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Acrefoot Johnson

The performance of our modern day postal service is a total joke. This has touched me personally in the form of multiple lost mail items, infrequent delivery and most recently the out right refusal of delivery by my Kansas mailman due to the presence of my miniature golden retriever "Sandy". We are talking about a 30 something year old supposedly grown man! I had a conversation with this miserable mail carrier recently sharing with him my complete disgust in his total lack of esprit de corps for the US Postal Service and a non-existent sense of duty... complete with a public proclamation revoking his MAN card on the spot! Sadly he just recited to me some bullshit postal service policy about dogs and shlepped back to his service mini van to motor away.


This got me to thinking about what has went wrong with the postal service? And to a larger extent our society. In days past we praised and created legends around the more noble acts of mankind whereas today we create "victims" and glorify their victim status, making them "heroic". We have created a paradigm of admiration towards being a victim. Today we lift up "intersectional" minority victim statuses as a form of hero. We create "policies" to CYA instead of creating solutions around obstacles. We focus on what could go wrong and not on what we can potentially achieve. We avoid instead of face up. We choose comfort over commitment. And our just due over our duty.


So this all got me looking into the US Postal Service of yesterday and I didn't have to look far to find the mail carrier with "The country's most dangerous mail route"....a Florida man...


Meet James Mitchell "Acrefoot" Johnson. Acrefoot is one of many legendary early Florida pioneers. Born in 1850 to Elias and Elizabeth Keen Johnson the family moved down from Lake City in Columbia county Florida to Ft Ogden around 1866 when James was but a teen. Ft Ogden had been a stronghold in the Seminole wars, situated just east of the Peace River between Arcadia and Punta Gorda it remains a rather remote, tough location even to this day.



Ft Ogden Post Office today. Commons Wikipedia


Acrefoot Johnson was a giant in both name and form, having grown to 6 foot 7 inches tall and 250 lbs by the time he was 17. When he was 25 he married Margaret Chester (16) and started a family. With a family to care for and money tight Acrefoot read a news report where “A new mail route is to begin from Fort Meade, on the east side of Pease creek, a distance of seventy-five miles to Fort Ogden.”


With $26/month salary up for grabs many vied for the position.... but 2 men were the obvious front runners- Acrefoot and Big Ed Donaldson a famous Indian fighter of the second Seminole war.

In the job interview Big Ed told the Postal Agent “I’ll take the mail down and bring it back once a week. I can guarantee the mail will go through, no matter what-hurricanes, rattlesnakes, Indians, or robbers!”


At this the postal agent congratulated Big Ed citing "that is the spirit we look for in the USPS!" But hearing all this Acrefoot stepped forward and countered “Hold on there just a minute. I’d go as far as to wager I could make that trip with a load of mail at least twice a week and maybe three times, if old Ed can do it once!”


To settle the issue the postal agent set forth a competition decreeing "The man who can walk the route the fastest will get the job!" Remember this was a 75 mile route through the toughest swamps, brush and palmettos you can imagine!


The job competition kicked off the following morning at first light and the two applicants kept lock step the first 10 miles then Acrefoot with his long strides began to pull away and he made it into Ft. Ogden by sundown. Upon his arrival to Ft Ogden a party ensued! It is said Acrefoot called every square dance that night except for the times he took over on fiddle! Just before daylight he passed the fiddle back and grabbed the outbound mail bag for his return trek to Ft. Meade. Along the way Acrefoot took a break at a creek to get some water only to have Big Ed walk up... Big Ed said in a triumphant tone "Yep I knew I would catch up to you before you made it into Ft Ogden". Only to hear Acrefoot reply "I already made it and am heading back!"


Acrefoot got the job.


Many stories have been passed on of Acrefoot's daily encounters and exploits on his route. Along the way he had several rafts and boats set up to help him cross creeks to avoid gators. Sometimes he would reach a creek only to find someone else had used the boat and it would be on the opposite bank. Once upon arriving to a river he spotted a man gazing off in the distance at a departing schooner. He appeared very anxious and upon seeing Acrefoot he explained 'I desperately need to catch that boat, if you swim out and alert the captain to turn back I will give you $5 in gold!" When Acrefoot was slow to reply the man exclaimed "Okay $10!"


Acrefoot dove in and was quickly pursued by 3 adult gators, Acrefoot killed the first 2 gators and just barely out swam the third to reach the schooner. As the relieved passenger was boarding the schooner he handed the $10 to Acrefoot and stated "What a fool will do for $10!" To which Acrefoot replied "I would have done it for $5!"



Peace River FL Public Image Tripadvisor.com


On another occasion 3 bandits jumped Acrefoot intent on stealing the mail. The first dropped from a tree on his back, with Acrefoot using great strength slinging him off and into a creek. The other two sprang from the palmettos with the first one catching Acrefoot's 50 lb mail bag flying through the air at full force, rendering him instantly out of breath while the third outlaw took a swing at him with a long handled club. Acrefoot ducked the swing and caught him by the arm instantly breaking his arm with an aubible crack! Writhing in pain and defeat the 3 put together a hasty retreat... to which Acrefoot yelled "That'll teach you to mess with the US Mail!"


One day along his route he was attacked by a Florida panther. While the doctor was stitching him up Acrefoot shared "“Doc, Twasn’t fair. He bushwhacked me as I was backing away from his two pals. He near ‘bout got the best of me before I busted his neck.” Likely it was a mother panther with her young.


Acrefoot wore out his size 12 brogans soon into his postal career and just did his route from then on barefoot. One evening upon returning from his 75 mile mail route he heard of a barn dance later that night... Old Acrefoot loved barn dances! Knowing he would need shoes he struck out for Ft Meyers to get new shoes, swimming the Caloosahatchee river twice! He returned in time to trek up to Arcadia to dance most of the evening!


Later in his postal career wanting to earn more money Acrefoot modified a ladder back chair with arm straps with which he could attach the chair to his back. Acrefoot was then able to start up passenger service to carry people along his route! Soon the postal service heard of this and now had been taken over by the federal government so they fired Acrefoot! A rail line was put in place sealing his fate with that mail route lost for good.


This was the USPS of the past. Today the competition for hiring is who can certify the greatest intersection of victimhood status? The sweet spot is to come in with black, LGBTQ, female, disabled intersectionality. Because that is our modern day hero. And we expected our mail service to remain the same???


I couldn't quite find how Acrefoot got his nickname... it was either for his impressive stride or size 12 foot. But in that spirit I have given my Kansas mailman a proper nickname "pussyfoot!".

Acrefoot Johnson holding a gator. Courtesy Floridamemory.org


Here are the resources I used to write today's blog I encourage you to check them out as I did not go over all of Acrefoots accomplishments! For example I didn't even mention his son Guy "Rattlesnake" Johnson! That will be for another day and blog entry!

http://www.lindseywilliams.org/index.htm?Articles/Acrefoot_and_Rattlesnake.htm~mainFrame

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~crackerbarrel/Acre.html

http://files.usgwarchives.net/fl/desoto/bios/j5250001.txt

https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/34002

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