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In yet another picture, the same woman is simply staring straight at the camera. "Look at the eyes on her," Lucky says. "She can see right through ya." She is Jacque Wood, an Ohio native who was Lucky's first client. The 33-year-old mother and her family relocated to Naples when she was three years old. In 1997 she moved to Everglades City when she married her husband Thomas. They met Lucky in 2001 when a neighbor told the Woods that Lucky had extra permits for hunting deer in Big Cypress.
"So we called Lucky, and he agreed to let us have the permits," Wood recalls. "We go to Loop Road, pull up the driveway, walk up the porch, and this big huge man holding a Scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other greets us.... I instantly liked him."
The next thing she knew, her beau Thomas suggested that Lucky take alluring photos of her in the swamp for her then-28th birthday. "I was surprised because my husband is very protective," she reveals. "If he doesn't like someone, he will tell me. And I liked the idea because I never had good pictures taken of me."
Wood says she spent more than $800 to have Cole take 240 snapshots. During the entire shoot, she felt completely comfortable. "He was always professional," she says. "I've done a lot of nudes with him. But at my request, he doesn't show them to anyone."
She wanted to be photographed in the Everglades to capture part of her personality, as well as give her husband something he could cherish. "I'd rather be in a swamp buggy than in an office," Wood says. "And the pictures give me something to look back on and say I really looked good in these pictures. As a woman, you don't feel confident all the time about how you look."
Another of Lucky's models is Tracy Reimer, a recent divorcee who in the past year moved from Miami to Maine. She's a doe-eyed hard-body with straight red locks who wears a stars-and-stripes bikini in several of Lucky' s pictorials. Back in February 2002, the 35-year-old single mom found an ad for Lucky's photography in the newspaper. "I had three kids," she says. "I worked hard to get skinny again, and I wanted to show it off a little."
At first, she was intimidated by Lucky's towering, hillbilly appearance. "Here is this huge guy wearing big cowboy boots and a big old belt buckle," Reimer says. "I'm like, Oh my gosh. What did I get myself into? But he made me feel comfortable."
A few weeks later, Reimer trekked to Loop Road, but she was a "little scared." At the time, she was married, but Reimer did not tell her then-husband what she was doing. "I wanted it to be a surprise," she says. "I had called a girlfriend and told her where I was going to be." Upon reaching the gravel driveway, she immediately noticed the rotted bear skull inside a doghouse that greets visitors to Lucky's compound. "That was kind of gross," Reimer says.
At first, she was shy about disrobing. But Maureen made her feel at ease, she says. Since then, Reimer has done four photography sessions with Lucky, including one this past June. "It was more about feeling pretty and to get some attention I thought I was lacking," Reimer says. "But I don't need to do it anymore. I feel a little more secure with who I am."
Late this past December 9, the campfire near the Cole compound's front gate still crackles with life. But the hot orange-blue flames are not the only thing keeping Lucky, Maureen, and their guests warm on a dry, cold night. "It just ain't Scotch if ain't at least twelve years old," Lucky says, savoring a swig of a special-edition eighteen-year-old Glenfiddich.
Then he sucks on his stogy and looks adoringly at his wife. "Maureen is my one true addiction," Lucky muses. "I'll give up anything else you want me to give up, but I am not giving her up."
When Lucky met Maureen in 1979, the photogenic Canadian wasn't ready for his advances. "He was far too good-looking, and all good-looking men I had known had broken my heart," she says, "so the best thing to do was to cut this off before it got started."
Three months later, he was sorting through phone numbers he had collected on napkins, business cards, and matchbooks. "I figured I'd give her one more call before I threw her phone number away," Lucky says. "I asked her if she was ready. We went on our first date and that was it. When people ask me when I fell in love with Maureen, I tell them I was always in love with her. It just took me 28 years to find her."
A few minutes before midnight, the swamp king and queen are ready for bed. Before disappearing into their trailer, Lucky turns off the Budweiser bar sign that hangs from the front porch's awning.