Growing Up Floridian is a personal memoir that relives moments of a boy who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's learning life lessons in a rural Cracker-cowboy environment. He put those lessons to use as he adapted to Florida's west coast and became a beach-loving teenager.
Natalie Gray, a small town New England girl, dreams of escaping a mundane, structured life in Reading, Massachusetts by taking advantage of her skills as a horseback rider, working on a dude ranch, and marrying a cowboy. Having taken horseback riding lessons during much of her young life, she gets the opportunity to become a riding instructor at a stable in New Hampshire during the summer of 1943 after graduating from high school. The distance from home allows her to make the decision to unshackle herself from her high school romance and explore independence.
Her brother’s return home from England as an accomplished WWII pilot, her parents disintegrating marriage, and her success as both a riding instructor and a hand-tooled leather crafts woman, inspire her decision to accept a job at a Massachusetts dude ranch. Her romance with a young cowboy blossoms as her parents’ marriage ends. Her sudden elopement offers a contrast to her brother’s idyllic post-war marriage ceremony.
Natalie’s dream burns brightly, explodes, seems to die, and is rekindled. A move to rural Florida brings the Cracker Cowboy culture into play. A move to a ranch on the west coast of Florida trades the dream for reality, but tragic twists tear at the fabric of Natalie’s ideals.