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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
  
 
 

MAMMOUTH MONSTROUS MUTANT MALLARDS AND SOMESUCH

November 15, 2017          

We first noticed them a month or so ago, those mallards of a different bent. Actually, I guess we experienced them. It was about dark, some time after the sun had left, as we walked the bridge to Dock Street behind Mike and Cindy’s Island Place.          

Mallards are not native to this coast. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even migrate through this area from their homes in the far north. They came in as chicks and eggs at the behest of Bill and Ray, both of whom had incubators to make sure those mallards would survive and thrive. And they did.

That was many years back and now neither Ray nor Bill live in Cedar Key. But those mallards do. They own the place, the streets, the restaurants, the parking lots, all of Cedar Key, from February till June or so, sometime after the mating season. And they live here year around.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
  
 
 
LITTLE JOE
November 8, 2017          

I first met Joe Smith in the Captain’s Table seven or eight years ago. The people who hung out there at that time were different than you see today.  Big Al was the bartender.  Don sat at one end of the bar and Joe sat at the other.  Joe drank his beer from a bottle.          

He was taller then and while age showed somewhat, he moved about freely.  He liked music and he loved to dance.  He wanted to introduce me to a waitress in a smaller bar where the Sunset Room now sits.  He thought she was beautiful and had a lot of spunk, someone I would enjoy.  We went the back way climbing all the steps.  She was off duty. We had some beer anyway.  That’s kind of the way Joe’s life went, a little out of step, a little off time.          

Joe came here ten or so years ago from Rochester, or Chicago, or Miami or someplace.  He and his wife retired to Cedar Key. Shortly thereafter, she became ill and died.  He had her cremated.  He kept her ashes in a box in the house.

Maybe a year after that, he walked into the Sea Breeze, slid one of the sliding glass doors aside, opened the box and announced to all at the bar,  “There she goes,” and he dumped her ashes over the edge.  Quite a spontaneous, yet sobering, funeral for those of us at the bar.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
  
 
 
JUST ANOTHER DAY FISHING – PART 2
November 1,  2017

(Last week, Trouble described a storm that came up while he and his dad were at the launching ramp with the boat still on the trailer. We repeat here a few lines from Part 1.)

Then the roof of the shelter began peeling, leaving, going somewhere off into the marsh. By now the water was near my knees. Maybe I could make it to the car, perhaps to a haven. I squinted out one eye only to see that the boat, strapped well to that trailer that was well hitched to the car, was sometimes airborne, sometimes not. Not a good idea, that going for the car, so I just hung onto that post which had so far served me well.          

In these situations, time itself slows way down. Everything is in slow motion. All the senses seem to quicken. Awareness becomes keener, colors become brighter, winds become noisier. I saw no escape from the situation so I just hung on to that post. I was wet to the bone, cold, and getting colder. I remember no fear, only a certain sense of helplessness.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
  
 
 
JUST ANOTHER DAY FISHING – PART 1
October 25, 2017

I was up way before daylight and on my way to Dunnellon. It was early October, about this time of year, not that long ago. Dad and I were going fishing out of Yankeetown. We had in mind catching some big reds and he knew where they were.          

He had an open boat, shallow draft, good freeboard, something less than 20 feet long, handbuilt sometime in the late 50’s. The motor was a 35 horse Evinrude from the 60’s with cable controls for steering and throttling from a small console midboat on the starboard side. The boat sat on a homemade two-wheeled trailer with a heavy iron frame.          

Three could fish comfortably and four, maybe, with careful attention to placement of gear and equipment. This day there were only two, Dad and me.     


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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JAMES THE VEGGIE MAN
October 18, 2017          

Last time on “The Road Back Home”, we passed James Meredith’s place as we rode through Sumner.  James is an institution around here.  He started working a vegetable stand in Gainesville in the early 70’s.  After a few rough encounters with landlords and over zealous competitors, he settled in the Otter Creek area.          

In the 80’s he made his appearance in Cedar Key.  Thanks to Mary Yarnell and some other locals, James got over some rough times and made Cedar Key his main place of business.  He sets his veggie stand up twice a week beside the post office next to Gypsy’s.  His major secret is shopping for the right vegetables and fruit, the type that will sell at the quality that we want.  He buys just at the right time so that when he opens his stand the freshness is correct.   


