Editor’s note: This week’s look back into West Volusia history comes from Michael Braddock of Astor.
Braddock’s family first moved to Northwest Volusia in 1856.
“There were some of the Braddocks who made cow whips, so I’m a Cracker,” he said.
Michael Braddock has lived in Pierson all his life, except for a few years when he worked for the federal government as a mathematical statistician in Washington, D.C., having earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at the University of Florida.
Braddock returned to his family’s long tradition of farming citrus and fern in Northwest Volusia, and still tends a couple of groves, he said, nowadays fighting the battle against citrus greening.
His sons — James M. Jr., David Olan and Benjamin Sean — live in Pierson.
If Realtor Bill Mancinik’s “Native Reflections” column has inspired you to remember growing up in West Volusia, send 600-700 words about it to email@example.com.
In the early 1960s, Union Camp timber company was the largest landowner in Volusia County. The company’s head guy in Volusia County came to Richard Hagstrom asking would he be interested in getting a group together to lease a tract of land.
The Northwest Volusia Hunting Club got started on that tract. My dad and I were charter members, and I am still a member.
When the club began, all the gates were locked and the property was posted. The land had been open to everyone for years, and some folks didn’t like it being closed. Someone started pegging our locks (driving a piece of wood into the lock’s keyhole).
There was a man in Northwest Volusia who was a tough character. We made him an honorary member of the Hunting Club, and, after a couple of nights, no more locks were pegged.
Little Haw Creek runs through the property, and some of the best warmouth fishing is there.
I can remember in the spring going out there with some of the members (Burnseds, Braddocks, Dreggors, Hagstroms and others), catching fish and having a fish fry.<img class="wp-image-4222 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/99a82d15e32a7f03cc67675921d9d9eb-scaled.jpg" alt="A LIFELONG SPORTSMAN — Since the age of 7, Michael Braddock said, he’s been involved in one hunt camp or another. Here, Braddock shows off a 17.5-pound catfish he caught using an 8-pound fishing line (which, luckily, held) in January 2008 in Lake Dexter. Braddock also hunts at the Northwest Volusia Hunting Club.” width=”696″ height=”1009″ />
A LIFELONG SPORTSMAN — Since the age of 7, Michael Braddock said, he’s been involved in one hunt camp or another. Here, Braddock shows off a 17.5-pound catfish he caught using an 8-pound fishing line (which, luckily, held) in January 2008 in Lake Dexter. Braddock also hunts at the Northwest Volusia Hunting Club.
But the best story about fishing in the creek was when my dad, who was a big man (300 pounds) took a 10-foot pram and put it in the creek to fish. Another fellow, kind of a nervous fellow, was with him.
They fished for several hours and caught a 5-gallon bucketful of warmouth.
With all the weight in the boat, there were just a couple of inches of free board. When they got back to the landing, my dad told the fellow to be careful and step up on the shore; then Dad would hand him everything in the boat before Dad himself got out.
The man stepped up onto the landing, and then he reached down and lifted the front of the boat onto the shore.
When he did, the back of the boat went under, with my dad on the back seat. All hell broke loose.
The southern boundary of the Northwest Volusia Hunting Club’s property is Highway 40. I can remember when 40 was a dirt road from Barberville to Ormond Beach.
It’s now one of the most traveled highways in Florida.
Similarly, all the old-timers call County Road 3, which runs from DeLeon Springs to north of Pierson, the “old highway.” It was part of the original U.S. 17 from DeLand to Jacksonville.
The fern industry is a special business sector in Volusia County, and I recall the different ways we protected the fern crop during freezes.
We went from burning wood and tires, to using spot heaters, to burning fuel oil (at 17 cents a gallon), to putting water on the plants to coat them with a protective layer of ice.
Anyone in the fern business for any length of time has a story or two to tell.
It might be about a greenhouse catching on fire, waterlines breaking, a lake intake line getting stopped up and someone having to swim out and unstop it in freezing weather. I’ve done it all.
I remember firing an orange grove one night with crossties and tires. We were driving through the grove throwing out tires by each fire, when I looked down at the end of the row and there sat a deputy sheriff.
I thought I was going to jail, but when I got to the end of the row, he said, “I’ve never seen anyone fire a grove. I’m just looking.” I turned the corner and kept throwing out tires.
Things are a lot different now.
One more story: When I lived in DeLand, my wife and I belonged to a gourmet group with nine other couples. One of the members, Dr. Randolph Carter, and I told the group we would have a wild-game dinner.
The menu for this special feast was supposed to be venison, wild hog, duck and grouper fingers. Well, as we prepared for the dinner, we couldn’t find a wild hog, so I substituted raccoon and armadillo.
I barbecued those critters, picked the meat off the bone, and put my famous good ol’ boy barbecue sauce on it.
We couldn’t find any ducks, so I substituted coots, which I cooked in a white wine sauce.
Last but not least, I had killed an alligator.
I took the tail, cut the meat into strips, and fried it, as a substitute for grouper fingers.
We didn’t tell anyone what they were eating till after dinner. Most everyone said it was delicious; some got mad.
But Randolph and I were never allowed to cook again.