was perfect and it was a nice day out. omanyteBTW, the park is an Omanyte nest right now for all you Pokemon Go players. That’s a very rare and ancient fossilized snail.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series: Vegas, Florida Cowboys and Indians

Most of my writing these past few weeks has been marketing related. I’m jonesing to get back to creative fiction writing. I’ve been toying with the title of the next book. I was going to call it Naked Malice. But Naked Odds seems to suit the characters and gambling component that is expanded on.

We’ll be at SleuthFest in February, and then Vegas in April. There are a couple of scenes that take place in Vegas and I have never been. I’d like to get a feel for both the layout of the Strip and the people. (Being able to take in the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show is an added bonus.)

The Seminole Indians, (Native Americans to be more politically correct), here in Florida have a colorful recent history that is also finding its way into Book Two. Another fascinating tid-bit that I’m working in has to do with the “real” American cowboys. There were even Seminole Cowboys.

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Let’s start with the horse. Horses were not native to North America. Or were they?

Should the wild horses that roam North America be considered native wildlife? They may have been “introduced” by man, but scientific evidence suggests that they are genetically the same as the horses that became extinct on the continent between 11,000 and 13,000 years. In fact, the genus Equus could have been wiped out entirely had it not crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into Eurasia. 

Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the land bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction. However, Equus survived and spread to all continents of the globe, except Australia and Antarctica.

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Native status for wild horses would place these animals, under law, within a new category for management considerations. As a form of wildlife, embedded with wildness, ancient behavioral patterns, and the morphology and biology of a sensitive prey species, they may finally be released from the “livestock-gone-loose” appellation.

Those of us who have been here a while equate wild horses with cowboys and Indians. Anyone who grew up in the sixties (with, at most, three TV channels) has seen the Wild, Wild West movies and TV shows, which showcased and romanticized the life of both cowboys and Native Americans. So, where did the cowboy originate? Out west? Most would think so.

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In 1493, on Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands, and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent, in modern-day Mexico, from where they radiated throughout the American Great Plains, after escape from their owners.

Wild Horse Herd stampeding

Wild Horse Herd stampeding

The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend.

However, out west in the 1880s, one loosely organized band was dubbed “The Cowboys,” and profited from smuggling cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border. It became an insult in the area to call someone a “cowboy,” as it suggested he was a horse thief, robber, or outlaw. Cattlemen were generally called herders or ranchers. They were gentlemen and rarely carried weapons (unlike the the cowboys of the wild west shows).

There is regional history of Cowboys; the Texas Cowboy, the California Cowboy, and others. They developed climate suitable regional attire. Florida has its own history of “Cowboys” and they are a proud bunch.

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The Florida “cowhunter” or “cracker cowboy” of the 19th and early 20th centuries was distinct from the Texas and California traditions. Florida cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were bullwhips and dogs. Since the Florida cowhunter did not need a saddle horn for anchoring a lariat, many did not use Western saddles, instead using a McClellan saddle. While some individuals wore boots that reached above the knees for protection from snakes, others wore brogans. They usually wore inexpensive wool or straw hats, and used ponchos for protection from rain.

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Cattle and horses were introduced into Florida in the 16th century . In the 18th century, CreekSeminole, and other Indian people moved into the depopulated areas of Florida and started herding the cattle left from the Spanish ranches. In the 19th century, most tribes in the area were dispossessed of their land and cattle and pushed south or west by white settlers and the United States government. By the middle of the 19th century white ranchers were running large herds of cattle on the extensive open range of central and southern Florida.

Horses first arrived on the southeast North American mainland in 1521, brought by Ponce de Leon on his second trip to the region, where they were used by officers, scouts and livestock herders. Later expeditions brought more horses and cattle to Spanish Florida. By the late 16th century, horses were used extensively in the local cattle business and by the late 17th century the industry was flourishing, especially in what is now northern Florida and southern Georgia. The horses brought to North America by the Spanish and subsequently bred there included Barbs, Garranos, Spanish Jennets, Sorraias, Andalusians and other Iberian breeds. Overall, they were relatively small and had physical traits distinctive of Spanish breeds, including short backs, sloping shoulders, low set tails and wide foreheads.

