Highlites From On The Road
All of you out there, please raise your hands if you know something, anything, about Fat Albert? Not so fast now. I’m not talking about Cosby’s rotund fall guy. That would have been a no brainer.
In the lower Keys (As in Florida’s) there’s a Fat Albert that anyone who’s traveled between Big Pine and the southwestern end of the road, knows something about, if only its existence.
Fat Albert is a huge balloon, a blimp if you will. This blimp doesn’t fly randomly. It is not a dirigible according to Webster’s Collegiate best. A dirigible is power driven and “flys” as piloted. Fat Albert is 175 feet long and 58 feet across. It has a payload of 1,200 pounds. It doesn’t go, but two ways, up or down, because its tethered to a cable.
What it does do is impressive. The cable is fifteen thousand feet long. However, Fat Albert is normally “flown” at 10,000 feet. The Air Force brought the balloon on steroids to the north side of Cudjoe Key in the early eighties. Its purpose is to monitor low flying air traffic, surface vessels, looking for illegal immigrants, drug traffickers, and the weather. It is part of NORAD, the U.S. air defense network. The information is used by DEA,CIA,Border Patrol, Coast Guard and any other government agency that needs its input. Coverage extends to Tampa Bay on the north and to Cuba on the south.
In 1990 a second blimp was brought to Cudjoe Key for the purpose of transmitting TV Marti programing to Cuba thirty hours a week. The Cubans were able to jam the signal for most of the island and it was known in Cuba as “No See TV”.
In 2013 the government decided to decommission the Tethered Aerostat Radar System and set March 15, 2013 as the shut down date. My family and I were there on Cudjoe last year for the Florida Lobster, recreation short season, at the end of July. Fat Albert was aloft when we motored by in the morning and when we came back from the Little Swash Keys in a tropical frog strangler it was down and tethered to its cradle as we sloshed by in the down pour.
Homeland Security had taken over Fat Albert and the other Aerostat stations along our southwestern border and in the Bahamas. So the 33 year old system lives on after all.
Albert is a phenomenal sight up close because of its size, and an oddity when seen at ten thousand feet. It can be seen from offshore a good distance, probably ten to fifteen miles because of its altitude. There are a lot of cool things in the Keys. This is just another one for the list of Keys oddities. And it’s not hard to find at all.
In the Inglis –Yankeetown community, we have a burgeoning population of feral cats. It is fast becoming an uncontrollable situation. Much like feral hogs, and regardless of the difference in physical size, possibly even more destructive.
I received an e:mail today from Inglis Mayor Drenda Merritt.
“Inglis, Florida is a small community on the nature coast. We have a large feral cat population and in the past our Animal Control has had to transport these animals to our county Animal Control where they have been euthanized. We feel there is a better way to handle this issue. We have had a parcel of land donated to the town next to our Animal Control. This property is wooded and with some fencing and raising of the canopy we would have a great place for a feral cat colony. We are working with other animal rescue sources for the spaying and neutering of the trapped feral. These animals will then be allowed to live out their lives in a safe environment. We need funds for the raising the canopy and the fencing to make this a reality.” Please help by visiting http://www.gofundme.com/x59cxg
Massive Conservation Coalition Calls on Interior Dept. to Stop Wildlife Deaths from Feral Cats
From the American Bird Conservancy
“The number of domestic cats in the United States has tripled over the last 40 years and continues to rise,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of the Washington, DC-based American Bird Conservancy. “We are asking Secretary Jewell to take actions that will protect our native wildlife from 150 million feral and outdoor cats that are decimating wildlife populations in the most sacrosanct of locations, such as wildlife refuges, national parks, and other important public lands.
"Domestic cats have been either a direct or indirect factor in 33 bird species extinctions and have been identified by the science community as one of the world’s worst invasive species. Rational heads have prevailed in terms of how stray dogs are treated. Stray cats should be treated much the same way. Turning a blind eye to this problem will only perpetuate the escalating impacts to birds and other wildlife, as well as threaten human health and safety,” said Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science, New York City Audubon Society."