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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IT’S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR
October 11, 2017        

Life in Cedar Key is changing. The blackhooded laughing gulls who were visitors for several months have left the area taking their loud raucous voices with them. The roseate spoonbills, close cousins of the ibises, have vacated the Back Bayou behind Annie’s for points south to Sanibel and beyond.

Skimmers have moved in, those long-winged seabirds, white below and black above with long orange and black beaks. Their lower beaks are longer than their upper, I believe, the only commonly seen bird with that type of beak configuration. They fly so gracefully, most generally in groups, with their mouths open, their lower beaks skimming the water surface in search of food. They are best seen in early morning off Cedar Cove and the Island Room.  

Back, too are the storks. They hang out behind Rose’s and Crabby’s not far from the old railroad trestle. Anne spotted them last week, and I saw three together a couple of days ago on a landing approach, their very long wings in a graceful arch gliding in with legs stretched out behind.         

Back, too, are the terns, white and smaller than gulls, resembling them somewhat. Terns are more streamlined than gulls and most have orange beaks. They can hover and they dive for small fish in the water.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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HOW GOOD IT IS
TO SEE YOU TODAY
October 4, 2017

Those were Caroline’s words early that evening in June 1982, “How good it is to see you today.” We were alone together in a room on the third floor of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Caroline was a close personal friend of mine, my sister-in-law, Melanie’s aunt, Peggy’s sister, Allen’s wife. Caroline was quite ill and had been for several years.         

Fifteen years earlier as a young school teacher, she moved to Atlanta from the mountains of Western Virginia. She soon met Allen who worked for the newspaper. They liked each other and they married. Not much more than a year and a few months later, doctors discovered in Caroline a very rare disease. In layman’s terms, her body was rejecting her liver.         

She tried to continue her school teaching assignment but she had to leave due to poor health. Doctors knew very little about the disease and how to treat it. She was in and out of the hospital many times for long periods. They treated her with steroids and what ever else seemed to help.         

Over several years the disease and the drugs and the medicines took their toll. She had a leg amputated above the knee. They tied off her spleen. They removed her gall bladder. She developed cataracts, which were eventually removed. She was always ill on the inside. Her spirits stayed high.

         

One day in the hospital during one of the several stays in which no one knew whether she would ever go home, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She gradually stopped the drugs, the chemicals, the medicines. She went home and under her care, Allen’s care and the care of friends and family, she began a program of healthy eating, rest and as much exercise as she could get. She got out of the wheelchair and with the help of a prosthesis and a cane; she walked as much as she could.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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HEARD, SEEN, AND SOMETIMES IMAGINED AROUND CEDAR KEY
September 27, 2017

You know, every place has its characters but nowhere is that as evident as in Cedar Key. I arise early and spend my mornings writing and composing. Later in the day, I wander about picking up material. One afternoon late, I found myself talking with another writer, a first-time visitor to Cedar Key. After explaining to this woman how I spend my afternoons “picking up material,” she asked me if I would consider her “material.” No comment.         

Dave the other day spotted Ms. Lee, who used to work with her sister Ms. Helen at what is now known as The Windjammer, at some distance. Ms. Lee was walking along the dock with family and friends. Dave hollered out, “Hi good looking.” Ms. Lee smiled, waved and kept on walking. Just before passing out of view, Dave hollers again. “If I’d a had teeth, I’d a whistled.”

Sometime back Cap’n Will, Cap’n Larry and Glenn delivered a new, large Hatteras Yacht to Mobile for the owners. None had before sailed through the harbor into Mobile Bay. Even in daylight, all were confused by the myriad of markers, “but we just kept going, through narrow passages between islands and after a while the route to take became apparently evident,” those words by Cap’n Will.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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 COWBOYS IN A FRONTIER TOWN
September 20, 2017
 

Mermaid Dave’s mission was to take us on a boat ride. He arrived at the Captain’s Table early in the afternoon, tying his boat up to the pilings on the side deck. We got there several hours later. By then, Dave was doing pretty well with that Popeye grin, his hands waving about saying more than his words could.         

Then he remembered the boat was about out of gas. It came down to get some gas or cancel the cruise. Jeff, who no longer lives around here, came to the rescue, and with ten dollars of Dave’s money, he vaulted the rail and dropped over the side into the boat, seven or eight feet or so below. He untied the line, started the motor and took off in a quest for gas.         

