Here Deer?

Some weird hunting season must be in full swing here in the Florida panhandle. My friend Lee Ann, visiting from Indiana, and I discovered this on our return from Apalachicola on Saturday afternoon.

We’d driven down to eat lunch at a little restaurant called The Owl (I highly recommend this charming place where the waitress said she’d be back to ‘water us’ before taking our order). After our wonderful meal–Lee Ann had a grouper sandwich; I had a crab and shrimp salad–we wandered around the quaint downtown area spending money and making witty repartee.

No trip to the Gulf would be complete without a visit to St. George Island, so even though the temps were in the mid-40’s Lee Ann and I walked on the beach for a bit before heading home.

Instead of taking my well-worn path back to Tallahassee through Sopchoppy and Crawfordville, I turned towards the tiny burgs of Sumatra, Wilma, and Clio. All three are one-blink towns: blink once and you’ll miss them. This road is almost completely enveloped in pine forest, with occasional glimpses of swampland.

Just past Sumatra we noticed a trio of 4-wheel drive pickup trucks being driven erratically on the grassy area beside the main road. Lee Ann and I both wondered aloud just what was wrong with those um, knot heads. A little further along we realized what was wrong: Hunting Fever.

Hound dogs, armed camouflage clad men, and pickup trucks abounded. The testosterone glimmered all around us, like hairy legged fairy dust. We even spotted one hunter standing on the tool box of his truck, rifle at the ready. Instinctively I ducked thinking we would feel a bullet whiz past at any minute. It was madness, I tell you, madness!

After stopping for a bathroom break in Hosford we turned north towards Tallahassee. Not far beyond the Hosford city limits sign we came up on a group of pickup trucks parked next to a bridge. A man wearing a bright orange hunting vest over the requisite camouflage ensemble stepped into the road and began gesticulating wildly. Even though his intended message wasn’t clear we slowed down just in case he was attempting to warn us about a large herd of elephants on the highway.

A reduction in our speed must have been his goal since we received a cheerful thumbs up from Mr. Orange Vest. We soon saw a hunting hound apparently hot on the trail of some prey, nose to the ground heading off the road and into the brush. Had we not slowed down we might have hit the little guy. Thanks Mr. Orange Vest!

Lee Ann and I never did figure out what was being hunted so exuberantly yesterday. We did see deer placidly grazing along our route, so that didn’t seem likely. Whatever it was I hope most of them successfully evaded the hunters, and that no dogs or hunters were injured in the process.

Peace, People!

Leaping Lizards

I am not squeamish. Heck, anyone who has taught elementary schoolchildren knows that one either loses fear of all creepy crawly critters or one does a good job of faking bravery. Otherwise one’s desk will have lots of unwelcome visitors during the school year. I became quite adept at feigning affection for a variety of animals: “Oh, what a precious little tarantula! May I hold him?” “You have a pet boa constructor? Those are my favorite!”

Honestly I don’t mind most critters as long as I’m not caught unaware. It’s the ‘holy crap’ moments that get me. Yesterday, I had one of those ‘holy crap’ moments. The day had been about as wonderfully boring as a day can be. I’d spent the morning putting away Christmas decorations and attempting to locate all of my regular decor. I swear, one of these days I’m going to figure out a way of tagging decorative items so I can remember where things go.

I mailed a package to our oldest granddaughter in Texas, and then stopped by the big truck stop to get a soda. When I returned home I parked the car and then walked up the driveway to get our mail. Upon opening the mailbox not one, but two lizards ran out to greet me. Holy crap! I screamed, dropped the mail onto which one of the lizards was clinging and did the “ooh ooh ooh” dance–shaking my hands and stomping my feet just in case….well, just in case. Poor lizards–I think they had a holy crap moment, as well.

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Cape St. George and Apalachicola

Studly and I live near Tallahassee, Florida, in the state’s panhandle. We both love this part of Florida, but it is not what most folks have in mind when they think of the Sunshine State. For one thing, there are very few palm trees in our area. Instead, we have massive moss-covered oaks and towering pine trees. In addition, our terrain is hilly, quite unlike the famously flat peninsula.

