The Dirt Road to Niceville
It was either the beginning or the end of the road. I had passed it many times, but on this occasion I stopped. It was a hot and humid Florida morning. The kind of day that as soon as you shut the engine off, and the air conditioning stopped, you started sweating.
The lure of this location was the beautiful red dirt, the kind that blankets parts of Alabama. Except this sinuous country road was in Niceville, FL. How does a place get a name like Niceville? Is it because everyone smiles, waves as you pass or offers you lemonade if you stop, I wondered?
I began to make a few pictures in the very bright morning light. It was not ideal for making color photographs, too much contrast. I first heard the pick up truck coming, before I could see it. My first instinct was to start walking back to my car, not more than 30 yards away, on the main road. On second thought, I didn’t move but kept shooting pictures, or at least pretending I was.
I could now see the truck as it approached. It looked like a 1950’s Ford, partially painted this weird turquoise color. There were two men in the cab and two sitting in the back. They passed me without a look or a nod. It was as though I was not even there! I made a few more pictures, got back in my car and continued on my journey back home. It was a forgotten moment by the time I hit the Louisiana state line.
Months later, when I had returned to the Gulf, traveling down that same road, I stopped at a gas station. I overheard the convenience store clerk telling another traveler about the gruesome execution style murder which had occurred, a few months early.
It turns out, that road led to the camp of some right wing, separatist militants. The four guys in the truck, that I had seen that day, were headed out to kill someone. Anyone they considered a bleeding heart liberal. All I could think, is it was a nice day to be invisible in Niceville.