Now Dave’s boat was a no-nonsense fishing boat or oystering boat or anything but a pleasure-craft. It was an open boat, hand built, with a sturdy wooden frame surrounded by many layers of fiberglass. In short, much like a torpedo in the wrong hands, it could be a dangerous weapon.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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BUBBA’S KIND OF PLACE
September 13, 2017
 

This is Bubba’s kind of place. It’s two steps up to the front door. It’s a long ramp up to the back door. Some who don’t know come in the front door. Locals come in the back door.

         

The place opens most days at noon. A few locals will show for a light lunch and maybe hang out for a while. On any given day you might see Painter Larry, Dusty, Chuck, Jim, me and others. Then it thins out for a while.

If you like the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or Speed Week you might enjoy that time between noon and four with Patrick on the other side or sometimes me on this side.

         

This is Bubba’s kind of place. You can come in the front door and turn right and buy a bottle. Or you can walk a few steps further, grab a stool and drink one, or a beer, or whatever. It’s the kind of place you can go on a Sunday afternoon to shoot a game of pool, have a brew and watch NASCAR.


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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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  ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER YEAR
August 30, 2017
 

We were on our way up the East Coast from Jacksonville to the Eastern shore of Virginia stopping as we went and remembering things past on the way.   The trip, the process, was the intent, not getting there, as we had no destination in mind, just go, do, and experience.  And remember.

A couple of years back we had a similar intent, to spend a few weeks traveling up from Cedar Key to the Midwest, through the places that helped me get to what I now am, so Anne could catch a glimpse of my past.         

Neither intent came to pass. A couple of years back, we ended up spending some time in southern Indiana with family and friends.  One day again, in another year, at another time, we’ll make that journey that we planned for some time through the Midwest.  And again, at another time in another year, we’ll make the trip up the East Coast that we thought we would make this year.         

The trip this year didn’t happen.  As many of you know, my mom is ill.  My dad fortunately has been healthy and has been doing a lot at their home so that life could be as normal as that can be.  Anne and I have been right there when we could, and certainly when asked, to be with Mom and to give Dad some breathing room to relax, play golf, to bowl, or do whatever.         

Several days back in a routine physical exam, Dad found out he had a nearly complete blockage in a carotid artery.  We rose to the occasion. You rise to the occasion when the occasion calls.  Dad had tests and then an emergency surgical operation.  Some things can’t wait.  That couldn’t.  We were there.         

The surgery went well.  And Dad is again at home.  And Mom is getting better, ever so slowly, but none-the-less, Mom is getting better.         

And Anne and I are back in Cedar Key.  What a relief you get when you swing out from the scrub forest and to the open marsh as you approach No. 4 Bridge.  How good it feels to be home, to sleep in your own bed, to shower and bathe there and to brush your teeth at home.         

So for a while, for the time being, for as long as it takes, here we are a few miles from Dunnellon, a few short miles from Mom and Dad.  And where on a moment’s notice, we can get in touch and we can be there.  Just as they have for me so many, many, times in the past.         

So for a while that trip up the East Coast through Beaufort and the Outer Banks of Carolina can wait, there is time for that.  And we have time.  Lot of it.  So, another time in another year, we will take our trip up the East Coast.

Besides all of that, we are not here in another time in another year. We are here, and I need to be out here looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.

 Copyright © by Gene Benedict 30  August 2017
 
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TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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 . . . AND A FEW FEATHERS MORE
August 23, 2017

Last time we talked about some of our feathered friends with whom we share these islands part of the year.  This time let’s talk about some birds you can’t seem to get away from.         

Mallards, highly praised game by duck hunters because of their beauty and their size, normally migrate a thousand miles or so from season to season.  Not so in Cedar Key.  It appears the mallards are here to stay.  And from February through June and even later, the mallards own the streets, the yards and the buildings.  In their mating season they are oblivious to cars, man, the weather and even brooms.  So we live with that, we adapt, we generally let them have their go.  Worthy of note; each year we see fewer females.         

A few days ago, several frigates, otherwise known as man-of-war birds, were soaring lower than usual.  They are scavengers and have been known to rob food from other birds.  One came down to the water to rob a gull of a morsel and when the gull refused to cooperate, the frigate grabbed the gull and tried to fly off with him.  The gull hung on to the morsel and struggled with the frigate, finally breaking free.  The frigate circled back still intimidating the gull, but the gull was not about to give in.  Bored, the frigate finally gave up to search elsewhere.         