The vaquero tradition has had little influence in Florida.

The early cattle drivers, nicknamed Florida Crackers and Georgia Crackers, used the Spanish horses to drive cattle. The cowboys received their nickname from the distinctive cracking of their whips, and the name was transferred to both the horses they rode and the cattle they herded. Through their primary use as stock horses, the type developed into the Florida Cracker horse, known for its speed, endurance and agility. From the mid-16th century to the 1930s, this type was the predominant horse in the southeastern United States.These were replaced mostly by thoroughbreds after introduction of “screw worms” from imported cattle, and the Spanish breeds nearly went extinct.

Long before Mickey Mouse came to town, the major attractions in the Kissimmee/Orlando area were the local rodeos. You can still experience the traditional culture of Kissimmee’s cowboys through the Kissimmee Sports Arena Rodeo. The rodeo runs at least twice a month on Friday nights at 8 pm. The Florida cowboy, or Cracker Cowboy became a branding symbol in the 1930s-50s.

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There was a local watering hole called the Big Bamboo on highway #192 for decades. It was a bamboo structure that sat in the midst of a pasture when I was a child. All the cowboys came by to wet their whistles after a long day of herding and told their stories. A wrecked plane and rusted out ambulance graced the front yard, the owner keeping them there as conversation pieces. He was a funny old man and refused to sell the Big Bamboo when all of the million dollar hotels were going up around him. It wasn’t until he died at the turn of the 21st Century that his grandchildren sold off the property and the Big Bamboo was no more. It’s where I had my first taste of alcohol while visiting my Uncle Jim, who started Cypress Cove nudist resort.

But I digress.

Several documentaries have been made about the Cracker Cowboys as they fight to defend their ranch land from encroaching development. Here’s a short clip from one of them.

More than one of these Florida Cracker Cowboys makes his way into Book Two of the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Malice, or Naked Odds? ….the story focuses on some gambling and other issues surrounding gambling in Florida and how the Seminoles are dealing with getting rich quick.

End of Summer and Getting Ready for the New Year

In August I wrote a little post about how Pokemon Go was helping me with grief therapy after a series of tragic events involving family, friends, and community. The story was picked up on Twitter and the editor of Fanreads, Keith McArthur sent me a request to use the story in an anthology of The Greatest Pokemon Go Stories Ever Told. Fanreads puts together books on sports, music and gaming. The cover was created by “Inspired Cover Designs.” See, that’s my name on the cover. 🙂

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You can go to their page and download a few of the stories for free by subscribing to their site, or you can purchase a copy from Amazon, Kobo, or Apple.

I completed my pokedex, finding all 142 available U.S. pokemon, thanks to a lovely park here that spawns all the rare pokemon and has always been a magical, mystical place, Kissimmee Lakefront Park. It’s a gorgeous park on Lake Toho where I once owned a waterfront home. I would walk to the park daily and attend the Renaissance Fair events. The Medieval Times characters practiced their fighting moves for their shows there.  Sometimes the Disney and Universal characters practiced skits there, also.

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They’ve spent thirty million dollars on renovating the park since I lived there and it is a stunning, grassy waterfront park with cobbled walking paths, a fishing pier, picnic pavilions, a splash pad & two shaded playgrounds. A very nice place for me to take a break from my writing and step aside from my grandmotherly duties and just relax a while, watch the wildlife, and soak up sunshine in the daytime and enjoy cool breezes in the evening.

