INVESTIGATING DOZIER: Pt. 5 ~ Finding Okeechobee

JANUARY 2018

SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO WING IT!

   IF there’s anything that I’ve learned from my trips to Dozier, it’s to have NO expectations at all. You can study every picture & map & in the end find something beyond your wildest dreams OR nothing at all. So this trip was no different, I’d have to go in with the little bit of knowledge that I had of the place, a completely open mind & a go with the flow attitude. I turned down the road that the school sits on & after driving for what seemed like forever, drove right past the campus…DAMN! Because I was on a 2 lane road, I had to drive a couple of miles before I could turn around. Once I was headed in the right direction again, I drove until the school sign came into view & without even thinking, pulled right into the driveway & began following the long entry road…

 

 

ACTIVE Vs. ABANDONED

  I made it about a quarter of the way down that little service road before seeing a group of men in suits standing outside of one of the buildings. Reality then smacked me in the face & I tried to quickly & discretely (although I’m NOT exactly sure how discrete one can be in a SUV on a gravel drive!) turn around so I could get off the property before being spotted! I made it back out to the main road & started driving again. This was NOT Dozier! It wasn’t going to be as simple as driving into an obscure wooded area & jumping out to wander around the property. Okeechobee’s campus had a full parking lot & staff all over the place. I don’t really know what I had originally planned to do BUT I needed a new plan!

 

NEVER Ignore A Clear Sign!

 

A MOST EXCELLENT COVER!

  IT didn’t take long before Plan B became crystal clear in the form of a public trailhead…Specifically the Taylor Creek Stormwater Treatment Area Trailead (TCSTAT for short)! NOT only did the TCSTAT sit directly across the street from the school, but I would have a perfect view of the campus without even stepping foot onto the property! I parked, grabbed my camera & made my way to the walking trail that runs parallel with Okeechobee.

 

Beware of Gators!

 

Perfect View!

 

 

DON’T MIND ME…

  ON the trail, I was by myself most of the time…With the exception of a family out for their daily walk & a heck of a lot of traffic on the little 2 lane road. I paused for a minute & took a good look at my surroundings…Fields, cows, the school campus & a handful of houses that were scattered on either side of the school’s property. That was it, there was nothing else for miles. I tried to picture one of the boys during their supposed “escape” attempts. If the land & surrounding area are this undeveloped in 2018, imagine it in the 1950’s & 1960’s. It was more than likely barren for miles & the terrain itself would’ve been rocky & overgrown. Could one of those boys attempted to make a break for It? Absolutely! Would they have been successful? Probably NOT! Add to that the fact that most of the boys being held at the school came from all over the state & wouldn’t have been familiar with the area & you’ve now decreased the chance to get away from “Slim to None” to just “NONE.” I suppose this would explain why such an isolated location would be chosen to build a “School.”

 

One of the many cow pastures near campus…

 

 

REEVALUATING MY NINJA SKILLS!

  After waking the length of the school campus (via the trail across the street, of course!) I decided I should probably head back to the car & head home. Walking toward the parking area I began to get that odd feeling that I was being watched….And I was! You see, from the time I pulled into TCSTAT, I had noticed an endless amount of traffic on the road. There had also been a steady stream of activity at the school. Cars had been entering & exiting the campus every few minutes. Normally this would be no cause for alarm…Unless you’ve seen the same white pickup truck coming & going a number of times. After the last time I saw the truck exit the school, I hadn’t seen it return…Could it have returned while I wasn’t paying attention?? It was definitely possible BUT I wasn’t going to feel better until I knew exactly where that truck was. Turns out I wouldn’t have to look very far to find it as it just so happened to be sitting in the TCSTAT parking area…Right next to my car! AWWW SH$T!!! I guess I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought! I slowed my pace but continued to walk toward my car, taking the time to stop along the way, aim my camera at something random & snap a quick pic. I decided that NO matter what happens, I was going to at least make it look like I wasn’t up to ANYTHING! As I got closer, I could hear that the truck was actually idling & although the windows were tinted, I could see a silhouette of what appeared to be a decent sized man. Keys in hand, I quietly tip toed for the last couple of feet, using my car as a barrier so the white truck dude wouldn’t be able to see right where I was. When I was able to put my hand on the car door, I hit the button to unlock it & literally opened the door, got inside, closed the door & locked it all in one fluid movement. I started the car & in an act of defiance I looked directly at “Truck Boy”, raised my phone at him & started snapping pics! ANY doubts that I had about whether OR not he was there “keeping an eye on me” were erased as he peeled out of the parking area & back onto the main road. Through the cloud of dust I snapped one final pic…Of his bright red tail lights running from a girl!

 

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

  I took a couple of minutes to compose myself…NOT too long though as I wasn’t taking ANY chances! The trip home was long but ultimately uneventful…After ending my day with a potential stalker, I was more than OK with a boring drive home…

 


 

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