We have a large number of barn swallows all over town and they are in their full mating colors this time of year.  Anne and I have a family nesting in our chimney at the house.  Last Halloween, Cindy and Rich at Gulfside Motel hung a jack-o-lantern from the end of the upper deck out over the water.  Several barn swallows have taken to nesting in that pumpkin, and as dark approaches each evening, you can watch them settling in for the night.

Anne and I have a pair of Carolina wrens that have build a nest in our clothespin bag on the back porch.  We won’t be using clothespins for a while.  We also have a resident mockingbird that has forgotten how to sleep and all night long he serenades us through the bedroom window.  Because we have occasional power surges and outages in Cedar Key, we decided we needed a backup alarm clock that is battery operated.  The one we chose talks to you.  You don’t have to see the face to know the time; just touch it and it tells you.  We set the alarm one night and the next morning, early, after the mockingbird had serenaded all night, it went off.  To our surprise, the alarm was a rooster crowing quite loudly.  Of course we sat straight up in bed and by the time we figured out how to shut the alarm off, it was too late.  The mocking bird had picked up on the rooster crowing and was hard at it.         

So until next time, look for me out there hunting down trouble in Cedar Key.

 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2017
 
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  TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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A FORMER LIFE
14 August 2017

One day earlier this week, Anne and I traveled from Cedar Key to Gainesville on a field trip to do business and to have fun.  Somewhere near Rosewood we came up behind this lumber truck, this pulpwood (pronounced “pupwud”) truck.  Anne asked if I knew what kind of wood he was hauling.  I did.

He was hauling a load of hardwoods, of gums.  As we drew closer, we saw that one of the logs near the top was dripping sap indicating a very recent cut.  The slowly dripping sap and the long, otherwise lonely, road drew me back to a former life.  We all have them, former lives.         

In the paper industry, those large long logs he was hauling are often called “sticks.”  The hardwood, the gum, is used primarily in making fine papers, white, bleached, opaque papers, such as tablet, bond, envelope, copy and so forth.  I grew up in a small mill town in northern Ohio.  I’ve been around the industry most of my life.         

We swam and fished as young people in the millpond so called because the river was dammed creating a large lake.  Hydropower was used to drive much of the equipment in the mill just downstream. Relatives and much of the town worked in the mill, some literally spending most of their lives there night and day.     

I went on to college majoring in engineering.  My first job was working in what at that time was the largest fine paper mill in the country located in Virginia.   From there, I went on to the largest Kraft mill in the world in Georgia, and then to another large mill in Alabama.       


SUMMER’S ARRIVING SOON…
June 10, 2016

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.


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 TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
  
 
Rough day: a memoir
14 April 2016
 
It had been a tough day. Walking out, I pass through the gate on the way to somewhere. I need to come down, have some quiet time alone, forgetting the rough day. I mount the vehicle and head down the way.
 
I spot this building at the edge of a parking area. No one is in front. I pass slowly around the building. A pickup is parked to the rear, no other vehicles around. I dismount and walk slowly through the door.
 
The place is lit dimly. It has one window. I walk to one end of the bar. A guy on the other side with a towel walks to me and wipes the bar, waiting. I order a beer. He brings me one. He walks to the other end, no talking. Just the place I need.
 
I sit quietly, sipping my beer, washing the day away. Someone else comes through the door and sits down. He gets a drink and nods to me. I look his way and also nod. A conversation of a sort begins. He’s talking, I’m not. He moves near to me, talking about his day, I nod.
 
Someone else comes through the door, moving to the bar. The new guy invites himself into what he thinks is a three-way conversation. I only nod now and then. I look towards the guy who followed me in and now sits next to me. I nod throwing my shoulder towards distant tables on the floor. The two of us leave the bar and go to a table.
 
By now, others were there, some talking. Soft music breaks out and a woman shows up to serve. The place is filling up. Someone tries to join us at the table. I wave my arm around the room and point to toward the bar. The guy gets the point. He moves away.
 
The guy at my table orders another drink. The music is loud. The conversation at the table gets louder. I merely continue to nod. He thinks we are having a conversation. He talks, I just nod.
 
Finally, I rise and head toward the door. He follows me out. “Well, that was a good time. It was fun. Where are you going tomorrow?” He trails me as I go to my vehicle. “I know a place we might meet. This was a good time…”
 
I climb into my vehicle, look back at him with a half smile, and start the engine. It has been a tough day. I need to come down, have some quiet time alone somewhere.
  
