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Patty Leon: Florida: The cool, the silly, the foolish
Patty Leon new

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, there’s not much I miss about living in Florida, other than the friends I grew up with and had throughout the years, the Florida Keys and just a few other hidden gems. Driving over the seven-mile bridge was always my favorite part of a Key West road trip. Surrounded by the ocean, you knew you were that much closer to paradise.

Also on the Gulf Coast, but closer to the panhandle, is a small, welcoming place called Cedar Key. It is not the touristy, barfilled, rambunctious and in-your-face place Key West can be at times. On the contrary, Cedar Key, while just as laid back, offers a more unique visitor’s experience. It is the clam capital of the state. The main attractions are the tranquility of the Gulf waters, with plenty of porpoises and loggerheads, art and crafts stores and boutiques, just a few dining facilities and the best sunsets in the state.

The Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge is a group of small islands with trails and rich birdlife. Cedar Key Museum State Park offers a nature trail, a 1920s home and artifacts depicting Cedar Key’s history as a busy port. Cedar Key Historical Museum explores the town’s past through photos, documents and Civil War items. Just like Key West, there is only one main road into and out of Cedar Key, Florida State Road 24. There is a lot of history on that road to Cedar Key. In order to get to Cedar Key, you must drive through the community called Rosewood. If you are thinking about the 1997 film “Rosewood,” you would be correct. This is the actual town where, in January 1923, several white men marched into the primarily black community and massacred nearly everyone in sight. The entire town was burned except for the general store, which was owned by a white family. It started when a white woman accused a black man from Rosewood of rape. The few descendants who survived sued the state of Florida, and during his term, Gov. Lawton Chiles signed the Rosewood Compensation Bill, a $2.1 million package to compensate survivors and their descendants. There is a historic marker as you drive through Rosewood that tells part of the story. The old general store owners’ home is the only remaining historic structure from that time.

But we all know there are some crazy shenanigans that happen in Florida. Nine times out of 10, when a news headline starts out with “Florida man,” the rest of the story is likely to be outrageous.

There are crazy Florida animal stories, too. I had no idea male seahorses were the ones who gave birth until I read about a man who found a seahorse in distress and took it to a veterinarian. As reported by Tampa news station News 8, the male seahorse was found floating in the surf and a veterinarian confirmed the animal had “an over-inflated swim bladder and released the trapped air,” according to the aquarium.

That news, reported on July 28, 2021, said a few days after, while under observation from veterinarians, the seahorse gave birth — in the hundreds!

The father and his babies were monitored by staff, though the father continued to show issues with buoyancy, which would impact his ability to survive in the wild and be listed as “non-releasable” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In July 2021, a wormlike amphibious creature was discovered in the Tamiami Canal in South Florida. The strange noodle- shaped animal, which can live on water and land, was discovered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The authority found the creature roughly a mile south of Miami International Airport but initially couldn’t identify what it was. After using DNA testing to identify the specimen, it turned out to be an animal that has been around since before the dinosaurs.

And we shouldn’t discount the crazy headlines for the “Florida woman,” either.

Like the Florida woman who used pandemic relief funds to hire a hitman in February and had a woman killed and the woman’s daughter injured. Or the Florida woman who stabbed the family dog because she thought the dog had a voodoo curse. Thankfully the dog, named King, survived, but the poor thing suffered from multiple stab wounds, 3 inches deep.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the most recent “Florida man” story — that being the state’s governor, Ron my-state-isthe- freest-state-ever DeSantis, taking away the freedom of choice from a group of high school students who were wearing masks at an indoor event the DeDumbhead was speaking at. I guess his definition of freedom of choice is only as long as you go with what he wants you to do. Not really freedom to choose now, is it?

Patty Leon is the senior editor of the Coastal Courier.

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