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Local Faux Traditions — Why Now?
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Local Faux Traditions

Jolly Rogers

In order to generate “local excitement” [sell stuff] the chamber of commerce is once again annoying people with the Billy Bowlegs Festival. This year it runs from tomorrow and finishes up on Monday with a really annoying parade that screws up traffic and sends a lot of noisy people through my neighborhood.

Almost at bad as the Monday traffic jam are the Friday fireworks. I know a lot of people enjoy fireworks, but they probably have not seen what loud noises and flashes of light can do to people and aircraft – I am definitely not a fan.

First off, there definitely were pirates in the local waters, hell, Al Capone had a winter house in the area, because boats have been avoiding taxes and bringing in illegal substances for centuries, but Billy Bowlegs wasn’t one of them.

Billy Bowlegs [Holata Micco] was a Seminole chief who fought the US in the Second Seminole War and pretty much was the Third Seminole War. Today he would be referred to as a terrorist, insurgent, freedom fighter, and/or guerrilla leader, depending on your point of view.

Unable to defeat him, the US government finally paid him an absurd amount of money [for the day] to move to what would become Oklahoma with the other Seminole.

When the Civil War broke out, he sided with the Union and commanded a company of Seminole in the Union army with the rank of Captain. He was expecting a further reward from the government for his service, and was “mentioned in dispatches” for his unit’s fighting ability. Unfortunately he died of smallpox in 1864.

This is primarily Choctaw and Creek territory, the Seminole were down in South Florida, but the local “city fathers” decided that Billy Bowlegs sounded like a pirate name. Facts rarely interfere with local traditions.


1 hipparchia { 06.04.08 at 9:48 pm }


i don’t think i’ve ever been to a single billy bowlegs festival, nor did i know anything about it, other than that it purported to be vaguely piratical.

interesting item from the wikipedia link: Upon his eventual arrival in Indian Territory, Bowlegs became a leading chief. He and his daughters became prominent land holders and slaveowners.

2 Bryan { 06.04.08 at 10:20 pm }

The Seminole weren’t just great guerrilla fighters, one of the few groups that essentially kicked “Uncle Billy” Sherman’s butt early in his career, but they were traders and merchants. They understood about making and keeping wealth, including slaves.

That’s why they have a license with Florida State University on the use of the name, Seminole. They make money on every piece of junk FSU sells.

3 hipparchia { 06.04.08 at 11:46 pm }

yeah, i remember the fsu flap. other sports teams, from pro right on down to elementary schools were ditching their various ‘indian’ mascots. you could almost hear the national gasp! when the seminoles said no we don’t mind at all. i figured there was some kind of licensing agreement in there somewhere but i never really checked to see if that’s what happened.

mostly i was thrilled that they were going to have a reason to keep that fabulously gorgeous appaloosa.

4 Bryan { 06.05.08 at 12:00 am }

I think someone mentioned that they have some “creative control” about the mascot, and what he looks like, in addition to the licensing royalties. The terms are as hard to determine as the actually cost of the athletic program, but they have been in place for a long time.

I think I noticed them when I bought something for a friend, it was buried in the copyright/trademark blurb.

5 LeftLeaningLady { 06.05.08 at 7:37 am }

Billy Bowlegs Festival! Blast from the past.

Thanks for the reminder, I will not be headed West this weekend.

And thanks for the history lesson. I grew up in C-view and no one ever explained exactly who Billy Bowlegs was.

6 Bryan { 06.05.08 at 12:07 pm }

You are welcome, LLL, and they didn’t explain because they didn’t know. It’s not like he was a local, he just had a name that appealed to the chamber of commerce fifty years ago.