To read the entire article follow the Link: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/140311.html
Go See The Coconut Telegraph
Doing research for today’s Fat Albert article I ran across the website of a first class news and laughs site called The Coconut Telegraph. Headquartered on Big Pine, there is plenty to learn and enjoy. When you get there, scroll down to the Walmart Ship piece. You’re not going to believe it. Here’s the link. www.bigpinekey.com
And here's some stuff I found as a result of visiting their site:
[iTit] Apple announced today that it has developed a breast implant that can store and play music. The iTit will cost from $499 to $699, depending on cup and speaker size. This is considered a major social breakthrough because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them. Thanx Coconut Telegraph.
How To Tell Instantly If The Non-Ethanol Gas You're Buying Is The Real Thing
Thanx to Coconut Telegraph and You Tube Link
Abortion. Ninety nine percent of the time it’s a lame solution. It’s a shame solution. In our me-me world, there are few consequences to personal actions in this culture. Our young people consider an accidental pregnancy an inconvenience, because the solution is an inconvenience. It costs money that could be better spent on clothes, drink, drugs, entertainment and all kinds of other rad stuff. It’s a lot of trouble to get your BFF to come with you to the clinic. And it’s not fun to have an intimate interlude with a vacuum tube(?).
There is another perspective that is a taboo subject. It trivializes the existence of life and the taking of same. Discussion of that termination is minimal at best. The act is described as trivial, and the aftermath touted as an inconvenient solution soon to be forgotten.
This readily accepted part of today’s social culture shines the light of reality on damn, stupid selfishness. Over a million babies are taken a year here in the U.S. How does that stack up against what our Muslim lunatic brothers do on a global basis?
I’m on this kick because of a recent column by the Tampa Times writer, John Romano. In the vein of state government expansion, he discussed the recently passed bill submitted by Rep. Julia Sullivan from Mt. Dora. The long and the short of this is the bill requires “women to show up for two separate doctor’s visits and endure a 24 hour waiting period before getting an abortion.” There’s a key code word for more pesky inconvenience . . .Endure!
Back to the taboo stuff. Suppose instead of two doctor’s lame-o meetings and the horrific wait of one full day, what if the state went the new age hi-tech route? It would probably cost less than the yet to be created bureaucracy to administer this farce, and it would be entertaining. Another code word for: “Isn’t my life a bitch?”
How about an interactive computer generated baby? Like the gigantic smiley infant in the current Ford commercials. The “victim” (of what?) would be ushered into a comfortable room with a sofa facing a theatre sized HD television screen on the opposite wall. The lights would dim. Space journey music would fill the room. Big Boy, the “larger than life” benevolent, infantile, soul introduces himself: “Good morning. I am the baby you carry with you today. Since I may be terminated in a few minutes I thought it would be nice to get to know one another and chat about today and what might have been. Feel free to ask me anything. After all, you’re my mom, aren’t you?
Big Boy and the victim could visit and talk about life and the victim’s future. Taking the victim on a one hour journey of “what ifs”. A family reunion of conjecture, if you will.
At the end of the computer episode the victim would receive a mocked up birth certificate, printed on toilet paper, for “The Inconvenience”. She’ll need it afterwards. She’d also get a gift packet from “Keep Florida Fresh” with an instruction book on what a condom is and how to use it; also detailed help on getting birth control pills along with a recorded reminder to take the damn things. Another one of those inconvenient consequences. And, she could leave the room, through a special door, and go directly to the abortion suite.
At the end of the procedure, she’d get a computer generated portrait of she and Big Boy standing in front of the Magic Kingdom.
Plain and simple, Republican office holders don’t like Latinos who live on islands. GOP congressmen are doing everything they can think of to torpedo Cuba’s entry into the 21st century. Funding bills and any legislation that remotely could apply to freeing Cuba are being “bagged” with riders to interdict that possibility. Polls with a south Florida focus indicate that majorities now speak to normalized relations and the lifting of the bully’s embargo on Cuba. Don’t trust Republicans, but God forbid we get Hilary, and the dems are hell bent, so far, about doing the right thing por Cuba Libre`.
