It stands by itself, the turn-of-the-century Florida cracker house with green shutters and a tin roof.

Wabasso Island, Fl. - ItÕs a white, wooden, Turn-of-the-Century ÒFlorida Cracker House,Ó with green window trim and a red tin roof. ItÕs empty now. But, for half-a-century, it was home to the woman some call the ÒGreatest Poet of the 20th Century.Ó Born in New York City in 1901, Laura Riding Jackson became a widely-published poet, short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and critic. In the late-1920Õs, she moved to Spain, living there until the Spanish Civil War in 1936. When she moved back to America, she fell in love with a writer named Schuyler Jackson. They were married in 1941. Together, they searched for a place where, in LauraÕs words, they could be Òleft alone to be, left alone to do.ÓThey found it in Wabasso, a tiny settlement in Indian River County. Laura and Schuyler bought the old ÒCracker House,Ó a style of house named for the cracks of cattle herdersÕ whips. Upon moving in, Laura wrote, they had to Òdo away with the dirt, rot, cockroaches, and shambles.Ó Photo by Peter W. Cross
Photo by Peter W. Cross

It was the home of Laura Riding Jackson, a widely-published poet, short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and critic.

Jackson lived in Wabasso, a tiny settlement north of me, in a typical old ‘cracker house’, a style named for the cracks of the local cattle herders’ whips.

Wabasso Island, Fl. - The house had no electricity Ð which was just fine with them. They used kerosene lamps, and got water from an artesian well that Laura called Òrather stinky.Ó And she also noted that they had to deal with Òbrushfires, snakes, sand flies, and prickly burrs.Ó Photo by Peter W. Cross

The house had no electricity, so Laura used kerosene lamps and got water from an artesian well that she deemed “rather stinky.” And then there were the brushfires, snakes, sand flies, and prickly burrs. Not a high maintenance gal, that one.

The modest kitchen of Laura (Riding) Jackson has been preserved from the time of her death in 1997.

Laura and her husband Schuyler worked on a major project here, a comprehensive dictionary they started in the 1960’s, which evolved into a treatise on the deeper meaning of words and language, Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words.

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The house finally got electricity in 1991 when Laura’s caregivers threatened to leave because they were unable to run her medical equipment. The indomitable Laura was 90 at the time.

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This simple cracker house in Indian County is where Laura found peace, a place where she could be “left alone to be, left alone to do.”

Primitively perfect.

Is the kind of place you are longing for?

Toni 3/3/16

 

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