There is a blog tour for Naked Alliances scheduled to begin on October 24th. It’s a big crunch to get all of the documents prepared by the deadline, but we’re well on our way. I’m still feeling like this work should have been done months ago, not AFTER the release of the book. I’ve never worked with a publicist before, but some of her advice conflicts with what I have learned about successful marketing and promotions. We’ll see how this all turns out.

Sales started out very well and I have sold more books in the first month than I did in the first year of Red Clay and Roses.

Things have slowed down a bit, but my blog audience and author platform only reach so far. There are radio interviews scheduled for October and book tours coming up. I’ll post those as they are scheduled.

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I’ll be attending Sleuthfest again next year and invite all crime/mystery writers and readers to join me. I had a blast there this year and gained a tremendous amount of confidence in reading the first chapter of my manuscript aloud. I won’t have a finished manuscript to work with next year, but I do have a new book on the market. Hopefully, Naked Alliances will be available at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, owned and operated by co-chair Joanne Sinchuk.

We also have a trip to Vegas lined up for next year. This is research for the next book in the Naked Eye Series. More about that later.

If you’re not going to make the Sleuthfest event, but would like a copy of the book, you can get a downloadable or paperback copy from Amazon. As the weather turns, it will make a nice addition to your morning weekend coffee.

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Pokemon Go and Grief Therapy

Poor little angel

Poor little angel

Candidness is one of my attributes, for better or worse. Lately, we’ve suffered through one tragedy after another. The month of May brought a horrible experience with a dog bite on the face of my one-year-old granddaughter at her great-grandmother’s funeral.

We’re still working through those scars.

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Christina Grimmie

June 11th brought the murder in our town of an aspiring musical artist, Christina Grimmie.

Before the shock was over, June 12th, this was followed by the horrific assault on a nightclub wherein forty-nine people lost their lives to a deranged killer, at a place called Pulse. A place my daughter and son-in-law had been fifteen minutes before the first shots were fired.

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Forty-Nine Pulse Victims

Then a young child was snatched from his mother’s hand by a vicious alligator and killed.

Mom and Lane

Mom and Lane

July left us heartbroken when a young man who was staying with us RIP Gabrieland successfully turning his life around was involved in a dirt bike accident that took his life and all the joy he had brought into ours.

Times have been really tough. It’s been a lousy year. But there are good things on the horizon. Naked Alliances, my new crime novel, is on track to be published in late September. I’ll start working with my publicist soon for pre-marketing and the release. There are lots of folk helping in the background to make this happen and to you I am truly grateful.

After Gabriel passed away, I was inundated with grief. Not even able to get out of bed, I lay there and cried for two weeks, not accomplishing much of anything and wallowing in self-pity. Feeling like I was heading full thrust into a bipolar depressive episode, I needed a diversion.

Enter Pokemon Go.

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Yes, a simple game, but one that gets you out of your house, into the sunshine, and around other people enjoying themselves and working together to have fun. I have met people of all ages and from all backgrounds while playing this game. It has brought me out of myself and helped me grow as a person. My Pokemon Go Florida FB group has been an inspiration. There are some wonderful folk in this state.

Yes, I’m still grieving, but I’m not isolating myself, and I’m not obsessing over the worst of things.

Sitting in city parks, I have had deep and meaningful conversations with young people, Gabriel’s age and younger, as well as many much more mature and wiser that I am.

I’ve seen some videos of angry people. I understand that people find it irreverent for folk to be gathered together playing games at certain memorials. I get that. I also get that most of these folk, me included, would have never known about these memorials in isolated places had it not been for the game. I have stumbled upon fabulous places I never knew existed.

It is very simple to write Niantic and have pokestops removed from such places as war memorials. It is NOT necessary to go out trying to pick a fight with young people, assaulting them, punching them in the face, and destroying their property. These young people are finally outside seeing their world, exploring their communities, instead of being closed off in a room somewhere doing much of nothing.

