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CRACKER HOMES AND THEIR PEOPLE
When you visit Florida, you are sure to hear Cracker homes and the people mentioned.
Well, what are they?
Cracker people were true pioneers, self reliant and resourceful. They spoke in a patois of Old English, some local vernacular and some invented words of their own. These people raised cattle and grew crops in the 19th century.
The origin of the word Cracker is open to some dispute: there are 3 main theories.
Number one, that it came from the noise the whip made when driving cattle
Number two, that it is from corn cracking when they ground the corn.
Number three, that is from the celtic word for loud mouth
Which is correct; nobody knows for sure.
Grits were their spaple diet and would have been used as we use the potato as the starchy part of the meal, wild hog was also a favourite as was Cooter which was a soft shelled turtle (conservationists are now wincing) Salt pork was cunfusingly known as saw mill chicken. Salting is a time honoured way of preserving meat before the advent of fridges and freezers. These peoples worked very hard and would have neded a lot of calories from their food.
A Cracker home was built to withstand the sub tropical climate of Florida and using local resources. They were made from Virgin Pine which is high in resin so therefore resists the mites (very important in this state) the roofs were built from cypress shingles which allows air flow.
Often they would be built of 2 cabin like structures linked by a dog trot (or porch) It is strange to think that these homes would be open without window or porch covering. They would burn turps or rubber to repel the marauding midges. This must have made a smoke that was almost as bad as getting bitten.
For those of you visiting the attractions area a good place to get a flavour of Cracker life is Cracker Country Museum in Tampa. This is fully outdoors museum and here you can learn about Cracker life and even try your hand at spinning wool, churning butter or making rope. They have used authentic buildings to make you feel part of the era
There is a gift shop here where you can buy snacks, toys and home accesories that are redolent of this period.
These were truly part of the changing and evolving history of Florida and well worth learning about. It is interesting to note that some house builders are modelling new homes on these humble dwellings.
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