The Bardin Booger (Our Pick of the Month)
North Florida is a good reminder that Florida is indeed Southern, despite what metropole naysayers and elitist Carolinians might have you believe. It's as if the homogenizing effects of relocated tourists, retirees, transients and immigrants seep southward by some capillary action, leaving the Panhandle with a mildly Georgian ambience. It's also the storehouse of traditional Southern weirdness, from the saucer flaps at Gulfbreeze to the caverns at Marianna. And, of course, the Bardin Booger.
Bardin is a logging village wrapped in the pine flatwoods north of Palatka on Highway 17. Local legend has it that these forests are patrolled by a Bigfoot variation called "the Bardin Booger" by the locals (more alliterative than the Bardin Goomer, I must say). Mystery Primates are not all that unusual in Florida; there are frequent sightings of "skunk apes" around Holopaw near Kissimmee. However, only Bardin has had the ingenuity to develop something of a cottage industry around it ("cottage" being the operative word).
Travel gives the traveler perspective. For instance, I'm from Orlando, which is still a small town at heart despite its size and pretentions toward "Major League City" status. A trip to Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, even Kansas City always makes me feel quite the hayseed. On the obverse, a trip to Leesburg, Palatka or Bartow cannot but help but reinforce an appreciation of the comparatively cosmopolitan life you lead.
This is the feeling folks from Palatka must get when they go through Bardin; a feeling of gratitude for chain stores, office buildings, and a semblance of a downtown. Life in Bardin at my last visit (1992, but I can't imagine it has exploded with growth in the interim) is centered around Ed's Bardin Grocery, a building a size-and-a-half larger than a 7-Eleven, but offering everything from workclothes and chainsaw parts to groceries and automotive supplies. There is an attached garage and gas pump, all along the shore of a small creek (We were unreasonably charmed by the sign prohibiting "Wet Creek Feet" on the door).
There is (was -- like I said, it's been six years, so traveler beware) a rack of Bardin Booger souvenirage -- mostly t-shirts and "gimme caps" featuring an earthy drawing of the Booger depicted as a wasp-waisted, shoulder-padded, pointy-eared gremlin with a Gene Simmons tongue and a lantern (clearly one of the most technologically advanced of the Mystery Primates). There are no photos or articles on display about the Booger, and no guarantee of any reliable eyewitnesses. Indeed, chances are you'll need to camp out in the area and have lottery winner's luck to sneak a peek at the real deal.
Still, if there's an area in Florida likely to host a tribe of Bigfoots, this would be it: Remote, pristine, and much drier than the Everglades. It's a reasonable day trip through some relatively unmolested wilderness and small towns (many chock full of flea markets and second hand shops for those so inclined). It'll cost you gas and lunch, unless you feel the need to outfit yourselves in trench coats and cell phones and play Mulder and Scully.
When he's not doing his monthly strip for Ink 19, Dave Mitchell trolls the backroads of his home state looking for "cheepnis". Dave's comix and artwork have appeared in such diverse places as anti-drug coloring books and SubGenius periodicals. Taller than most people expect.