Summer fun, Florida history revealed in all its glory?
It's scallop season again.
Our neighbors to the north - from the Pasco-Hernando county line to west of Panama City in the Panhandle - are allowed to harvest scallops through Sept. 10. Limit is two gallons of scallops per day.
There are some weird rules for those Islanders thinking of going scallop hunting. "It is illegal to possess bay scallops on water outside open harvest areas," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "It is also illegal to land scallops outside open harvest areas. For example, it is legal to take scallops from waters off the Hernando County coast, but it would be illegal to dock your boat in Pasco County with the scallop catch onboard."
As the FWC folks add, "Bay scallops may be harvested only by hand or with a landing or dip net. These regulations are designed to protect and maintain the fragile bay scallop population, and the public is encouraged to adhere to these regulations, especially the daily bag limit, as multiple harvest trips in one day are not good for the bay scallop population."
You need a saltwater fishing license to scallop from a boat, no license if you walk the seagrass flats from land.
Scallops were once thick in Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. We'd don mask and snorkel, and flipper our way across the seagrass meadows at a medium tide, looking for those bright blue "eyes" that are a feature of the little bivalves. It never seemed to take long to get a bucket full.
Of course, as water quality declined and pollution increased, the scallop harvests became history in our area. Attempts to restock have been tried a few times but with little success to date.
Maybe one year we'll again be able to collect dinner by paddling across the bay, if efforts to restore water quality are successful.
Florida history brought to life
Diane Roberts is something like an eighth-generation Floridian. Between her time writing for the St. Petersburg Times, offering commentary on National Public Radio and teaching, she produced a wonderful book about her family and the Sunshine State. "Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife" is a none-too-flattering look at the place where we live.
As Roberts puts it, "Florida's always been passed around like a roofied-up girl at a fraternity party. From the Spanish to the British to the Americans, Florida's been used for whatever profit you could squeeze out of her. In the 1960s, what Carl Hiaasen calls ‘Team Rodent' acquired 43 square miles of Central Florida using spies and proxies who smiled like gators and never whispered the blue-chip name of Walt Disney. Didn't want property prices to get silly, now, did they? Using the same grinning all-American line of just-trust-us-crap, the Mighty Mouse wanted Florida lawmakers to accord it powers more appropriate to a sovereign state than an amusement park. High on the smell of millions in profits from the millions of tourists Disney promised, the state rolled over on its back, smiled, and said, Anything you want, baby."
Most people who visit Tallahassee will notice the Prince Murat motel, a dingy place near the Capitol that has survived the noveau trend in the city for decades. Most people don't know that there really was a Prince Murat. As Roberts describes him, "Florida was getting a reputation as a place for people who needed a new start, people like Achille Murat. The prince, who liked to be called ‘Colonel,' went around with a large, filthy St. Bernard dog that smelled like a tobacco barn. He loved his chaw, but since Princess Murat and her snooty Virginian mother hated the stuff, he wasn't allowed to have a spittoon in the house. He used the dog."
Reminds me of the motel.
Journalists who covered Florida politics in the late 1960s found a font of irascible copy in Gov. Claude Kirk, the first Republican elected to the office since Reconstruction. The guy made Lawton Chiles' "he-coon" comments sound lame. Hey, Kirk brought as his date to his inauguration a blonde he introduced only as "Madame X."
But to Kirk's credit, he loved mullet.
"Mullet is translated literally, if inelegantly, is ‘suckerhead,'" according to Roberts. "Unlike your pompano, your snapper, your swordfish, your marlin, mullet is not a Florida glamour fish, not a fish sportsmen pay big bucks to snag. Poor people eat mullet. There's this story that one time some guys were arrested for catching fish out of season. It was an open-and-shut case. But their lawyer got a biologist to testify in court that since mullet have gizzards (they live on hard-shelled algae and need to grind off the top layer to get at the nice gooey stuff inside), mullet are, ipso facto, chickens.
"When Kirk was governor, mullet was an ‘underutilized resource,' maybe a way to make fast money. Just process it, can it, and call it lisa. Why should tuna get all the attention? They told us at school that not only was the governor coming to visit us, he was having lunch with us. Not only was he having lunch with us, the school would be serving a special treat: Lisa Pizza.
"‘Lisa' is the Spanish name for mullet. It's more euphonious than mullet. In the school cafeteria, the lunch ladies smiled at us like the prison guards in Cool Hand Luke as they gave us extra-large helpings. It was our usual Wednesday pizza - Wonder bread slathered with tomato paste, covered in grated Velveeta, and grilled - only topped with mullet.
"The governor sat up at the teacher's table, moon-faced and sport-coated. He cut up his pizza with a knife and fork and never stopped smiling. The kids took about one bite. The word ‘barf' went whispered around the grade school tables. Lisa pizza smelled like an old metal garbage can. It has a slight butane aftertaste. We noticed that the governor ate all of his."
Thanks to Laurie Adams for recommending "Dream State," a book that probably should be required reading for anyone who lives in this wacky place we call home.
This factoid seems especially poignant as we recover from the hordes of visitors who descended on the Island for the Fourth of July.
Florida's first flag, unveiled when the state became a state in 1845, had five horizontal stripes: blue, orange, red, white and green. On the orange stripe was the apparent state motto: Let Us Alone.
In something of a typical Florida political "oopsie," though, there is a question as to whether or not the flag was legal. According to the Florida Handbook, by Allen Morris:
Yes, the flag was unveiled at the inauguration of Florida's first governor, William D. Moseley.
Yes, the Florida House of Representatives adopted a joint resolution approving the flag as "the colors of the State of Florida."
And although the Florida Senate initially objected to the motto, it eventually adopted a simple resolution approving the flag and the language.
Both House and Senate have to adopt the same language in the same fashion for anything to become a law. A joint resolution by one and a simple resolution by another doesn't make the action legally a law.
As Morris put it, "it would seem that this flag was never officially adopted."
Remind anyone of the 2000 presidential election?