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Date of Issue: February 13, 2008

Sandscript

Hey Bob: Thanks for all the fun for all these years

Bob Ardren’s memorials were last weekend. It wasn’t a happy time for some of us, but it was something of a pleasure to see old friends from years and years past.

A couple-hundred folks showed up at a Mote Marine Laboratory site to honor Bob, who wrote for The Islander, the Pelican Press, the Tampa Tribune, the United Press International, was marketing guru for the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art and later was in charge of the museum’s circus museum.

He was also a good friend. Just let it be stated that the last weekend was rough. Needless to say, there were a lot of hugs and a few tears. OK, maybe a lot of tears.

We dug through some computer files and found some old columns that Bob wrote for The Islander. Here’s a couple of his pieces, which were the pre-Sandscript column.

 

Feel smart and have a good time, too

Want to feel smart, experienced and good about one of your neighbors? Well, let me tell you a little story.

Each year in our fair state we lose too many people to drowning. As a result, parents constantly try to teach their children water safety and, frankly, those of us around the water try to keep an eye on one another.

The danger is always there when folks are on the water.

So it was Monday of Labor Day weekend when Capt. Phil Shields aboard his "Reef Reacher," along with his children, motored out into Tampa Bay, planning to anchor and clean the bottom of his boat.

Now, a pass is the best place to do this kind of work because the current carries away the scrapings and other debris, giving the worker a clear view of his or her work.

Out into the inlet, Capt. Shields noticed two ladies, one on a float and one with those funny little arm floats you buy at the dime store, quite far out into the pass. He stopped and asked if they were all right, and if they needed some help — like a ride back into shore.

But they replied that they were just waiting for a boat with their companions aboard to come pick them up. It seems the group had rented a boat for some water skiing and the ladies decided to just relax and float around for awhile.

Out in the pass.

Capt. Shields went on his way over toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and proceeded to anchor and clean his boat’s bottom. Upon preparing to return to shore, he noticed the two ladies by now had drifted very far into the channel and were being carried along by the current.

He again approached the floaters and this time — despite their increasingly weakening protests — suggested in no uncertain terms that their lives were in danger and took them aboard. They were Gladys and Ester, whose last names will not be used to protect the naive.

At that point, Shields took the two back to the Anna Maria City Pier, where they waited for a long period of time, finally getting a ride to their condo from a kindly soul.

So it turns out the couple's male friends had taken the rental boat back to the marina from whence they had rented it, figuring the ladies had simply come back to shore and were probably warming up in a bar somewhere.

The postscript to this whole affair is that the Shields’ received a beautiful basket of gourmet foods, (caviar, pate and the like) the next day from Ester. The card was signed by Dr. Ester _____ of Miami, FL.

Hats off to Shields for caring enough to keep an eye on some of our inexperienced tourists — and being professional enough to know when to take charge of a potentially dangerous situation.

 

Bean counters rule; guard the beach

At least we were the prettiest.

Couldn't help noticing at a recent regional transportation planning meeting down in Sarasota that the Anna Maria contingent there was the nicest-looking group in the place. Mostly wearing white T-shirts with "Save Anna Maria" in bright orange letters, our locals made theirs (the pro high-bridge crowd from a key to the south) look dull and very, very old.

But to tell the truth, it was a heavy hit the Island took that day as the group wouldn't even reconsider the bridge question. In the for-what-it's-worth department, that same planning organization that same day stuck a 65-foot-high bridge right in the middle of Sarasota Bay, too.

The bean counters and the barbarians are having their day. Now we'll probably have to turn to the lawyers for help — and goodness help us then.

And just when you think you've heard it all — how government can ram things down the throats of unwilling citizens — listen to this one.

Without ever holding a public hearing of any kind, the state and federal governments have decided to renourish the beaches down in Venice with sand dredged out of the bar protecting and nourishing Siesta Key's famous Crescent Beach. The plan is to dredge 2.5-million cubic yards of sand out of that bar, load it into barges, tow it to Venice and then pump it onto the beach there.

But hey, it gets even crazier better than that.

This renourishment of south Venice beaches, basically brought about because the Venice jetties get in the way of normal sand migration, is scheduled to continue for the next 50 years! As I understand it, that means every 10 years Venice will dig into the bar off Big Pass, carry that pretty sand south and dump it on their beach.

All of this, by the way, is paid for by you, the taxpayer.

It's your U.S. Army Corp of Engineers at work. Those same folks who brought you the Mississippi River flooding this past summer. Just ask your midwestern relatives with homes now in New Orleans what they think of that crew.

Well, once the residents of Siesta Key finally found out about this sneaky little game going on, they protested to the Sarasota County commissioners who, as it turns out, had approved it. But the commissioners now claim they didn't know where the sand was coming from.

So earlier this week the state's director of the Division of Beaches and Shores (honest), traveled to Sarasota from the holy city of Tallahassee and laid the word on the worried residents of Siesta Key.

"Don't worry about it," Kirby Greene III said in effect, "the Army Corp of Engineers is taking care of things."

I asked the fellow after his presentation to the still-stunned Siesta residents if he could look me in the eye and say Siesta's beaches wouldn't be hurt by this dredging and he replied, "I'm not going to say no damage."

So hey, it's a high bridge this year, and for God's sake, it's time to start keeping an eye on our beach.

Now, something pleasant.

If you're looking for an unusual and long-lasting (not to mention fairly affordable) gift, this just might be the answer. A tree raised from the seeds of a famous or historic tree.

For example, there's the Walden Woods Weeping Willow grown from seed collected from trees growing in the pristine acres where Thoreau walked and wrote in his journal. Or how about an Andersonville Magnolia from one of those six huge magnolias planted by Clara Barton at Andersonville Prison in Georgia in 1865? She, as you may recall, was the founder of the Red Cross.

There's the Patrick Henry Osage Orange, named for the Indians who used its wood for bows. This tree, the largest of its kind in the world, stands at the home and final resting place of the patriot who said, "Give me liberty or give me death."

Closer to home we have the Thomas Edison Orleander from his winter home in Fort Myers and perhaps strangest of all, the Napoleon Weeping Willow, which stands over his grave on the Island of St. Helena.

Dozens of famous or historic tree's descendents are offered for sale, and many are suitable for our climate.

And now that The Islander is 1 year old, I'm especially thankful to all the readers who've helped me along the way with their comments, ideas and especially, with their taking the time to read this column.

Thanks to each and every one of you.

And thanks to you, Bob.

By the way, there was a ceremony last Saturday to honor Bob’s children. Tracy and Joe both got trees planted at City Island.

 

Sandscript factoid

Here’s my favorite Bob Ardren story, which I couldn’t tell at the weekend’s gathering because I knew I couldn’t get through it without losing it.

It was maybe Islander No. 2 when there was a distribution problem. I got a call, I called Bob, and we went to the office to start to bag or roll papers to eventually throw into your driveways.

We were all sitting on the sidewalk in front of the office with bundles of papers and boxes of rolled papers when two women came walking by.

“Oh, look, they’re getting ready to get the paper out,” one said.

“Oh, isn’t that quaint,” the other said.

Bob looked at me. I looked at him. I could tell we were both starting to feel like baboons in a zoo, but without the peanuts being thrown at us.

Now, remember Bob’s history was with journalism, marketing and the circus.

“Hey lady,” Bob shouted out. “Wanna take a picture of an authentic Islander for only $5?”

The women left without taking the picture or paying.

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