Friday, May 28, 2010

Journey to Bill Ruth's America

This was Bill Ruth’s America.

The trees were ablaze in glorious colors as we drove along Route 183 through hilly Northeast Ohio last October.

Forests of vivid reds, yellows and orange enchanted us.

So did the villages.

Like Mineral City, Magnolia and Malvern, with old homes and porches, mom-and-pop stores and sunlit church steeples. And Minerva, festooned in scarlet and gray for the high school homecoming game.

Bill must’ve made that trip countless times, zipping down Route 183, his dad’s Plymouth packed with crewcut pals from Alliance, his hometown eight miles away.

That was our destination on this beautiful fall day.

A melancholy journey.

Dating back to 1930, Fairmount Memorial Park is a 40-acre cemetery with 6,300 grave sites.

Bill’s was one of them.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Barry Newell: Have kayak, will travel

The wind chimes could be heard in Barry Newell's backyard in Palmetto.

So could the gentle lap of the waves from the Manatee River at low tide.

Maybe it wasn't a perfect afternoon for kayaking, but the 62-year-old outdoors enthusiast went out anyway in his 19-foot-craft.

One of five kayaks in the collection Newell at the house in which he grew up.

The Georgia River Network's Paddle Georgia 2010 was only weeks away. It starts in Franklin, Ga., on June 19 and concludes June 25 in Augusta, Ga.

"What I love about the event is it's a different river every year," Newell said, pointing to the Ocmulgee River cap on his bald pate.

He and 300 other kayakers will navigate northeast Georgia's Broad and Savannah Rivers this time around.

"An adventure that changes people's lives," said Joe Cook, the event coordinator.

Newell found that out about kayaking as a youth.

The last 20 years he's kayaked around the country -- Alaska included.

"I've been out in all kinds of weather, too," Newell said.

One state he won't kayak around is Florida.

The Race Around Florida, that is.

It's a 1,200-mile trip that begins at Fort DeSoto, goes down around the Keys, heads north to the St. Marys River in Georgia and Florida, then goes overland on a 40-mile portage to the Suwannee River, onto the Gulf and back down to Fort DeSoto.

It's a 30-day ordeal.

Newell loves kayaking, but not that much.

"I like to enjoy myself," he said. "That's insane."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Kodak moment with Kenny Chesney

We've been married seven weeks and already a man came between me and my wife.

Sherri's beautiful smile punctuated the moment.

It was Kenny Chesney.

The country music icon was a surprise guest at Dick Vitale's 2010 Jimmy V Foundation Gala this past weekend. We did not make the Friday night fundraiser in Sarasota -- I checked out Southeast's spring game -- but were invited to Dickie V's bash at his Lakewood Ranch Country Club home Saturday night.

Kenny made the Friday gig at the Ritz Carlton, but would he be at Casa Vitale?

We got to the the party shortly after 6 p.m., there's a cast of hundreds around the manse and who is standing off to our left, close enough to touch, talking to Lou Holtz?

Kenny Chesney.

I've had pictures taken with plenty of people over the years, but this was different.

Sherri has turned me onto country music and Kenny is my favorite. I dig the Zac Brown Band, Josh Turner and Alan Jackson, but Kenny is No. 1.

Ditto for my wife.

I would've been happy to snap a shot of him and her.

Yet every time we tried to work our way in position to ask Kenny, folks mobbed him and his "assistant," who looked like an NFL guard, moved in, said "Thank you, thank you," and ushed the star to another part of the house.

So we went outside by the pool and grabbed something to eat.

Guess who walks up a few feet away, talking to a couple of guys?

Kenny Chesney.

Hey, I said to Sherri, let's give it a shot.

She says she wants me in the picture, too.

We ask a gentleman nearby if he'd take the shot if we can get with Kenny? Sure.

By this time, he's talking to a couple of women and posing for pictures.

I take a chance.

"Kenny, can we ... "


The four-time entertainer of the year slips between my wife and me for not one photo, but two.

I shake his hand, thank him and tell him how much I love his music.

He's heard it a million times, I'm sure.

It was a cool, cool moment.

Sherri's smile said so.

We didn't take another picture the rest of the night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Signs hurricane season is upon us

Flood insurance papers arrived in my mail not long ago.

After checking to see the mortgage bank got a copy, I figured I was good.

Then I received them again last Thursday.


That means one thing.

Hurricane season is around the corner.

So, with a bow of appreciation to readers’ contributions, here are some quirks that say “You must be a Floridian” as we get ready to endure the drama of the next six months:

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Founder's headstone glimpse at history

Major William Iredell Turner's headstone was difficult to decipher.

Its inscription had been worn away by the Florida elements and time.

Especially time.

The man who founded Bradenton in 1878 had been buried there in Parrish Cemetery for nearly 130 years.

Yet Turner's headstone remains a historical touchstone.

He was a veteran of the Seminole War and the Civil War, a fact not forgotten by those who placed small Confederate flags at his gravesite as well as others around the old cemetery.

His great grandson, Bill Turner, noting the flags, made an interesting observation that belied their presence.