I do wish we lived nearer to the Gulf or the Atlantic. In a perfect world, I’d live a maximum of 10 minutes from a white sand beach, as it is, I’m about 75 miles from the Gulf, but the first really good beach is about 90 miles away. Yesterday was January 1, 2015, and I resolved to be at the beach on that day. Since I’m a grown woman with a driver’s license I waited for Studly to depart for the golf course and pointed my car south to the Gulf of Mexico.

On previous trips I had always immediately gone straight to St. George island, turning left just past Bayside Burgers in Eastpoint, but today I drove on to Apalachicola for brunch. The restaurant I’d planned on visiting was closed (New Year’s Day, duh!), so I asked a local couple for a recommendation and they pointed me to Caroline’s River Dining.

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I had a yummy crab quiche for brunch while seated at a table with a fine view of the Apalachicola River. Afterwards, I strolled around the historic downtown, mainly taking photos of signs for some reason.

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Only a few businesses were open, so this is definitely a place I’ll need to revisit in the future.

On my way home I couldn’t pass up going out to St. George Island to start off the new year with my toes in the sand.

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Maybe this will provide my beach fix for a little while. Or maybe, I’ll convince Studly to move to the Gulf of Mexico. I can see me as a professional beach bum.

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Silver Alert

Electronic highway signs in Florida often flash the message “Silver Alert” followed by the color, make, and license plate information of a car being driven by a lost and/or confused elderly person. Today the message said,

Silver Alert
’94 Bronze LeSabre
FL Lic. #A98LMG

Of course every time I spot one of these alerts I begin scanning the traffic around me. And today I thought how great it was that the confused person was driving a bronze car. White, black, silver, and even red are too common; whereas, bronze would perhaps catch the eye of someone looking for this wandering senior.

My next thought, logically enough, was why don’t we create car colors especially for senior citizens? Once one hits the age of 60 (that’s me in less than two years) one’s car gets a colorful makeover for a nominal fee.

How about this one?:

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Or this little number?:

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Personally, I think I’ll go for the rainbow motif. Try to ignore me in this baby:

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Snake Eyes

I never met a snake I couldn’t hate. Venomous, non-venomous, short, long, infant, adult, it doesn’t matter. They give me the willies. If I can see one well in advance of initial contact I can handle a snake’s presence, but the thing about snakes is they tend to lurk, hidden among the leaves and undergrowth, offering apples to unsuspecting naked people.

Tallahassee, Florida, is basically a hilly jungle. We have oak trees, magnolias, mimosas, pines, sweet gums, palms, and a host of other trees all, apparently, on steroids. In addition we have millions of shrubs and bushes and flowers. A profusion of plant life populates this part of the Florida panhandle. It’s beautiful. And it’s home to five different kinds of venomous snakes: the Pygmy Rattler, the Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin, the Timber Rattlesnake, the Coral Snake, and the Copperhead. These snakes love to hide under fallen leaves. Guess what? Lots of trees mean lots of leaves.

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Above: water moccasin

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Coral snake

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Pygmy rattler

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Copperhead

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Timber rattlesnake

Recently due to an increase in snake bites among the local populace, the “Tallahassee Democrat” ran an informative piece on the venomous snakes in our area. How kind of them. Since then I have barely stepped foot into our forested backyard. Every single snake named in the article enjoys hanging out in fallen leaves. I look out my back door and all I see are trees surrounded by fallen leaves. When I do go out I have this ritual dance. It’s part flamenco, part ninja, part karate. Think John Belushi in “Animal House.”

They tell me cats are good snake repellant. I have two, but they don’t want to go outside either and I’m not sure how much good they are doing as mere spectators.

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A while back I wrote about super powers I’d like to have. I need to add one: Super Snake Dominance and Avoidance. This power would instantly cause all venomous snakes within 5 miles of me to be rendered inanimate and harmless. Indefinitely. I’ll give the non-venomous ones a break as long as they do their living outside of my direct line of sight. They just need to heed my ritual dance.

Peace, People!

Pretending for Grownups, Round 1: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Every now and then some random song, sight, sound, or even smell triggers my imagination and soon I’m off on a tangent. This morning as I was cleaning out my closet and dancing around to The Beatles number one hits album, one such tangent attacked and my mind was off on its own, rambling down a path best left undiscovered. But that’s not going to stop me from sharing it with you.