I drove off…
 
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 TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
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A Week for All Veterans
Originally scheduled for the week of November 11, 2015
 
This week we celebrate Veterans Day and the Marine Birthday. I’ve written about those days in the past in terms of heroes and notable people.
What follows is a tribute to a Veteran and a Marine I met once, and then, only for a few minutes.
A Watch, a Compass, and the Sun over His Shoulder
         Late in the afternoon a while back, Anne and I were at the Blue Desert relaxing with a brew and an appetizer. We normally sit at the counter down on the other end. Not many people had yet arrived. It was still early. We were debriefing each other as we usually do at the end of the day.
         This older man walked in wearing shorts, a pullover, and a cap which he promptly removed. He sat at the counter too, up towards the other end. We took note of him and continued our conversation. After a modest dinner, the man turned to talk to us. He was from Minnesota and was on his way back from a short stay in Tampa. He’d driven in to Cedar Key a few hours earlier and parked a camper at Sunset Isle. He’d been out to the airstrip and had stopped at the Blue Desert on his way back.
         He was a former Marine, an aviator, a pilot. He’d flown over the Cedar Keys while in training years before and had meant to come back for a look around. He never got here. This time driving his way back from Tampa, he’d come mainly to look over the airstrip. And to remember…
         He’d been to Tampa to pick up the cremated remains of his son who had died days earlier and quite suddenly of a massive heart attack. His son, also a former Marine, left a family behind in Tampa. “My boy had lived in Tampa six-and –a-half years, and I’d never been down to see him. I’d promised, but somehow I never got there. This is one hell of a way to make a visit, and it’s tough, really tough,” said the man.
         “You know, I flew in the Pacific. I was all over. I enlisted in the Marines when I was seventeen. I watched my childhood friend, my life-long buddy, go down over Midway and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. That was pretty tough.”
         “I made it through the war with a couple wounds, but I always made it back to duty. Then I laid my mother to rest, then my father, and one by one, brothers and sisters. Those times were pretty tough. But I made it okay.”
         “I once was hit while flying a mission. My instruments went out, gauges, altimeter, and whatnot. I radioed the flight commander. He told me I had a compass and a watch, and if I put the sun over my shoulder, I’d make it home. Then we broke contact as ordered.”
         “I did, I made it home. After that I had a compass installed in my vehicle and I wear a watch at all times. I’m never lost. I just look for the sun and I’m okay.”
         “Can you imagine, six-and-a-half years and I never made it to Tampa? Never went to visit my boy? My church is against cremation, but in this case it was okay. I guess… I’ll be up early in the morning. We’ll take our time going back home, back to Minnesota. I know we’ll be okay. I have my watch on my wrist, a compass on the dash, and I’ll just put the sun over my shoulder.”
         He climbed off that stool and stood up not so easily with legs and hips damaged by shrapnel over fifty years ago. “Donald, A. C., Sir, United States Marine Corps, retired. Honored to have had your presence,” he said as he extended his hand.
         This former Marine, this wounded combat veteran, this man was hurting deeper than he’d ever known. But he’d be okay. He’d have his watch on his wrist, a compass on the control panel and the sun over his shoulder. And with his boy at his side, he should be back in Minnesota by Sunday. And this year, his son will be home for the holidays.
 
 
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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2015
 
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 TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
 by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
Dennis R. McDonald and Debbie
A couple - three weeks back, a cousin of mine, Dennis, from Kentucky, wanted to take a vacation in Florida with his wife, Debbie. They planned to stop overnight in Marietta, Georgia, drop by Cedar Key and move on to Hollywood, Florida for the bulk of their trip.  I hadn’t seen Dennis for about forty years, and had never met Debbie. Anne had not met them at all.
 
“Sure, come on ahead.” Anne and I set them up for an overnight stay in Cedar Key when they arrived. I didn’t recognize Dennis until I realized how much he looked like his dad. He was unmistakably a McDonald. He was younger than me by about ten years. He looked much like Uncle Ernie, my favorite uncle.
 
As a kid, I spent several summers with him on his farm. I worked hard when I was there. He used draft horses, as he had no tractor. And much of the farming was done by hand. I learned a lot from Uncle Ernie and his family.
 
During our brief visit with the McDonalds the four of us learned a lot about our families. We shared stories of long ago about the McDonalds and Benedicts. Anne was familiar with some of them and she knows my sister, Barbara. She’s heard my stories of my Uncle Ernie and his wife, Virginia.
 