"Major Turner tried to recruit for the Confederate Army, the 10th Florida Militia, but he was upset because it wasn't a good recruiting area," said the 75-year-old Bradenton retiree. "Bartow was settled and Southern. So was Lakeland. Tampa, too. But there were too many Northeners down here."

Not in this cemetery.

Turner's gravesite is about the 18th one in from the road. Everyone buried in that row was a relation.

The same went for other headstones in the cemetery that bore the names of other families of hearty folk, who settled the area during his time --- Gillett, Harrison and Parrish.

"Most everybody out here is kin," Bill Turner said.

That's the way it will stay, too, at least in his case.

Bill Turner's got a burial plot one row over and a dozen paces down from William Iredell Turner.

"I'll be interred here, too," the great grandson said. "This is my heritage."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'Manatees jump, you get out of the way'

Sally Senger watched as younger staffers and volunteers at the South Florida Museum's Parker Manatee Aquarium did their thing Wednesday morning, preparing a young male manatee for transport to another destination.

She's been on staff there for a long time.

"Spent 10 years with Snooty," Senger said, referring to the aquarium's 60-year-old star resident, as 10 people loaded a young 700-pound manatee into a panel truck. She'd fed Snooty lettuce before this exercise began.

Last year, she'd have been down there in the holding tank with the others, coaxing the young manatee into the 10-foot sling to be hoisted out.

Senger's a fit senior citizen, a regular in a Bradenton gym, confident in her physical ability.

She had to be, working with manatees.

"It's can be hazardous," Senger said. "They flop around. They can go head to tail like that. That tail is powerful."

Last July Senger was helping out during a manatee's medical examination. She was sitting on the critter, when it moved suddenly and came down on her leg.

"I pulled it out and saw, oh, it's broken," she said.

Ten months later, Senger lets the youngsters do the heavy lifting.

Helping supervise was good enough Wednesday morning.

"Manatees jump, you got to get out of the way," she said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grandma a hero for this family

It was the 1940s in Palmetto.

A simpler time, Charlotte Underwood said.

She and three siblings were being raised by their paternal grandmother, Donia Underwood.

Their dad, Willis, had gone off to war and their mom, Madeline, had died in 1943 from tuberculosis.

"My grandmother was an amazing person," said Charlotte, 68. "When she took us on she was elderly. She had 12 children of her own. She'd had a hard life ... but she was a determined, talented lady.
"She could take  a piece of newspaper, put it up against you, cut out a pattern and make an article of clothing from that."

That wasn't all Grandma Underwood could do.

The house in which she raised her four grandchildren was partially paid for by her son's Army pay. She fixed it up, too, putting on siding and such.

"She was a determined lady," Charlotte said. "Nothing ever stopped her."

Grandma had a way with words, too.

"I'd ask her, 'Was my mother pretty?' She'd say, yes. My mother was very pretty. Then she said, 'But pretty is as pretty does.' I've always remembered that."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Teacher's threat too ominous

A worker is told he’s losing his job
So he goes home and returns armed.

You don’t have to imagine what happens next.

You’ve seen enough tragedy like it on the news.

That such violence had the potential of happening at an upcoming Manatee High School faculty party is too awful to even contemplate.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Got hurricane season mindset already

The start of hurricane season is still a few weeks away.

Yet we're already in that mode, June 1 or not.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has put us in that frame of mind.

We watch the news every day, assuming BP still can't stop the leak, to see where the mess is going.

When it's apparent it's still heading toward the other side of the Gulf, we react the same way we would if it was a Category 4 hurricane.


Any sense of relief is only fleeting.

Unlike a hurricane which eventually blows itself out after landfall, the oil spill is a different animal.

A monster.

Pray it stays away.

Or BP plugs the leak.

Like yesterday.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Remember "Miss Duffy" on Mom's Day

Two long stemmed roses, one white, one pink, graced the empty stool in its familiar spot in Duffy’s Tavern Thursday night.

A framed photo sat on the counter.

So did a glass of beer no one touched, save for clinking a bottle or mug to it in respect for the smiling woman in the picture.

Pat Geyer would’ve enjoyed it.

But she was away on family business.

As Polli Stroup, one of Pat’s five daughters, tells it, since their dad, "Honest Ed," died 11 months ago he’s been stuck at the Pearly Gates.

So when Pat passed away a week ago Saturday, it took her arrival to vouch for her ol’ man and get them into Heaven together.

Not even St. Peter could resist "Miss Duffy’s" common touch.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Top 10 list for Mother's Day

The author of "Things My Mother Taught Me" is unknown.
But here's a Top 10 list culled from the timeless piece of humor to enjoy with Mother's Day upon us this Sunday.

1. My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done.
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me religion.
"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about time travel.
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me about osmosis.
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

5. My mother taught me about contortionism.
"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

6. My mother taught me about stamina .
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

7. My mother taught me about weather.
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

8. My mother taught me the circle of life.
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.."

9. My mother taught me about receiving .
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

10. My mother taught me genetics.
"You're just like your father."