The rain began all at once, pelting angrily at the skylights. I hadn’t even noticed the room growing ever darker, so intent was I on my even darker thoughts.

Just two weeks prior, my husband of 38 years had calmly announced that he was leaving to pursue other avenues and I wasn’t welcome to come along. Adam wasn’t sure if he wanted a divorce; he just needed to find himself. I was devastated. He was my high school sweetheart, the love of my life. Why did he need to leave me in order to find himself?

A slash of lightning closely followed by a seismic clap of thunder woke me from my reverie. This storm had no patience with my maudlin thoughts.

I turned back to the overnight bag on my bed. A friend had offered me the use of her beach house for the week, assuring me that salt air and sunshine would help clear my head. Quickly I stuffed books, swimsuits, cover ups, underwear, towels, and toiletries into the bag. I could stop for groceries on the way.

I pulled my car out of the garage and into the storm. The weather report indicated clearer skies at St. George Island, where Aimee’s house was situated. Even ten miles south of Tallahassee the rain began tapering off. My mood lightened with each mile I placed between myself and the home I’d shared with Adam. Maybe Aimee was right. Maybe this trip would help me put things in perspective.

When I reached the town of Caravelle I stopped at a mom and pop grocery to buy yogurt, fruit, bread, meat, cheese, and a bottle of wine. I hadn’t felt much like eating since Adam dropped his bombshell, but I knew that at some point I’d need nourishment.

The clerk was a young man with sun drenched blonde hair. As I handed him my debit card he smiled and whispered, “Don’t look now, but I think that guy over there is checking you out.”

I laughed out loud. “No one checks me out–not even at the library.”

“No, really,” he said. “Ssshh! Here he comes.”

As I turned to see who the clerk was describing I felt a jolt of recognition. Could it possibly be…Sir Paul McCartney?

“Hullo,” he said. “My name is Paul. What’s yours?”

Unfortunately, my phone in the real world rang right then. I’m sure that Paul, who in my dreams is always single and forever young, was so overwhelmingly attracted to me that we spent an entire week on the beach talking and cuddling and ignoring the world. I can only imagine.

Peace, People!

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Photo by Michael

A Thigh Slapping Good Time

Whoever said that endorphins released during exercise can give you a high must’ve been smoking something. All I get from exercising is tired.

I’ve put on a number of pounds over the years. At least 10 for each of our many moves. Granted, I go through periods of weight loss, otherwise I’d have added 170 lbs. over the last 38 years of wedded bliss.

After our most recent move to Tallahassee, I weigh more than I ever have. It’s a loneliness thing. I know no one, therefore, I eat. Great excuse, eh? Unfortunately my clothes are not fitting anymore and no one wants to see me naked. Trust me. Even my cats have expressed their disgust. Where others might see hair balls, I see only revulsion.

It was time for a lifestyle change. So, in addition to trying to eat healthier foods–lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, salmon, etc., I decided to get more active. But that means exercise. Damn. My eldest sister-in-law, we’ll call her “The Pretty One” or TPO, for short, suggested a water aerobics class.

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I searched the websites in Tallahassee and found that several city parks offered water aerobics. On Wednesday I made my first visit. I knew I was in trouble when the instructor, Madame de Sade, told me, “First time? Don’t worry, it’s a work at your own pace kind of class.”

What she meant was, “I’m going to run, run, run in the water and you are going to wear a blister in your left big toe trying to keep up with me.” All we did was run. Forward, backward, sideways, we ran with her screaming, “Run, ladies! Run like your lives depend on it!”

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I didn’t want to go back, but I figured Wednesdays must be leg days, so I returned on Thursday. Same. Damn. Thing. Now the blister on my big toe is bigger than my big toe. It’s formed an alliance with my ankle and they both scream for relief every time I take a step.

I looked at the lady on my right. “I’m blowing this joint tomorrow.”

She nods. “I’m in,” she says.

So today, we went to a different park. There was music playing when we arrived. The instructor gave us a smile and a hug and welcomed us to the group. We only ran once before launching into a series of routines that left me panting and smiling and, well, high! My endorphins and I can’t wait to return to class on Monday.

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Peace, People!