We ate several meals in local restaurants. Dennis and Debbie had their first experiences of the Nature Coast and the Big Bend areas of Florida. We had a great time and as they left, I gave them a copy of an article I wrote in 2000 after Uncle Ernie died.
  
What follows is that article. Enjoy.
  

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…

 

 
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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2015
 
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Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
11  JULY  2015
 
  
 
       I wrote an earlier article on light and its effects on plants (day length) but some other factors come to mind. What causes trees to change the color of their leaves then drop them to the ground? When the earth rotates light brings warm temps. While darkness brings cooler temps. When the earth moves closer to the sun we get warmer and when it gets farther away we get cooler. These two rhythms are the existence of all life on earth. Plants have been around for millions of years and have adapted to these rhythms (we sleep at night and wake by day). We have created artificial light to work the 2nd. & 3rd. Shifts. We all know about jet lag (I always lag behind but never lag forward for some reason) and what it does to our ‘internal’ time clock.  
 
       Plants are sensitive to light and temperatures and act accordingly, thus when things are right the tree with holds nutrients [sap] and the leaves die and drop to the ground. I’ve been shot at and I know how to drop to the ground. When light gets longer and temperatures rise sap moves up the tree, the buds swell and a new leaf begins to grow. I was raised near a “sugar bush” and in spring with snow still on the ground, holes would be drilled in the trees and taps driven. The buckets would be hung and covered to keep rainwater out and as the sap moved to the top of the tree a small portion would drip into the buckets. I have actually drank sap out of these buckets and it tastes like weak maple syrup. I think it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. I used to watch a working sugar house and the evaporator is amazing.   
 
       Plants react to the changing daytime position of the sun (phototropism) and move accordingly. At my age I don’t like to move much as it usually means work. Some plants like full sun while some like full shade. If you really want to mess up a plant put it under lights 24-7 for 4 weeks and see what happens. In my seedling room I control the photo-period to what is occurring outdoors so when they go to the greenhouse they have no shock. Now that I have kept you in the dark . . .
 
Light your Ligustrum . . . . Broccoli Billy 
Copyright © by Bill Robinson 2015
 
  
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GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
   Those Last Few Harrowing Days
 
      “When, in the course of human events…”
 
     Let’s take a trip back two and a quarter centuries or so to those earlier days. Let’s visit as best we can those last several days leading up to the real reason for this weekend’s celebration, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. That period when those brave men signed what they knew could well be their own death warrants. Those last few harrowing days culminating in the signing of what is known as the Declaration of Independence.
 
    The Continental Congress had been called originally for the purpose of finding common ground for a unified presence of the thirteen colonies and several territories under the protection of the Crown. For that is what it was, thirteen diverse colonies with governors appointed by the Crown and serving at the discretion of the Crown.
 
     A few thousand British soldiers were on the soil, mainly as a message to foreign countries that those colonies in the New World were British Crown Colonies, they were to serve as policemen to keep order. The colonists soon learned that the troops really didn’t want to be here and they wanted to avoid conflict at all costs.
 
    Sheriffs sprung up and militias came into being, the militias primarily to fend off marauding Indians and the French to the North, not to be in conflict with the Crown. Ben Franklin from New York and later Pennsylvania formed a militia from money from a lottery, the first lottery in the New World, in Philadelphia.
 
    Fifty some odd men, give or take, met to find common ground. The governors and their representatives were invited. The governor’s representatives soon became bored and left. Then the doors closed and the locks came out. The delegates met in private, an illegal assembly sworn to secrecy.
 
   There was Benjamin Franklin, the printer from Philadelphia, the Englishman’s Englishman. There was Thomas Jefferson, the quiet diplomat from Virginia who would rather be back on the farm at Monticello. There was Patrick Henry, some say was from Virginia, who knows? And George Washington, engineer, who would rather lay out the land for development than get involved with politics. And there was John Hancock, John Adams, Sam Adams, and a whole host of individuals who had been in meeting rooms long enough and wanted to get back home.
 
   The delegations from Georgia and the Carolinas were ready to walk out, to leave, to go home to their farms, their families, and that quiet diplomat, Tom, talked them into staying just a little longer. All of them, down to the last, knew they were involved in treasonous activities.
 
   The colonies had been here a hundred thirty and some odd years and were now prosperous and major exporters to the outside world. The Crown needed the colonies to feed their greed. They tried taxes, the Stamp Act, the tax on tea that led to the Boston Tea Party. They tried oppression and they spawned rebellion.
 
