The Golden Pen
Between Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida, six miles north of Keystone Heights, there lies a series of Marshes and lakes. This area normally goes by the name Mike Roess Gold Head State Park. It is a peaceful area inhabited by fox squirrels, white-tailed deer and many water birds. On Saturday mornings, you can find people fishing here. Others like to ride the ravine on canoes. Not far from Gold Head State Park is Little Lake Johnson and if you walk a few miles from there, a beach. There is a camping facility there with a picnic area and lakeside cabins.
The locals say that the area was once the home of a tribe of Seminole Indians who were trying to escape the brutal removal of the Seminoles by the US government. Some say that the spirits of these Indians haunt the place.
There is a legend among the neighbouring towns that said that the Government, in an attempt to wipe the Seminoles out of Florida, murdered them.
Now, I am not certain, but the locals in the area say that on Halloween they can still hear their savage war cry near the ravine where legend says that the troops shot ninety Seminole warriors to their death.
Some people claim that the waters of the ravine turned red from the blood of these savage warriors and the fish were poisoned. There is a spooky mist floating along the marshes of this area, which, on a late October morning, one can mistake for ghosts. The old folks say that the ravine is haunted; cursed by the blood of the Seminoles.
In October, the natives will tell you that the ravine shimmers like a lighthouse and the residents of the surrounding villages tormented by the cries of the Seminole warriors that lost their lives in the scarlet ravine. The predominant ghost, however, is that of the brave warrior, O’pawoka. General Brown, the squadron leader, shot the warrior in the chest during one of the battles of the Seminole Wars. The residents fear him for on Halloween night he rides through Mike Roess Gold Head State Park on his horse, wielding a tomahawk, looking for the General who shot him. It is in this remote area that our story begins.
They never recovered the body that day. The police and State troopers scavenged the surrounding area but could not find the body. The black and white Yamaha lay on its side at the side of the road; a trail of skid marks paved the way to where the accident happened. The bike had caught fire upon impact and there was an explosion.
The Florida highway patrol officers surmised that the body flew head first in a staggering speed into the murky waters of the ravine.
Manfred Meyers was a lively lad. His family had settled in Keystone Heights in the early 50’s. He was the son of a baker and schoolteacher...an only child. They warned him of the dangers of motorcycles. However, the shiny Yamahas captivated Manfred ever since he saw Evil Kenivel jump from the Grand Canyon on his trusty chrome steed. Since then, he was fascinated with motor cycles. He begged his father to buy him one once he graduated high school, but his father, like any ordinary father, refused.
“Those bikes are dangerous, son!” his father warned him. “If you want a bike, I suggest you get a mountain bike.” His father opened the brick oven to shove a loaf of bread into the oven. The bakery was full of customers waiting to buy their loaves of bread, cakes, and croissants. Manfred, frustrated and upset caught hold of his father’s arm.
“I want a motorcycle, Dad...and if you don’t get one for me, I will.” With this statement, he marched out of the kitchen, walked past the eager customers and walked out the door. His father, stunned and shocked, shook his head in disappointment as his customers whispered to one another in astonishment.
Manfred took a job at the local papers delivering the Keystone Height News. He also worked part-time at the pizzeria. Within a year, he earned enough money to buy a used Yamaha. Pride is not the word to describe his devotion to this bike. Every weekend Manfred rose at six A.M. to wash and polish his most prized possession. Diligently he polished the chrome, applied saddle soap on the leather seat, and polished the handlebars until the sun shone down upon his black and white steed that he affectionately nicknamed, Black beauty.
Much to his parents’ disapproval, Manfred joined a local motorcycle club, a group of about a hundred bikers throughout Bradford County, Florida, who met once a month and travelled throughout the State of Florida on their motorcycles, particularly to Mike Roess Gold Head State Park. The group acquired the nickname ‘Gators on Wheels’ for the tattoo of Alligators each member bore on their forearms.
His parents warned Manfred not to go. On a humid Halloween morning in 1965, Manfred rose at five O’clock to get a head start. The gang was to meet at Keystone Beach and then head towards Gold Head Branch State Park where a Halloween Party was to take place. They planned to camp there for a week after the party.
Manfred packed his rucksack the night before. He thought he had packed everything. He packed his sleeping bag, his trusty Swiss Army knife and his tent. He was certain that the girls and women of the group would bring loads of food, so he did not bother packing anything to eat. After kissing his mother and patting his father on the shoulders, he set off on Black Beauty at eight O’clock.
A few minutes after he set off, the phone rang. His mother picked up the phone. It was Max Johnson, one of her son’s friends from Gators on Wheels. Max told Manfred’s mother that the gang cancelled the trip due to inclement weather. Had he phoned five minutes earlier, Manfred would not have set out towards the beach.
Manfred arrived at Keystone Beach around nine O’clock. The beach was deserted, save for a few beach bums who walked their dogs along the beach. He waited impatiently for the group to arrive.
“Oh, man,” exclaimed Manfred, “I forgot my cell phone!” It was eleven O’clock when he could wait no longer. He got on his bike. He was angry.
He sped through the highway like a thoroughbred. Was this a cruel Halloween joke? He wondered as he sped past signs and villages. The wind slapped his face and combed through his hair.
He was so angry that he did not feel it. How dare they play a Halloween joke on me? Well, they can go screw themselves, he murmured to himself. Up above in the horizon, a few buzzards flew.
The air whipped through his sides, burning his cheeks and giving him chilblains. He was almost at Gold Head Branch State Park by now. He was about to turn right when he thought he heard something behind him.
It was a high pitch sound, much like a cry. He looked in his side view mirror but all he could see was clear open highway and trees. The cry echoed and penetrated his ears, almost perforating his eardrums.
Manfred thought he was imagining things, but when he looked in his side view mirror again, he thought he saw a white horse chasing him. Riding on the horse’s back was an Indian brave. The brave was brown- skinned and wore a black Mohawk. The brave wielded a tomahawk, throwing it towards Manfred.
Manfred sped at 190 miles per hours down the highway, his pursuer on his tail. The Tomahawk sped and caught the back of Manfred’s neck. His body went flying off the bike, landing in the ravine. Black Beauty skidded off the open road, catching fire before exploding.
It was early evening when a motorist caught site of the burning bike, alerting the police. The troopers came and extinguished the fire. They discovered Manfred’s wallet by a nearby bush. From his credentials, they found his address.
Copyright 2012 The Golden Pen ISBN: 9781291141306