I not only live in Perfect, but I have mermaids for friends. Really. Mermaids.
My first mermaid encounter was about 25 years ago and now I know many mermaids. How cool am I to have mermaids for friends?
And I have learned over the years, that once a mermaid—always a mermaid. But if you have never been a mermaid, that’s okay. They will let you share in their mermaid fun. But only if you are way cool. Like me.
Perhaps I should explain that these mermaids are all former Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaids. And does everyone know what Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids is? I would like to explain all of that to you but I’m just a lowly landlubber–never a mermaid.
What I can tell you is that for years I have been joining the mermaids on the Weeki Wachee River for Gum Slough Day which is always celebrated on the longest day of the year. This year it was June 20th and I finally got an explanation why a gathering on the Weeki Wachee River is named after Gum Slough which is a completely different waterway–not even close to our party park.
And the following accout comes from Bonnie Georgiadis who was a mermaid at Weeki Wachee from 1953 – 1966 and then worked in other positions at the park until 1989.
Gum Slough Day.
What does that mean? Gum Slough Day! How did that get started?
Well, I’ll tell you about it. The next time you drive on I75 north take notice just before you drive across a low bridge. There’s going to be a sign that says, ‘Gum Slough’. Probably won’t mean much to you but it does to me and to Genie, Linda Zucco, Terry and Janice Westmoreland. Because we were THERE!!!!
Let’s travel back in time to….the early 80’s? Anyway before they had GPS’s except we probably wouldn’t have had one even if they HAD been invented. I think Genie started it. She’d heard of Gum Slough maybe through her brother Micky or maybe that was Tate’s Hell he was talking about. Anyway I’ll pinpoint it for you. I looked it up in my handy dandy maps of Florida counties. Gum Slough is located in Sumter County at the end of Dead River which runs into the Withlacoochee River. Just to add a little interest, about 20 miles south of Gum Slough is The Wonders, (wonder why) , Burnt Island (that’s an easy one) Bear Lake and Bee Island, (won’t go there) and Baptizing Hole and Battle Slough.
It was November. We were in an adventurous mood so we set out to find Gum Slough. We drove to a fish camp on the Withlacoochee River and just before shoving off decided to actually ask for directions. The fish camp person told us to paddle upstream about a mile then go right, right across from the Indian mound. INDIAN MOUND!!!! Okay!!! Well, we spent about an hour and a half playing on the Indian mound. It was a snail mound. That means it was entirely made up of little snail shells. (I’ve seen another snail mound on the island of Hontoon on the St. Johns River, but that’s another story) Oh, we were also told that when the occasion arises that we have to make a decision about which way to go…always go left. Good advise because we’d heard stories of people getting lost in there. Genie and Terry were in one canoe and Linda and I paddled the other with Janice in the middle. We’d brought chicken and various finger foods along but there wasn’t any place where we could get out for a picnic so we ate as we paddled along. Finally, the narrow ‘creek’ opened up into a pond-like setting. It wasn’t Weeki Wachee clear but it was nice and refreshing to swim. Then it was time to leave. It must have been around five o’clock…in November. You know…days short of daylight! After we started back and it became darker and darker, Janice reached into her bag and pulled out her flashlight. She never let us forget that she was the only one who remembered to bring a flashlight.
I don’t recall what time we reached the fish camp but it seemed a good idea to call home and let our husbands know we were still alive. Actually it was a very good idea. They had time to get over their fury before we got home! They had been calling each other for a long time. “You heard anything from them?” “Nope”
As a group we decided that if we ever wanted to do Gum Slough again it would have to be on the day of the MOST sunlight instead of the least. And that is why June 20th (or close to it) was selected to be our National GUM SLOUGH DAY. TADA!!!!
We had one other mermaid in attendance but she didn’t get her picture taken. Some of these mermaids are slippery like that!