Thursday, April 17, 2008

Manatees should be rescued, never eaten

Bert’s Bar & Grill in Matlacha, FL, is the kind of joint you would hope to stumble onto assuming you were lucky enough to stumble onto a real, old-time, authentic Florida fishing village. No high-rise condos. No gated, palm-lined communities with names like “Waiting for Heaven” or “Sunstroke Paradise.” No incredibly manicured golf course with greens fees approaching an editor’s weekly take-home.

I was in luck this week as, driving with my son and his wife to a popular seafood restaurant on Pine Islan, in Lee County in SW Florida, we passed Bert’s and seeing cars lined up and town the main village street, figured this must be the place to stop after dinner.Turns out it was.

The place, built sometime in the 1930s as a "sweet shoppe", when the tiny village of Matlacha (prounounced ˆmat-la-shay) was little more than a row or two of shanties and small houses (which is still is with little more than 700 residents), is wonderfully time-beaten and, on most nights, beerily cheerful. This particular evening a 3-piece combo called the Yard Dogs was thumping and plucking away, much to the noisy delight of a the Baby Boomer crowd, the first wave of the Baby Boomer crowd and feeling particularly frisky on a cooler-than-usual April evening.

OK, here’s the hook, as tenuous as it is to the landscape business, which is what this blog is kinda about, right?

On the wall behind the busy pool table at Bert’s is a sign announcing the annual “Manatee Roast.” And, keeping with the theme, you can pick up a Bert’s tee-shirt that reads “I love Manatees . . .They taste like chicken.” (Darn, meant to get one on the way out, but forgot.)

As any Floridian or visitor to the state knows, manatees — those huge, doppy, lovable sea cows — are a protected species. They’re a relatively common sight in the rivers and canals in Florida, but prone to get run over and chewed up by speeding power boats, which is not a good thing, especially for the manatees. Obviously, there is no such thing as a Manatee Roast and it’s not likely they taste like chicken anyway, which brings me to lanscaper Kevin McKeever.

Earlier in April while McKeever was checking out a small drainage ditch near Naples, about an hour and a half drive south of tiny Matlacha, he spotted a baby manatee having a hard time of it. The little fella (165 lbs. and about 5-ft. long) was on his own, and in fact, at a year old, was still nursing. McKeever, realizing the baby was a goner if it didn't get some TLC, called for help.

Wildlife experts arrived and they finally captured the baby, determined it was badly underweight and needed medical attention and trucked it to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, where it will likely spend a year or so getting nursed back to health before being returned to the wild.

Mr, McKeever, on my next visit to Bert’s (It's now on my short-list of favorite joints, I’m going to tip a glass to you, for sure. — Ron Hall

Saturday, April 12, 2008

He turned in $140,000 in found money . . . and he's still smiling

Eli Estrada, the 40-year-old landscaper who found $140,000 in unmarked $20s and turned it into police, is somewhat of a celebrity in Southern California. When the word got out about what he'd done, apparently he picked up some new accounts from people impressed with his honesty.

It turns out the the dough was left on the bumper of a Brinks truck March 11 after a stop at a Bank of America branch in Cerritos. (IHmm, I wonder how the job market is for a couple of ex-Brinks truck guys in Southern California?)

Estrada found the money on the street and admits to wresting over what to do with it before turning it in. I get a picture of a little white angel with wings on one of Eli's shoulder and a little red devil with pitchfork on the other, both of them taking turns on his head before the angel pulls out a huge wooden mallet and bonks the devil over the head.

Click on the headline and you can see Eli's smiling face. He and his partner run a company called Turf Turf in Orange County. At least that's what his shirt says.

Eli you're going to have to do a lot of landscaping to clear $140,000 in tax free profit . . . but you did the right thing!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Town says "no" to landscaper's short green skirt

The United Press International reports that Jay Herrod, the professional landscaper that wears a short green skirt when he's mowing, is going to have put on some pants. Officials in Clinton, LA, on Thursday, April 10, denied his request to wear the skirt while he's working . . . oh, that awful nasty heat rash! — Ron Hall

Woolly lawnmowers

The Guardian reports: In a bid to keep its municipal lawns trim while saving money, the city of Turin has done away with lawn mowers and brought in 700 sheep to graze in two parks.

Turin police blocked roads last Thursday as the first flock moved in to tackle the Meisino park, part of a two-month stint which city officials say will save €30,000 (£24,000) on gardeners' fees.

Shepherds brought up the herd, carrying 16 newly born lambs belonging to the flock, which will now be left to graze at the park on the city's outskirts until the grass is cricket-pitch smooth.

The scheme was tested last year with cows and sheep, but the cows were not invited back after leaving behind too much dung.

Click here for the complete article.

— Mike Seuffert

Thursday, April 10, 2008

News of the sublime . . .and the utterly ridiculous

This from the April 9, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle:

It was a tempting sight for struggling landscaper Eli Estrada: a bag filled with $140,000 on a Cerritos street.
There was his credit card debt, upcoming wedding and making ends meet with his artificial grass and landscaping business.
But turning it over to Long Beach police last month was the right thing to do, he said.
The 40-year-old Estrada admits that some days "I think I was nuts," but he adds, "I know in my gut that to keep that money would be wrong."
The Bank of America money bag was lost March 11 by Brinks Armored truck drivers. The unmarked $20 bills were bundled into wads of $20,000 and bound for ATMs.
Long Beach police Sgt. Dina Zapalski says Estrada handed over the money bag to an officer who took a report at one of the landscaper's job sites.
Brinks later gave him a $2,000 reward.

And this from (Click on the headline for the link if you don’t believe me.)

Jay Herrod of Clinton, Louisiana is just your typical landscaper who mows other people's yards for a living. However, the manner of dress has some people complaining. That's because Herrod wears a skirt while mowing lawns.
Herrod says the reasoning for wearing the skirt is because he gets heat rash and that "it allow that area to breathe, and uh, wearing a skirt on the mower allows the sweat to evaporate".
While customers aren't complaining about his skirt-wearing, the town alderman is, citing Harrod for indecency, under the recent "no sagging pants" ordinance. Harrod says he has a doctor's note about his condition, and that the law shouldn't apply.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Congo cheats the executioner

Congo (aka “The Mauler”) will live. His life has been spared.

Congo, as you may recall from previous blogs, is the German shepherd that chewed up a landscape worker that arrived in the early morning hours of June 5, 2007, to work on the 10-acre property in Princeton Township, NJ.
The attack resulted in the Hispanic worker, who apparently spoke little or no English, suffering some horrendous injuries that required hospitalization and lots of stitches and patching.

Several weeks after the attack, a municipal court judge ruled that Congo was a vicious dog and it looked like Congo was going to be dispatched to that big dogbone in the sky. The dog’s owners mounted a legal campaign to save Congo’s life and dog lovers across the state protested the injustice of dispatching Congo to "a better place," just because he ripped apart an "illegal" worker, in their eyes apparently, little more than a dog chew.

The court finally ruled that Congo will not be euthanized but that its owners pay $50 fines for Congo and each of the then 3-month-old German shepherd pups that joined in the attack. Also, the dog’s owners are to keep Congo and the other dogs behind a fence on their property, and that the property will be posted with warning signs.

And so ends the saga of Congo , a case that ignited the passions of dog lovers throughout the state of New Jersey.

Click on the headline to access the article in April 3 issue of The Times of Trenton. – Ron Hall