   The talk at the Continental Congress turned. The colonies had found their common ground; resist oppression, resist the Crown. Who needs the Crown anyway? Ben argued against it. “Let's’ find a way, we are all Englishmen, we need to realize that.” Pat, the hot head in the bunch and the youngest of the group, kept up his theme, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
 
  George, the engineer, reluctantly began forming plans to raise a super militia, a Continental Army. George wanted to be back in lower Virginia surveying the land now known as the Great Dismal Swamp. And Tom, ever the scribe, ever the writer, ever the thinker, wrote draft after draft, long hand, at night for the group to consider the next day.
 
   Finally in the wee hours on July 2, 1776, the draft was redlined and signed, all fifty-four or so in attendance agreeing, many reluctantly, to sever the connection to the Crown. They knew in the worst case they would be hung for treason. They also knew that any combat would be on their turf and hoped that the British would tire of that quickly.
 
  So now we have it, the United States of America, and it all comes down to those last harrowing days and the finale and those now famous words, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bonds…”
 
   Thank you, Ben. Thank you, George. Thank you, Pat. And thank you, especially you, Tom, for being the glue that held it all together and for finding the correct words to make it unquestionable. To make it the magnificent piece of World Literature that today is our mainstay.
 
   So on Saturday this coming, remember those guys in that illegal assembly that made it all possible, that made this “the land of the free and the home of the brave…”
 
   Until next time…
 
 
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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - July 2015
 
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Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
  MAY   2015
 
 
 
I spend a lot of time on research, as I should, and always discover something new. I’m not a supporter of ‘organic’ gardening and some new information I just learned further supports my position on this subject. I was reading about plant root structure and the different type of cells that there are, to find out these root cells absorb chemical ions of various types.   
 
So let’s say for example I had two gardens; one with chemical fertilizer and one that is fertilized with buffalo chips (no not potato chips as there is a buffalo chip throwing contest out west) along with grass clippings, bone meal, dried blood, and anything else you like. You could even use horse feathers if you wish. Organic nutrients are designed to release their value over long periods of time which is fine for very long term plants such as shrubs and trees. Most of our vegetable crops are short term plants and are grown in a single year. This could imply that not enough nutrition is available and stunts these short term plants thus reducing yield.   
 
Now my chemical fertilized garden allows me to put more than the needed amounts of nutrition. The plants use the maximum amounts needed and disregard the rest. Excessive fertilizer can be toxic so don’t think more is better. My lettuce is a 45 day crop so they demand as much as they need and they get it. The USDA has done extensive chemical analysis between organic and non-organic plants out of my imaginary gardens and no difference is evident! This relates to plants of the same type. 
  
The UF testing lab offers basic sap test analysis of most any type of plant you like. It gives you an analysis of a whole range of chemicals and can even tell you how to adjust you fertilizer to match plant requirements. My first wife wanted me to meet certain requirements and I guess I didn’t do to well. I think that if organic nutrients were different from chemical nutrients it would make the plants different. Now think about that!

 Eons of ions . . . . . Broccoli Billy

 
Copyright © by Bill Robinson 2015
 
  
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GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
 
TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
 In the Wake of a Hurricane
 

         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.


 
GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
 
TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
 LOST CREEK
When I was a boy of nine years old up until the age of sixteen, I spent a lot of time around Lost Creek. The creek got its name because part of the route took the creek underground. You couldn’t find the bed, as it was dry. The pools, however, were crystal clear and laden with small mouth bass, rock bass, red horse suckers, and all sorts of smaller fish such as blue gills, minnows and crawfish. 
 
We called the crawfish, crabs, and often would seine for the soft shells. From time to time, we’d look under the rocks in the rapids for soft shells. Those crabs made a good fishing bait for all kinds of larger fish, especially catfish. We’d get the soft shells from the creek and fish them along the banks of the Miami River. 
 


 
Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
  MARCH  2015
 
 
 
 
In my last few articles I have had a lot of fun and I hope my readers have too. This newspaper column must keep the theme of plants and gardening so be that as it may. Let’s assume I received a phone call at 8 am this morning from a crying young female trying to tell me her prized green plant has yellow leaves on it. She insist that I must come over and find out what is wrong as she can barely speak on the telephone. So I go over to her house and find the plant on the porch with some yellow leaves on it. A close inspection reveals green veins in the leaf with yellow areas between. This condition is almost always chlorosis which indicates a lack of nutrition.
 
