Summer’s arriving soon, and that means heat, good fishing, the occasional tropical storm, and, to some of us, the baseball season. The Cedar Key Sharks baseball nine did remarkably well in their first year in their new division, but school’s out and the games have ended. The #1 ranked Gators are just 51 miles down SR 24, but after this weekend’s series with rival FSU for the right to head to Omaha for the College World Series, McKethan Stadium will be empty again until next spring. That leaves professional baseball, for those willing to travel some distance. But if you’re planning to visit a major league stadium this summer, you’d better bring money. Lots and lots of money.
According to Fortune magazine feature writer Jonathan Chew, two people attending a game this summer, buying tickets, two hot dogs, two beers, and parking their car can expect to pay $77.92. Our closest MLB team- the Tampa Bay Rays-comes in a bit cheaper at $69.11, but if you’re a family of four, you must add two tickets, many more hot dogs and sodas, and . . . well, you may be looking for a second job when the trip is over.
Or. Or . . . you could travel 2:44 minutes down 19/98 and spend far far less watching the Lakeland Flying Tigers, who are playing their 2016 season at historic Henley Field. The Flying Tigers, minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, compete in the Florida State League, which is Advanced, or “High A Ball” in the parlance of professional baseball. This means that the players, most of whom are relative newcomers to the profession, are considered very serious prospects whose chance to move upwards towards “The Show’ are better than average. The Tigers have been coming to Lakeland for over 50 years, easily the longest relationship between a major league team and a spring training venue. Minor league baseball teams are known for colorful mascot names, and the Florida State League is no exception: the Clearwater Threshers, the Daytona Tortugas, the Brevard County Manatees, the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Jupiter Hammerheads are just a few of these entries. So your trip southward to Lakeland will provide a good look at some future stars who play an energetic style of ball in their attempt to impress the organization and enhance their future in the game.
Uncle Ernie Died Last Week
Ernie, Ernest R. McDonald, Uncle Ernie, died last week. He was a dirt farmer, a son of a dirt farmer, one of those kind that live so close to the soil, to the ground, that they sort of become inseparable, the earth, the farmer, the soil, the ground. Uncle Ernie died last week.
He was maybe, five foot ten though he seemed much taller. He had a barrel chest that, after a deep breath, measured maybe fifty-four inches around. He always wore bib overalls over a cotton plaid work shirt and white socks and clod hoppers on his feet, you know, those boots with the leather laces that come up through the eyes so far then go to those brass hooks above to lace as you wished for the work you were about.
He had a round, red, robust face, and when he laughed which was often, it came from deep in the belly and came out like a rapid machine gun rattle or a hen pheasant forty yards off, too far away to fire that twelve gauge.
I visited him often as a young boy, sometimes with my younger sister, Barbara, and when I did, I stayed in the old house, the big house, a two story wooden frame with a fireplace and registers to allow the warm air downstairs to reach the bedrooms upstairs. His dad lived alone in the big house. I was a visitor there. It wasn’t wired. We used coal oil lamps for light. It was dim most of the time.
Uncle Ernie lived in a small house a few yards off built much like what a few years back we might have called a house trailer. It was wired. The farm was somewhere outside of Salem, in Northeastern Ohio, on a dirt road, in the midst of the Amish people with their black horse-drawn carriages. That’s how it was.
Uncle Ernie farmed eighty acres with two draft horses, work horses with the big hooves, the hair growing long around them, with mechanical plows, rakes, bailers, and the rest, that somehow magically were connected to the yoke behind the horses. His job, that dirt farming, was a tough one.
He was up way before daybreak, shaking me so I dressed and went along, to milk by hand those eleven or twelve milk cows, who spent the night in the lower part of the barn, each of us carrying coal oil lanterns which we hung on nails overhead. The barn down there was steaming and warmer due to heat from the cows and from the decomposing manure, the smell of which you could not escape. That was part of it.
I remember the sound of the squirt, squirt, squirt, as you squeezed the teats, one in each hand, and pulled as you squeezed so as to get the most milk from the utter with each as you alternated left hand then right hand and back up for another grip and yet another stroke, left and right.
And the sound of the squirt of that warm milk as it hit that galvanized pail held between your knees as you sat on that three-legged stool. And the smell of that milk, that sweet unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk as it built in that pail. And the steam coming up from that warm milk, and the color, much more yellow than that we buy at the Market and much stronger by taste, too.
He had some sows and some pigs that ate the leftovers and the apples picked off the ground from the several acres of orchard on the hill overlooking the house, the valley, the farm. I remember a picnic with Uncle Ernie, his wife, Virginia, my dad’s sister, we called her Auntie, under that large maple tree in the pasture, when one large sow got into the picnic basket and made short-shrift of what was in there.
Then his dad died. Then one night the orchard caught fire. All the neighbors came to help to no avail. It was destroyed. Then one of the draft horses got sick and died. And the cows were older and not producing much milk. And the silo collapsed. Uncle Ernie, with a growing family that needed providing, took a job with Chrysler a little ways away. He sold that eighty-acre farm that had been in the family for who knows how many generations, for something like seven thousand dollars. He moved to a place on a hill closer to work and eventually retired from Chrysler.
His last years were spent in a rest home not that far from Salem. He didn’t really belong there. Now he’s back where he belongs, back one with the soil, back one with the ground, as dirt farmers should. Uncle Ernie died last week.
