The Big Watermelon: A Cultural History of Florida's Brooksville Ridge

Douglas E. Ponticos

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Humanities College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Abstract

The Brooksville Ridge has long been the dominant cultural landscape of westcentral Florida. Though rarely used as a cultural designation today, the region’s landscapes continue to unify a people. More than simply an environmental or geologic region, the Brooksville Ridge was born in a period of colonialism and exuberant extraction for distant markets. Before the Ridge, west-central Florida landscapes, such as Amasura and Withlacoochee, were defined predominantly by local and regional needs. This thesis uses a number of primary and secondary documents to trace the changing cultural landscapes of west-central Florida, from pre-Columbian and Seminole landscapes to the rise of the Ridge. During the early decades of the twentieth century, in the midst of war and depression, a movement of settlement emerged. Using local primary sources, such as photographs of locals replanting forests and accounts of community gardens and canning, this thesis also traces how a uniquely settled, Floridian culture emerged out of deeply unsettled landscapes. Long a region of shared experience and culture, this work explores the sacred, fertile, and seasonal landscapes of the Brooksville Ridge.