Wish I Had Said That
Daniel Ruth’s Sunday column hit the nail on the head re: Jeb’s candidacy. Here are some of the high spots:
“It would seem the greatest obstacle between Bush and the Oval Office isn’t the expected dancing monkey arrival of Donald Trump, the GOP’s answer to Ronald McDonald. It is Bush himself. . .
“There has always been an air of entitlement wafting over Bush’s political career, as if he views himself as The Blue Boy of the Beltway. Much like all of the contenders for the Republican nomination – aside from insisting that public education is the cat’s pajamas – he has yet to articulate a raison d’etre for his pre-ordained candidacy beyond his status as a princeling of Kennebunkport.
“And yet . . .
“Considering the rest of the Republican field, which resembles Munchkinland meets Fox News, despite his shortcomings, his royal we-ness and his lordliness, Jeb Bush probably is the GOP’s best hope to prevail over likely Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton, who has her own 800 pound box of black spots to lug around – and that’s just Bill.”
That’s a wrap! Enuff said.
My friend Boudreaux and I were so much alike that we could have switched physical bodies and only our wives might have noticed.
We hunted, we got married every seven years, we devoted hours to agrarian pursuits under the intense summer glare of the Tropic of Cancer Solunar migration. And we introduced one another to some of the grandest single malt available to man.
When we made the money we did what money was purposed for. When we were broke, we improvised, and among other acts of parsimony, we drank Christian Brothers on the rocks with a splash. . . of Coke.
Our time at the Bamburg County home place was the epitome of how to do a joyful life. If you were there, laughs were so numerous everybody present had the bellyache. At the breach of the winter solstice, we were still shooting doves or riding the top of the truck's dog box watching for the next “point” and anticipating with smack talk the next covey rise.
Come the holiday season, we were off to Texas to shoot geese on the Rice Bowl flats, south of El Campo. If the timing was right, we headed over to Stuttgart to call and jump shoot the world’s fattest mallards in flooded timber stands or handmade pirogues that only a swamp native could stand up in. Or, we could opt for Central Florida’s Emeralda Marsh for blue winged rockets and kamikaze ringnecks, with wood ducks and tree ducks thrown in.
When hunting, my bud, the inscrutable Boudreaux Barrineau was want to pass up an impromptu nap when the mid morning excitement had worn thin or the ravages of the previous night’s indulgence called for a respite retreat. If Boo’s butt was holding up the upper half of his body and he had a tree or any kind of backrest he was well prepared for a somnolent intermission. Those instantaneous episodes of rapid eye movement unconsciousness lasted maybe ten to fifteen minutes. In the deep woods, a well concealed tree stand, or hidden in the underbrush, he could do this thing without notice, except for one telltale problem; snoring apnea, of the variety thunderclap. It sounded like a boar hog at the discovery of a smashed up pile of watermelons – a growling inhaled snort with a short staccato of deep throated snarking. Sounded like bigfoot being goosed. Small birds and wandering rodents, in the immediate proximity, always started and/or flushed post haste.
One lovely day in late March, with the high noon temps approaching 65 and the crocuses now in decline, we had taken up stations with the hope of fooling a grainfed senior gobbler that we had hooted up before daylight. When I say “hooted” I mean whooping up sonorously the call of a lonely barn owl during the dark interlude before daylight. Turkey’s roost in trees at night and gobblers sleep alone until after springtime. They won’t answer a hen call until light. But, a lonely barn owl within earshot pisses a turkey gobbler off and he lets the world know how much. Go figure. One of Nature’s nuances* that makes nocturnal knocking about worth the effort.
*A subtle or delicate degree of meaning, tone, or feeling.
We had set up on either side of the “valley”, a pasture about two hundred yards wide by a quarter mile long, that was bordered on the north by an elevated one lane dirt path skirting a slash pine grove with perfect rows of eight to ten foot high sentinels. Across this ancient riverbed fronting the far “shoreline” was a patchwork of twenty foot high vegetated dirt and rock piles that gave good cover from the pasture below and the high woods behind. I took a rock pile with a 360 degree field of vision and Boo took the three foot brush next to the road-path a few feet into the pines. He’d brought a canvas beach chair , I could see where his hunt results were headed long before we got there.
