Baker County’s very own bogeyman — better known as the Taylor Wild Man — has emerged from the shadows and found an Internet connection.
“You know you were my worst nightmare growing up,” commented Pauline Faye Gibbs on the Taylor Wild Man’s Facebook page. “Now you don’t seem so scary. Happy Halloween Taylor Wild Man.”
To get better acquainted with the once illusive terror that’s plagued local children’s imaginations for generations, The Press contacted the Taylor Wild Man via social media to request an interview.
The interview and his posts to Facebook and Twitter show him to be a straight-talkin’ hunter and lover of the great outdoors, and a fan of the Florida Gators. He appears to have a crush on Miranda Lambert as well.
Taylor Wild Man: I just got a message on the Facebook from a young lady that said ya’ll might want to interview me. I reckon that sounds like a good idea. I don’t really know what ya’ll want to know about me, but if you wanna send me some questions I can try to answer them the best I can. Ya’ll could try to come out here and find me, but most of the time when someone sees me I wasn’t looking to hold a meet and greet. I pretty much keep to myself for obvious reasons.
Joel Addington: Excellent. I guess my first question is how should I address you? Taylor? Mr. Wild Man?
TWM: You can call me the Wild Man an I guess.
JA: OK, Wild Man, how long have you been part of the Twitter-verse and what prompted you to join?
TWM: I decided to get on Twitter and Facebook basically because that’s what everybody does now. I also thought it would be cool to connect with the younger folks. I’ve been around quite a long time, but I have kind of become irrelevant. There’s a whole new generation of people that don’t know nothing about the Wild Man.
Baker is also getting a lot of newcomers like the ones moving in from Jacksonville and all. Baker is a place that has a wealth of history and I’m a part of it. I thought it was real funny when the skunk ape or whatever it was got sighted a few years back. Some people said they saw it, some people didn’t believe it at all and some folks said it was me.
I also reckon that seeing how I’m a public figure and all, I should have my voice and thoughts heard because I been here longer than almost anyone.
JA: I’ve only been here for a few years but I’ve heard whispers here and there about the Taylor Wild Man. When I first heard your name, I thought you were akin to Bigfoot. I’ve since been schooled that you’re more the hermetic-type, living off the land and so forth. So, Wild Man, exactly how old are you? Where did you come from? And what can you tell me about you’re day-to-day lifestyle?
TWM: Many of the claims about what I am and ain’t have been greatly exaggerated. I’m not 10 feet tall and I don’t have antlers. Now I might have stolen a chicken or two in my day. A man’s gotta eat. I also hunt for deer, wild hogs, gator and rabbit. I’ll even eat a little squirrel from time to time. I hunt and fish. I make my own shine and muscadine wine. I ain’t a drunk but I like a drink or two every now and again. That’s pretty much the long and short of it.
I ain’t sure how old I am but I been out here for years. I reckon I’m in my 60s. I get my exercise hunting and what not so I stay in pretty good shape. I been out in the woods since I was a youngin’. I used to live with my grandma when I was a kid but when she died I didn’t want to go live with nobody else so I ran out to the woods and I been here ever since. I don’t even know her name. I just know she was me grandma.
And I know they call me the Taylor Wild Man but that’s jut because that’s where people have seen me. But I don’t stay in Taylor all the time. I go up into the Okefenokee from time to time. There’s a lot of room to roam around here. A lot of land that ain’t got no houses and people. Land that ain’t been developed. True swamp wilderness.
I hope it stays just like this forever. I’m glad the state and country protects this land. That’s important because so much of our woods and swamps is getting taken away. I heard a song called Lochloosa that was wrote and sung by some boy from around here, JJ Grey. You listen to that song and you got to agree with what it’s about. Our land is getting stolen by developers and such. It’s a crime if you ask me.
JA: Lochloosa is a great tune, a must listen for anyone who treasures the real Florida — what was here before plastic pink flamingos and Mickey Mouse.
So it sounds like you’re somewhat of a conservationist. Do you feel any kinship to the critters with which you share a habitat, save the ones that end up your dinner, and/or the wilderness? And if so, what should the outside world do to help protect them?
