Author Nancy Dale is fascinated by Florida's cattle industry, and she's just published her fifth book, "Deadly Risk: American Cattle Ranching on the Mexican Border and Other True Cattle Ranching Stories" chock full of tales of the struggles and exploits of the original cow-hunting families in the Heartland and ranchers from around the nation.
Originally from Miami, Dale has a Ph.D. in communication and broadcast journalism, and has worked extensively in broadcasting and printed news for most of her career. She has worked for a variety of radio and television networks and directed/produced segments of The Indian Ocean Experiment, a documentary sponsored by the World Meteorological Association and UNESCO. The filming took her to France, Kenya and India.
She also started her own production company and has taught English, speech and journalism at various colleges across Florida, as well as Barry University.
Dale had a little trailer in Palmdale that she'd escape the metropolis of Dade County to, and when 2004 hurricanes hit, destroying her home, that's all she had left. While living in the trailer, she'd visit a local watering hole and overheard the stories shared between cowboys and ranchers. She knew their stories had to be told.
"They used to call me the Lipstick Girl from Miami," Dale recalled. They began to share their stories with her, which Dale captured and self-published in the books "Where the Swallowtail Kite Soars," "Would Do, Could Do and Made Do," "The Legacy of Pioneer 'Cow Hunters' in Their Own Words," "Wild Florida the Way it Was" and now "Deadly Risk."
The new book covers a variety of topics, starting with the ancient history of Florida's Heartland and how the cow came to find itself on this humid peninsula. Dale interviewed Jimmy Hargrove of Lake Placid about his family's legacy, Jared and Donna Prescott of Lake Placid on their family's heritage story of preserving the land for ranching as well as the story of how Anne Reynolds stumbled upon the discovery of one of the earliest Belle Glade native American settlements in Florida on her Lake Placid property.
She also includes an interview with Norman Welch, one of the original members of Civilian Conservation Corps who built Highlands Hammock Park in Sebring.
Dale expressed amazement at the accomplishments of many of the local people whose lives she has captured in her books, including Renee Strickland of Myakka City whom Dale said "is opening up the door to (selling cattle to) the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean islands. In her first book, she interviewed Tom Gaskins of the original Cypress Knee Museum who is known for running barefoot through the Florida wilderness and inventing the Tom Gaskins turkey call.
"I felt the early pioneers deserved to be recognized and honored," Dale said.
But the new book starts out with something far more sinister than anything the old cow hunters faced. Dale tells the story of Rob Krentz, an Arizona rancher on the Mexican border, who was found dead on his own property.
Dale said she met Krentz's widow, Sue Krentz, at a national Cattlemen's Association event and heard her story. Fourth generation cattle rancher Rob and his brother, Phil Krentz, were checking a water line on their property in Douglas, Ariz., in March of 2010. The line had been cut multiple times by suspected illegal immigrants camping on the property.
When Rob didn't return, helicopters were sent out. They found the bodies of the rancher and his dog shot several times.
Dale said the perpetrators still haven't been caught, but drug smugglers are suspected. She said drug running from Mexico is a huge problem, but nobody is talking about the powerful and dangerous cartels who are behind it.
It has hit home, too, Dale said. In her book, she includes an interview with Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier on a recent cartel bust in Lake Placid and Zolfo Springs.
"The cartel stories are frightening," Dale said, adding, "I wanted to get this book out before the immigration bill comes up. You will find no one is addressing the cartels." The responses she received from state and federal officials on the matter are published in the book.
Dale is also a certified yoga instructor who runs private classes out of her home, a quaint log house in Sebring. She has practiced yoga for more than 20 years and said it helps her "maintain my serenity."
She sells her books in local venues including Lake Placid Feed & Western Wear, Glisson's Animal Supply and The Galleria in Sebring, Hardee Ranch Supply, SFSC Museum of Art, Fantasy Lighting in Okeechobee, and all locations of Eli's Western Wear as well as online at www.nancydalephd.com.
Dale has book signings scheduled for Dec. 7 at Eli's Western Wear in Okeechobee and March 15, 2014 at Pioneer Days in Arcadia.