Dawn cracked and thirty minutes later Boo rattled forth with a convincing string of gobbler declarations. I could see through the fieldglasses and he’d done a good job of concealment. He even put wads of brown cord grass in his lap.
What we assumed was our live, bearded male quarry thundered right back at us and I could hear him fly down from the roost a good ways into the woods behind me. At 8:00 o’clock I put on my best lovesick hen inspiration and when finished focused on the silence hoping for an acknowledgment that after ten minutes didn’t come. For the next two hours, every thirty minutes I called with my best seduction invitation. Once, Boudreaux joined in and we were a duet of longing, turkey female impersonators. By ten thirty it was obvious our boss turkey had better fields to strut. I couldn’t see where Boo was sitting he was camo’d so well. There was no giveaway fidgeting or hand swiping bugs. Then I noticed a platoon of turkey jakes strolling along the path headed directly to where I thought Boo had his roadside hiding place.
The young males puttered along perfectly upright, at attention like marching sand hill cranes. They were last spring’s young adult poults. None weighed more than eight pounds and only one had the beginning of a beard barely free of its breast feathers. The beard was too short to make him legal.
The group of bachelors made its way to Boudreaux’s hideout. They stopped, several scanned in different directions, they were alarmed. Then it happened. A snort, the equal of a grizzly bear rattled across the valley. The jakes stood their ground, but one took off running back the way they’d come with the dispatch of a Texas Roadrunner. I waved my arm in the air, hoping that the great white hunter might be awake enough to see my alarm.
Then Boo snorted again and in the next breath shouted his surprise realizing there was a crowd of turkeys milling around in front of his beach lounger. At that moment, they began to take flight. I saw straw explode into the air as three birds flew straight into the grove lane where Boudreaux sat. Boo‘s gun went off and a hapless jake standing five yards from him disappeared in an explosion of feathers. I looked through the binoculars and Boo was getting up off the ground.
Turns out, one escapee flew into Boo’s chest, knocking him out of the beach chair. As he hit the ground, he rolled over, shotgun in hand, and blew a turkey teenager into feathered oblivion. Somehow he lost his hat. He swore from that day forward that one of the jakes flew off with it. He could have been right. I found his hat the next year under a tree stand ladder fifty yards into the slash pines. Oh, I forgot. The bird that wumped Boo in the chest crapped in his lap, too.
It was nearly noon as we gathered ourselves up to walk back to the truck. Halfway there a thunderous gobbling rolled up the “valley” behind us. We turned to see our boss gobbler fly across the expanse and into the pine grove, his huge wings crashing through the trees as he landed.
I later stuck one of the dead jake’s tail feathers in my hat band as a remembrance of the day and a reminder to Boudreaux of the importance of a mid-morning nap.
Interveiw with a local outdoor writer:
"Mr. Barrineaux, what do you and your friends do for fun?”
Boudreaux: “We drink – we hunt – we make love.”
Interveiwer: “What do you drink?”
Boudreaux: Scotch . . . Well, actually, anything that’s over ten proof.”
Interveiwer: “Okay. What do you hunt?
Boudreaux: “Somethin’ to make love to.”
Please don’t write and ask about divorces. Thank You.
Miss Ya Boo
Boudreaux and I came to love one another for a number of reasons, not the least of which was our mutual romance with southern eats. We go back a long time. But we agreed that in our separate childhoods the stewed okra got carefully tested before diving in. Some fish have an abundance of bones, that are unavoidable, and which I can’t abide. Okra – before Clemson -- when picked late had terrible spines! They were dangerous and when you got one in the gum, or soft tissue of your mouth, you never forgot it. Just thinkin’ about it makes me appreciate how a gun shy dog must feel.
Food has always been a venture for us. Actually food and drink. Our development to adult status found that we shared a well defined parallel. The best eatin’ was in the country just out the screen door of an outside “kitchen”. Growing up we went to far more “pig-pullins” that preceded “sit downs” than to weinny roasts.
When we reached the age of socializing and bonded we brought tested and hidebound tradition to the table. As an example, hoecakes. Cornmeal & pancake mix wouldn’t do for us. When you have a hangover you don’t give a damn how long it takes to fix breakfast. Hoecakes fit right in with that attitudinal condition. Bloody Marys make patience. Our created Hoecake fest involved a purest’s slant – grits -- Cornmeal and flour bound by eggs, and buttermilk, and fried in butter.