I’ve had this condition a number of times in the greenhouse and finally found through some research that there are two major things to consider. The first is obvious, lack of fertilizer but the second one is very seldom considered; improper pH value. These two things very closely interrelate. I’m sure some gardeners know more about their pool pH than their garden soil pH. 


 
GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
 
 BARBER LARRY
 
Sometime back, say in the mid-80’s, I first met Larry. Larry was a barber. Back in South Carolina Larry had been a hairdresser. Larry and his wife Cindy moved to Cedar Key. Larry’s wife was a nurse in Gainesville. They bought a house, a cracker house, near the old church that is now Herman Well’s woodshop.  Cindy drove back and forth from Cedar Key to her work in Gainesville. Larry set up a barbershop in the front room of the house.

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.


 
Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
  7  FEBRUARY  2015
 
 
 
When I was growing up I used to help a dairy farmer part time during milking. This man would always turn on the radio real loud so all the cows could hear it. He had a channel that played all the ‘softies’ and claimed the cows gave more milk when listening to such soothing music. If I were a cow I would just go to sleep. This situation may be a fact or it just may not but it does bring up the question do plants grow better listening to music?
 
A friend and I got into just this discussion a while back and he suggested that plants may grow better because of it. He claimed he felt better with good music which made him more vigorous on the dance floor. He said different music created different moods for him (such as down music made him feel down while up music was quite positive in mood).
 
All this led to the discussion of what type of music do plants like? Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has three seasons to many so this song won’t work. Pick‘in and grin‘in might work but plants don’t smile. Bluegrass would work in only Kentucky. Ragtime might work for only cotton but not tomatoes. Rock and roll would cause dead plants to roll over in their graves. Rap would teach the plants bad language and anything played in a dentist’s office would scare the daylights out of any living plant. 
 
So after much debate and incredible consideration the consensus was none other than jazz! Well, let’s think about this for a minute. This music doesn’t have to be loud or played every day as it could be played every other day or in some combination. It could be different artists or the same one. It could be played at night (I do better at night myself).     
 
One thing that I think is for sure, the plants will all die if you play the wrong music. The plants do not make music so maybe its best you don’t either. I got a great deal on a violin which i can’t play but I’ll practice in the greenhouse.
 
Sing to yourself . . . . . Broccoli Billy
 
Copyright © by Bill Robinson 2015
 
  
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GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
TROUBLE IN CEDAR KEy
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
 
 Vacation at St. Simons
 
Some years past, not that long back, we took a vacation with some of Peggy’s family to St. Simons, Georgia. Melanie, our daughter was only a few months into her life. Allen and Caroline were there with us. We talked before about Caroline and Peggy being sisters. They grew up in the mountains of Virginia. Peggy and I were living in Virginia near the Southeast Coast. We had been there several years. I worked for the papermill in Franklin, Virginia. Peggy was a legal secretary. Caroline was a schoolteacher in Atlanta. Allen was a newspaperman for the “Atlanta Constitution.” Allen, a native of the Atlanta area, and Caroline were newly weds.
 
Allen’s family owned an old home in St. Simons for use by family members and their friends. Allen and I had fished together many times. We were anxious to get to the fishing spots. Neither of us had a boat. So we walked to fishing spots or drove one of the cars to others further away. Our first day we walked to the Coast Guard Station and beyond to a beach that often washes away in storms.


 
GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
Trouble in Cedar Key
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 

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.

 

E-mail Gene at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - 2014
 
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Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
  28 NOVEMBER 2014
 
 
 

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. 


 
GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
Trouble in Cedar Key
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
  

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.


 
Bill 0259xe
 
 
 
 
BROCCOLI BILLY in Cedar Key
Bill Robinson
  16 NOVEMBER 2014
 
 
 

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. 


 
GeneBenedict-xp
 
 
 
 
 
Trouble in Cedar Key
by Gene Benedict
 
 
 
 
The Cusp of the Year
 
Some days back, the autumnal equinox was upon us. Length of the day from sunset to sunrise was the same as sunrise to sunset. Days were getting shorter and nights, longer at similar rates. The season was passing through fall and approaching winter.
 
Changes were happening rapidly. Green trees were changing to colors of red, yellow, brown, and colors in-between. The air was drying and outside temperatures were cooling. The feeling was one of crispness. The smells were passing through moldy and damp to sharper, more pungent, characteristic of the fall.
 


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