The publishing of Lake Oswego resident Chloe Scott's book "The Walking Trees" was a long time coming — 73 years to be exact.
Scott documented her year protecting birds on a rickety boat in the Everglades out of sheer boredom and never thought the story would become a book. But with the help of her daughter Jennifer Teton and son-in-law John Teton, the book was recently
published and can be found in the Lake Oswego
Public Library and Amazon.com.
Rather than an organized narrative with words, pages and an illustrated cover, Scott thinks of the story as an "extraordinary adventure."
Scott, who has written about her experience assisting the British Armed Forces during Dunkirk in the Lake Oswego Review, immigrated to the United States during World War II and then decided to follow her naturalist husband Peter to the Everglades to become wardens tasked with protecting the wildlife habitat for the National Audubon Society.
During the early 20th century poachers feasted on the area, killing birds to satiate the high demand for feathered hats, which were in vogue at the time. In fact, one of the couple's predecessors was murdered by poachers.
A dancer who appreciated the arts more than nature, Scott was not exactly accustomed to living on a boat in the wilderness. And to this day, she doesn't know how Peter talked her into it.
"It had all sounded so glamorous and desirable to me too, while we were still in New York in all the cold and slush, but now I was wondering what we had gotten ourselves into," Scott writes in the opening chapter.
The book's title was inspired by the mangroves, which appeared to be walking when the tide swayed back and forth.
"It's a swamp and the trees grow straight out of the water and they have these big roots that stick up when the tide is out and disappears when the tide is in, which is why they are called the walking trees," Scott said.
The couple spent most of the time protecting Duck Rock, where thousands of birds ranging from herons, egrets and cranes settled at night and then bolted to the mainland synchronously every morning before returning later that day.
"For some reason they chose this little island for their roosting and nesting places. Nobody knows why," Scott said. "In the morning we got up at the crack of dawn and waited a few moments and suddenly an enormous poof you can't even imagine. Imagine a hundred thousand birds going up all at once. Just fantastic."
The couple also braved two hurricanes by stationing their boat behind tall mangroves.
"As soon as you heard about a hurricane coming you would take off and we just chugged our way up to the shelter," Scott said.
The only ostensible lands they stepped on the whole trip were shellmounds built up over many years of local Native Americans discarding shellfish. And the boat was as simplistic as it gets, not including running water, refrigeration or electricity.
The couple also befriended people native to the Everglades including the Took family, who lived on one of the shell mounds and were once dangerously confronted by poachers.
"There were three guys and they had come and were drunk and were threatening Mr. Took. Mrs. Took came out and (we) hid and the only thing that stopped the mayhem was another boat was heard coming and the ne'er-do-wells heard it and thought it might be the sheriff and ran off," Scott said.
Scott said she eventually had a nervous breakdown from living on the boat. Nevertheless, it was maybe the most unique experience she's had in her life and she sometimes feels nostalgic about it.
"Probably just the panorama. It was very dramatic being in that place that changed from beaming light (in the morning) to dark and mysterious and threatening (at night)," she said.
The Tetons came across the notes while Scott was taking a writing class in Menlo Park decades ago and then Scott subsequently turned it into an organized narrative. However it wasn't until John offered to help that the idea of publishing the book finally gained traction.
"He said, 'my Christmas present to you this year is I'm going to help you put this through the last steps,' and we've been working on it ever since and there it is," Jennifer said.
Jennifer helped edit the book and said the vivid descriptions of the scenery, the characters and the absurd situations they get into make the book unique and a fun read.
"The book is great because I think it really brings that period of time and that very unusual place to life. You feel like you're really there and can experience it with her," she said.
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