From the Spring Equinox on to Thanksgiving fresh sliced tomatoes were on the table for every meal in the day. Lots of things got fried – like green tomatoes, okra, zucchini, venison cubes, homemade goat and pork sausage, and mash potato cakes, too. The chicken got slow cooked in the smoker as much as quick fried on the stovetop. Lots of game bird was available for years and then they got scarce in the last decade. How many times we’ve sat around the fire and lamented that distressing reality.
Dove breasts flour dusted, cooked in bacon grease with muscadine grapes and white wine (unless the Baptists were cookin'), baked in a covered iron skillet. Whole bobwhites baked with rosemary and thyme on low heat to a stage of finger pickin’ good. So good that you had to get a grip on yourself to keep from inhaling them.
One of the championship dishes of our dual culinary and imbibing careers came to life at the farm in Bamberg after a day of turkey hunting. It had been a good season and we scored a number of second year and older birds.
Knowing that the wild turkey thigh and legs were red meat and often too tough to bother with I opted for an oven bag with two sliced Fuji apples stuffed, and a cup of Captain Morgan’s for catalyst. Damn, if it wasn’t genius - - - well, maybe dumb luck. Three hours at 250 degrees, and the entire twenty three pound gobbler would melt in your mouth. If Boudreaux and I had a cook book that one would be in the “classic” section.
In Carolina (South) the traditional way to do BBQ ribs is boil them first. I didn’t get that ceremony when I first saw it and I don’t get it to this day. Low & slow was the way I learned from the pit to the present day smoker. Guaranteed tender, fallin’ from the bone, requires a finish of sealing the rib rack in foil and letting low heat cure the meat so “tender” that a toothless man can pull every smidgen from the rib and the rib end cartilage. This pushes your cook time out to seven, eight hours - - - But Law ! ! Never heard a complaint. Even from Texas or North Carolina. Lots of folks love a rib sandwich, but the entire concept loses meaning when the meat must be removed from the rib bone with your pocket knife. A standard rib sandwich in Georgia- South Carolina is two pieces of white bread, sauce according to preference, and three ribs that the eater can just slip the bones from the sandwich without disturbing the meat, makin’s, or the bread. Amen. Makes your tongue wanna slap your brains out ! Pass the sweet tea.
In Case You Missed IT
Now we're getting someplace. The local News Tabloid that weekly, brings us everything we didn't want to know about Citrus County has out done itself. I must admit, this "opinion" was certainly novel and full of food for thought concerning Inglis.
What better reason could there be to dissolve the town than because the town -in partnership with our neighbor, Yankeetown - wants to start a Farmer's Market!
I know. You thought town dissolution was a dead duck after the resounding vote that buried the un-incorporate slate of candidates in the March election. Not so fast, sleeping citizens!
Anyway I'm changing my mind. Instead of a Farmer's Market that might bring a few people to "town" I like the approach of getting rid of Inglis because it kills two birds with one stone. No Inglis - - - no co-operative partnership with our dreaded neighbor Yankeetown. I would like to propose that we block the two entanceways ( 40 & 40A) to Inglis with empty dumpsters to keep out those pesky tourists, paddlers, bikers, marathoners and fishermen, to name a few. What? Oh, the hell with our neighbor. We didn't like them for years, why worry about them now? Don't sweat the dumpsters, either. They will remain empty. It's a tradition.
Here's a few more solid reasons to dissolve Inglis:
1. Six people want to do it.
2. The town of Inglis (& Yankeetown) is crawling with feral cats. Get rid of the town and you don't have to deal with the cat problem. Let somebody else do it.
3. The local grocery store can't stand the competition of five homecraft businesses. We must protect them from economic interlopers. Maybe we should pay them for their once a month losses.
4. Won't have to pay a town Attorney. I like this one the best. Who needs a lawyer?
Who is this man? Farmer's Market vendor? Consultant to the Dissolution Committee?
How You Like Me Now?