Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 24, 2014

Our new neighbor

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Our house sits almost in the bottom center of a horseshoe of new homes which all back up on a man-made lagoon. Ours is one of the few homes that does not have an extended screened-in lanai but we are perfectly satisfied with the standard one provided with our model. Like our neighbors, we spend a lot of time looking out at the lush landscaping, the cascading fountain, the extensive variety of wildlife, and the spectacular sunsets.

Guess what? Two days ago, our neighbor came to the back and shouted for us to come out. We went out to see what the commotion was about and he pointed to an alligator floating along about 20 feet from our bank. All we could see was his bumpy head and snout so we are not sure how big he was. He cruised around for a while and then kind of disappeared into the reeds at the far side of the lagoon.

I don’t know if he/she has taken up residence in our pond or one of the many other lakes, plus acres and acres of preserved wetlands within this development. The development is called “The Isles of Sarasota” because there is so much water within its confines. There are many homes that have no water out behind their lanais — just Florida jungle. You can bet those folks always look around before stepping out into their back yards and keeping garage doors closed is a must.

Today, we have the usual wading white cranes, the foraging sand hill cranes, and the diving long-billed ducks all going about their usual business. If old Wally Gator is lurking out there, we can’t find him. However, every time one of those goofy ducks goes under water for an extended period, I worry until he comes back up — whole!

I can just picture a great thrashing in the water and then Wally surfaces with a silly grin, releases a huge gator burp, and starts picking his teeth with duck feathers. Well, that’s enough reality television for now. How about this? As I am pecking out this rant on Thursday, there is a story on the noon-time news about a big alligator stuck in a storm drain in a nearby development.

Speaking of new neighbors, I just read in the paper that Sarasota County hosted 95,500 visitors during the month of December. This is a tremendous influx when one considers the county’s permanent population is less than 400,000 folks. Here are a few other gee-whiz stats for December: over 61 percent occupancy of hotel and vacation rental properties with an average daily rate of $155.83 for those lodgings; over one million in tourist tax collections; and $79.45 million spent in Sarasota by those same tourists. I think it is fair to say that tourism is a primary industry around these parts.

My paper also reports that more than 75,000 flights have been cancelled since Dec. 1 due to the incessant snow and ice storms throughout the country. It is obvious that the tremendous influx of snowbirds we are experiencing means that an inordinate number of folks are motoring their way down to this Sun Coast paradise. The Good Wife (you know who) reports that the parking lots are chock full of out-of-state (and out-of-country) license plates and the check out lines in all the stores are painfully long. She also reports that some of those “Damn Yankees” can be very rude in their shopping habits and demands on sales people.

Exacerbating the already bulging tourist population is the fact that Sarasota County has become somewhat of a sports mecca going into the spring. First of all, it is the spring training camp for the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates. I don’t know about the Pirates but the Orioles baseball staff, players, and fans have taken over a 97-room hotel just up the road from us.

Some of the other springtime sporting events include three championship swim meets; three championship rowing and sculling events; the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon; the Super 8 Horse Show, and All-breed Equestrian Event; major league soccer training camps; and a ton of tennis and golf tournaments. Whew! That is a lot of socks and jocks--and even more congestion on the roads and in the local eateries.

As I look back over this rant, it seems I have done nothing but complain. We do, in fact, really love it here — it’s just that living in paradise has a price.

New subject. TGW and I are hooked on American Idol this year as we have connections to two of the finalists. Sam Woolf is a young phenom from right here in Bradenton, Fla. He does a lot of entertaining in this area and just for geographical reasons, we have become members of his “Woolf Pack.” We have closer ties to another finalist, named Spencer Lloyd. We were dear friends with Bob and Priscilla Lloyd in Bangkok, Thailand when they brought Spencer’s dad, Timmy, home from an orphanage in 1971. Timmy was a terrified little boy, who spoke no English, and our young son and his teddy bear seemed to provide a calming influence for Timmy through those first rough days. Although we have kind of lost touch with Bob and Priscilla over these many years, our son and Timmy have stayed connected on Facebook. Both of these young men are very talented and we know both of them will have successful careers.

Friday update! The bad news: Spencer Lloyd just barely missed the final cut on American Idol. The good news: Sam Woolf made the Final 13 and that 9-foot alligator is still holding the fort in that storm drain.

See ya...

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com