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'Swamp Cabbage' a weekend of mud and suds

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By J. DAVID McSWANE

PUNTA GORDA

It started Saturday morning a few outside of town on Bermont Road — a procession of monster trucks, swamp buggies and high-powered racing machines affixed to trailers, all of them headed for the mud.

They came to the aptly coined Redneck Yacht Club — a 2-square-mile playground open to off-road enthusiasts with $30 — to romp through bogs of smelly water, to get their Jeeps and ATVs stuck in waist-high mud and to holler as the $100,000 racers shriek off a makeshift starting line and over obstacles.

John Taylor of Arcadia says "the beer" is what compels him to get muddy at Swamp Cabbage Weekend. (STAFF PHOTO / THOMAS BENDER)

John Taylor of Arcadia says "the beer" is what compels him to get muddy at Swamp Cabbage Weekend. (STAFF PHOTO / THOMAS BENDER)

They came, a few thousand or so, from Orlando to Plant City on down, with a few hundred vehicles. They came hoisting enormous confederate flags and wearing camo or nearly nothing, flaunting irreverence for both political correctness and the skyrocketing price of gasoline.

And they came with lots of beer.

The reason so many attended this weekend’s “Swamp Cabbage” event seems at once obvious yet bizarre. The American addiction to velocity comes as no surprise to this state, and clearly there is fun to be had.

Click here for a gallery of photos from Swamp Cabbage Weekend.

But what compels an average person or group of people to throw so much money into a machine and drive it through mud, going nowhere fast?

Before his group’s mud drag racer heads to the wet soil, 60-year-old David Faulk answers the question directly and without reservation: “It’s cuz we’re crazy.”

“He’s actually writing that down,” his friend, James Grooms, 18, interjects. “We’re crazy.”

Perhaps a mild sociopathy complements a talent for mechanics, or a thirst for adventure. But this is true of nearly any subculture or tradecraft whose collective character erupts in annual gatherings of like minds. Maybe we’re all a little crazy.

Punta Gorda resident Don Amick approached the question with similar ease.

“I don’t know if we can answer the question,” the 66-year old said from the cab of his muddied Suzuki Samurai, fresh off some serious work to the body and key engine components.

“We’re just a bunch of old rednecks,” he finished.

Remus Griffin, 53, is a Charlotte County local who has worked with Redneck Yacht Club founder Danny Kelly for years. He sees this event as a celebration of Florida’s land, a sliver kept for and devoted to the common people.

“What we did here,” he screams over the buzz of traffic, “is take land,” he pauses, “and make use of it.”

The noise breaks for only a second. “Instead of letting some developer come in and rape it.”

Indeed, this annual event attracts friends of all ages. Young boys and girls ride ATVs alongside grandparents in the several-acre mud pit. Teenagers tow friends with surfboards through muck, while the slower elders drink Bud Light inside formidable SUVs complete with lifts and enormous tires as they wait for a tow from even more formidable diesel tanks.

“It’s way fun,” said Patrick Woiciechowski, 18, as his friend, Alex Boatright, 17, mounts a surfboard and clings to a tow rope.

“Go, go, go, go,” Boatright shouts as they whip away.

Bud Light could be an unofficial sponsor, with its bottles and cans and litter at the center of each gaggle of off-roaders.

Shawn Arvestan is slamming a Bud Light bottle against the rim of his GMC truck bed, trying to open the thing. He trades an answer to the question for use of a keychain bottle opener.

“Just getting drunk and watching everybody else,” he boasts.

A few minutes later, a man covered from head to toe in thick mud, his features nearly indistinguishable, stops his ATV and ponders.

What possesses John Taylor of Arcadia to do it?

“I don’t know,” he says. “The beer.”

Last modified: February 23, 2013
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