From what I have seen in the many places I have visited these past couple of weeks, players are respectful, taking their trash with them, quietly playing the game, focused on their phones. I’ve not seen any drinking or rowdy behaviors at ANY of the parks. People know not to trespass, and it’s not necessary. The app allows you to touch the screen to bring the pokemon to you rather than you going after it, but some people didn’t know that in the beginning. And new people taking up the game are still learning.

As with anything new, there have been some stupid people driving while playing, not staying aware of their surroundings, and some nasty folk taking advantage of people playing. That’s sad, but for the most part it is a happy thing and loads of fun.

I’m suffering from allergies and a severe head cold at the moment, else I’d be out playing today. Instead, I’m home checking my IV stats and culling my pokemon characters so I have the very best specimens to work with.  It’s something I can mindlessly occupy myself with, steering me away from the dark recesses of a troubled psyche.

Say what you will about the game and the “stupid” people out chasing pokemon, but for somebody who has never understood the allure of athletic sports, fantasy football, and the fortunes in taxes spent on places to play them, and one who has never been able to get into chasing little white balls across pastures with a club either, I’m quite content to enjoy my augmented reality game. For me, it has been a Godsend.

Help Me Name This Character

When I was working for Hospice in the year 2000, I had an assignment that involved delivering morphine to a guy in Hallowpaw, Florida. With a town name like that, you can imagine the characters who live there.

Hallowpaw is a little village that sits out on a swamp in the middle of nowhere about forty miles south of Orlando.

It was pouring rain that day and I drove down a long sandy road with cypress swamp on either side to get to the address. When I arrive in front of the tiny makeshift shack, I turned onto a drive that was flooded in places and wondered if my car would make it out.

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Sitting on the front porch was a huge Haitian man of about four-hundred pounds, give or take a few.

In a foot and a half of murky coffee-colored water, I took my umbrella and waded, in my three inch heels and stockings, to the front steps.

A pillar of smoke rose from his head and I noticed he was smoking a doobie the size of a Cuban cigar, the fragrance unmistakable. I stepped up onto the porch, introduced myself and took a seat across from him. It was then that I saw the two foot alligator on a leash that he held in his hand. It lay quietly on the floor a few inches from my wet feet.

He was jovial, but obviously in pain, wincing with every move. I handed him his bag and he told me a couple of swamp stories and I was on my way.

A couple of months later I was in Washington, D.C. attending a luncheon hosted by Elizabeth Dole’s  secretary, where I was asked to describe a day in the life of a Hospice nurse. Hospice was a relatively new concept in this country at that time. We were trying to get political support.

The day I met the Haitian man came to mind because it was a full day. I had to leave him, go home and shower, and be at the top of the Winter Park Towers to give a presentation to a bunch of doctors and suits on the benefits of Hospice services and the feasibility of instituting an inpatient suite of beds in their facility. Next, I had to meet with a family in their home to process an admission of their dying family member. Those appointments took me from sunrise to way after sunset. I thought that day offered a comprehensive overview of what Hospice nurses do.

First lady: Did you call the police and report the illegal drugs?

Me: No, I was there to deliver his morphine. I doubt if anything he was imbibing in was anymore detrimental to his health than his disease or his narcotics.

Second lady: Did you call the Humane Society or Animal Control about the alligator?

Me: The man was dying. If he found some pleasure in entertaining himself with an alligator while getting high, who am I to wreck his fun.

They didn’t seem at all interested in my day beyond the flaws they found in that situation. I guess those stuffy, high society ladies had never seen the real Florida.

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I told you about this man because I’m thinking of working him into this book, Naked Malice, as an ancillary character.

He was a storyteller and I’m certain he knew all the secrets the swamp could hold in his area. I need people who know secrets of the swamp for this story. I mentioned him in Red Clay and Roses, but I really want to bring him to life in this next book. I’d like the old man to be immortal. I can’t recall his name. Any suggestions?

He was Haitian, so I’m thinking something with a bit of Creole French, but also need something that suits his quirky character or swamp life.