TWM: Yeah, I think that we as people have a responsibility to take care of the environment around us. We are just guests here and I feel to some extent we aren’t grateful for what we’ve been given. As far as the animals and such, I know that God put them here for us to eat. However, God also gave us the intelligence and the resources to manage what he’s provided for us. Killing a deer for me ain’t about hanging something on a wall somewhere. It’s pretty spiritual. I’m taking life to provide for my own. It’s not a sport, you know. But sport hunting is important too, when it’s done like it should be. We do gotta kill animals because if we don’t nothing will. Deer ain’t got no more predators. We killed all the panthers and we killed all the wolves and coyotes, etc. And that ain’t just a Florida thing, that’s an America thing. So basically what I’m saying is that I think it’s pretty un-Godly and un-American not to respect the nature around you and throw trash and beer cans wherever and leave furniture on the side of the road and what not. It ain’t right to kill or catch more than you can keep and that kind of stuff really makes me angry.
JA: Getting back to you’re lifestyle. Where do you sleep? Under a tent? In a tree? On the ground?
TWM: Mostly on the ground. I found an old canvas tent that I sleep in when the weather gets bad. When it gets real bad, I find me some sort of shelter. When your dogs are barking for no reason early in the morning, that might be me slipping out of your barn or shed.
JA: What do you do when you’re not hunting, fishing or bathing in the St. Mary’s River?
TWM: Besides scaring people and killing goats? Ha, ha. No, I just do my thing. That pretty much sums it up. I think a lot. I read the newspaper. If you didn’t get your Sunday paper one week, it might have been because of me. I like to hear music when I get a chance to and here lately I figured out I like to write. I’m getting pretty old now and I’ve seen a lot so I like to write about what I see in the paper. Computers are crazy but they’re a sign of the times. Heck, even I got one. What’s the world coming to?
JA: Have you ever been in love?
TWM: Not until here recently. I saw a picture of Miranda Lambert and it was love at first sight. Well, on my end of things anyways.
JA: Speaking of celebrities, one of your tweets mentioned Tim Tebow. How do you think he’s doing in the NFL?
TWM: I am a big Gators fan and I feel Timmy will do alright. They just got to let him play his game. He’s got heart and he always says the right thing. He has never thrown anyone under the bus. He has skills you can’t teach and I think they can teach him the rest.
JA: What do you wear? Is the image you use as your profile photo a self portrait? If so, do you have the rest of the Civil Wear uniform? Are you a history buff?
TWM: People leave stuff out and about so I just wear what I find if it fits me. Old jeans, ball caps, whatever. I found a pair of boots a few years back and they come in pretty handy. I got the rebel hat from the battlefield one year. Found it on the ground after that battle they do every year. I ain’t too much of a history buff but I think it’s cool that we had a big battle right in our backyard. I heard one time that the Battle of Olustee was the most lop-sided Confederate victory in the war between the states. Heck, and we live right around the corner from the oldest town in America. And them longhorns out in Texas, they were descendants of the cattle that Ponce de Leon brought over here a few years after when he first landed. So yeah, as Floridians and Baker County folk, I think we have a very rich history. In that regard, I guess I am a history buff.
JA: Can you describe your last encounter with “the real world?”
TWM: I live in the real world everyday. I think there’s a lot of people who have been on this earth a long time and never been a part of the real world.
JA: You mentioned that many of the claims about what your are have been exaggerated. Are their any more myths you’d like to confirm or dispel about yourself?
TWM: Well, I can just say that what most people say about me probably ain’t true. I think a lot of what people see and hear isn’t nothing but their imagination. And people also say stuff even if it ain’t true, so people will pay attention to them or listen to them.
JA: One of your tweets said, “I would sooo fight Anthony Michael Hall.” What do you have against the 80s teen movie icon?
TWM: Anthony Michael Hall got drunk and started a fight because he isn’t happy with his place in life. It ain’t nobody’s fault but his.
Some other tweets from Taylor Wild Man’s Twitter feed:
“It’s hard being a wild man when your woods are on fire. Waiting for Kurt Russell to come and save me.”
“WTF is a muffaletta?”
“Ain’t nothing that don’t go with camouflage.”