‘Till we meet again, be out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key…
Eons of ions . . . . . Broccoli Billy
Some time back, say about ’70, Allen and Caroline drove to Franklin, VA, near the southeast shore to visit Peggy and me for a few days. You’ve met these people before. Allen worked for “The Atlanta Constitution” as a sports writer. Caroline was his wife, a schoolteacher in Atlanta and sister to Peggy, a legal secretary. Allen and I had a number of interests together, fishing and hunting being two of them.
One day early, Allen and I set out, boat in tow, to a fresh water reservoir serving Virginia Beach. The boat was a short, V-prow, aluminum Jon boat with a two-and-a-half horse motor. That was the maximum sized motor that was allowed on the reservoir. There were attendants at this lake that would let you fish if you had a freshwater fishing license. There was a modest charge to fish the lake.
Larry was a member of the “Breakfast Club” in Don Fansler’s Captain’s Table bar and restaurant on Dock Street. The restaurant opened at eleven o’clock daily. The “Breakfast Club” hung out before hours in the bar. The bar didn’t open till eleven, and the club members were on an honor system, serving themselves.
Fall, Winter, and the Holidays
Sometime back, we witnessed the fall and the transition to winter, even a preview of the winter itself. Seasons correspond more to weather and natural changes than to dates on the calendar.
We really have been in the wintertime for several weeks. We have no way of knowing how long winter will last. The weather has been cold for quite sometime. Fall leaves with their bright colors came early. The hardwoods have pretty much shed their leaves as have the cypress. The coastal oaks are still green but they are thinning noticeably.
We just passed the time when gum trees have darkened considerably. We had a number of cold, windy days. Fogs have been passing through for some weeks. Cold, misty days are here. We haven’t experienced many sunny days lately.
Winter officially starts around December 21. By the calendar, we just entered that period called winter. The shortest day of the year has past as has the longest night.
Many of us know that winter started many weeks ago. Does this mean that spring is not that far away?
One thing for sure, the holiday season really started before Thanksgiving, and we are still in Season. We will remain there for some time. This time of year, there are a number of holidays, many of them religious.
The grey, drabness of the fog joins winds in the pines and the palms. Sounds of the gentle rain collected by the leaves fall on the green. Cars going by on the wet pavement, the tires unzipping from the roadway, contrast with sound from the holiday music. Voices, instruments and holiday music make a festive mood.
Notice the colors that emanate from decorations both inside and out. It is nearly possible to turn these colors into smells and tastes associated with the cookies with green, red and others. And experience the colors of beets and cranberries, nuts, sweet potatoes, breads.
And see, smell and taste the colors of, turkey, pumpkin pie, chocolates, cheeses, casseroles, and salads. And add the smells, the candles and textures of oranges, apples, pineapples, shredded coconuts. Mix all of these seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing, feeling festive.
And then again think of the hazy, rainy, foggy, greyness and know that as the winter goes on, these things will change and the outside will get brighter and the stars and the moon and the planets will contrast against a black sky.
And another year will be upon us. Notice. Use all your senses to observe this coming year. Blend the colors and the taste and feel and smell, and experience this year as you have not done before.
Celebrate life and become one with it.
Let’s go on a journey together, with a new version of Thomas Jefferson’s Lewis &Clark expedition. Our president has just commissioned Mr. John Star and Thomas Dust to take on the tremendous task, which is known as the “stardust” expedition! The goal is to establish a food producing facility on the moon as a supply for interplanetary space travel.
Let’s imagine what this facility might be like, as this requires a big imagination. Our so called greenhouse would have to be underground to temper extreme heat and cold. We might need a nuclear reactor (perhaps the size of a 5 gallon bucket to provide electricity and controlled heat) for our operation. Water being very heavy on earth is a problem so we need sister ships to supply it in multiple trips. All internal structures could be mostly of carbon fiber which is light and very strong and made here on earth.
Thanksgiving On The Road
This weekend, Thanksgiving Day Weekend, is the most heavily traveled time of the year. Whether by train, plane, bus, car or whatever, many people are on the move to spend the Thanksgiving time with loved ones. Fortunately for most folks, the travel involves a short trip of a few miles or an hour or so, but for quite a few, the distance traveled and time spent are substantial.
Until just the past couple of years, I've been one of the latter most of my life. It feels good not to have to do all that traveling just to be with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving weekend. For many years, I was a professional person on the road driving as part of my occupation. Drivers of those eighteen wheelers are in this group. Thanksgiving was one day, a Thursday. Most often, Fridays, Saturdays and even Sundays were considered workdays.
No professional driver likes to be traveling when there are so many other drivers outnumbering you who only do distance travel a few times a year. Many of them are oblivious to the ways of the road, and the professional traveler has to watch out for them and to be courteous and helpful to them while he is on his own mission. That can be a real chore.
It would be a dark world without light and so it has been over eons of time. The rhythm of light and dark effects all life on earth, both plant and animal, disco lights, effected my night life years ago and is a powerful force. We have internal “time clocks” as daylight tells us to wake up (don’t count alarm clocks which I hate) and darkness tells us to sleep. When I retired I destroyed all my alarm clocks even though I didn’t have any C-4 plastic explosive handy.
Copyright © by Bill Robinson 2014