This week, in “Florida Time,” a weekly column on Florida’s history, we take a trip to beloved author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home near Gainesville, Cross Creek.

Readers: Who owns Cross Creek?
    
"It belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seeds, and beyond all, to time."
    
So wrote beloved Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who made her home in this settlement of 800 about 20 miles southeast of Gainesville and immortalized it in many of her nine books -- eight of them about Florida -- including the memoir Cross Creek.

Rawlings probably would laugh to see herself become a demigod of Florida folklore and the wooden green and white "cracker" house, complete with cat napping on the porch and blackbirds circling a feeder, made into a shrine.

READER REWIND: What's your Florida story? Share it with Eliot by leaving a voicemail at (850) 270-8418.
    
Guides dressed in period clothing take guests through the various rooms. In her living room is a period typewriter with copies of her original drafts of The Yearling. Her tale of a rural North Florida boy, his pet fawn, and his transition into manhood, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Here's more from Rawlings' official biography, via the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society:

Marjorie Kinnan grew up in Washington and was submitting stories to the local newspaper as early as 14. She was in high school when her father died and the family moved to Wisconsin, where she went to college and where she met fellow student Charles Rawlings. The two married and lived in New York City, Rochester N.Y., and Louisville, Ky. In 1928, profiting well from writing but feeling restless, they made a giant leap and bought a 72-acre farm in frontier north central Florida in the Ocala National Forest.

She and Rawlings later divorced and she took on management of the compound herself. Soon she was cranking out more stories and began inserting the countryside and her neighbors into her writing. She eventually caught the eye of legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, whose stable included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingwa, and Thomas Wolfe.

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Cross Creek's publication led to an ugly privacy-invasion by a neighbor who'd been featured in the book. It dragged through the courts for five years. While the court sided with the neighbor, it awarded her just a dollar. But the litigation had worn on Rawlings.

In 1941, she married Norton Sanford Baskin, manager of a St. Augustine hotel. She also befriended fellow author Zora Neale Hurston, little caring about having a BFF who was black. In 1947, Perkins died suddenly. Rawlings slaved on a novel called The Sojourner, finally publishing in 1953. But in December of that year, she suffered a ruptured aneurysm and died the next day. She was just 57.
    
Rawlings bequeathed her home to the University of Florida, where she had lectured. For years, it was a retreat for writing students; at times the cerebral and inspirational gave way to the bacchanal. Eventually the school decided it couldn’t afford the upkeep, and in 1968, UF gave the property to the state. It’s now a historic site.

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In 1983, the film Cross Creek, based on Rawlings' memoirs, spurred a wave of interest. In 1988, a squabble among residents over development led to a plan designed to protect the pristine area. Now both aspiring and veteran writers -- this one included -- make occasional sojourns to this holy ground of Florida’s literary legacy.


Next week: From the earth to the moon
Last week: Why did the most powerful hurricane known to Florida kill so few?

A reader asks: Dear Eliot, don’t forget the Navy blimps that flew out of Richman Field south of Miami (the present zoo). They were sub-spotters. Much bigger than the Goodyear blimp. Regards, Paul K., Juno Beach (born in Miami Beach in 1935)

Eliot answers: Mr. Kelly, thanks for the note. Yes, I am very familiar with the blimp base. For one, I grew up a mile from there (went to Miami Palmetto High School, if that helps you with the geography). And I have read about, and written about, its demise during the hurricane and fire. Thanks again for being a loyal reader.

Eliot Kleinberg has been a staff writer for the past three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and is the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). Florida Time is a product of GateHouse Media and publishes online in their 22 Florida markets including Jacksonville, Fort Walton Beach, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Sarasota and West Palm Beach. Submit your questions, comments or memories to FloridaTime@Gatehousemedia.com. Include your full name and hometown. Sorry; no personal replies.