74. Wildlife by the Pond

74.  Wildlife by the Pond

Wildlife viewing exceeded our expectations!  A big blue heron tried to claim the territory by standing on the fence by the pond for days.  But he wearied of chasing the many egrets, large and small, which came to “fish” in the shallow water.  In the top of a tree behind the pond, I spotted the white head of a Bald Eagle.  It was drizzling rain, and he was sitting with wings spread wide; probably soaked up too much water.

An otter came through several days.  The “warty” toads outside the house had little ones, if you can imagine toads the size of your little finger nail.  A green toad, the size of a quarter, camped on the doorbell a few days, but I guess he got tired of the ringing in his ears, and moved to the door jam above.

Betty’s mother put up a bird feeder and bath.  These conveniences attracted cardinals, and grackles, redwing blackbirds, a great flock of doves, and assorted others.  The flock of baby cattle egrets with their golden plumes were a delight.  They dashed about the yard, especially after a mowing, to see who could catch the grasshoppers and bugs.  One trio swooped low in over the pond, then flared up to land gracefully on the bank.  The third one mis-judged his “fare” and nose-dived into the bank — embarrassing, I’m sure!

We were delighted when a pair of cardinals showed up on the sill of our one-way window in the bathroom.  We were not so delighted when the female stayed, day after day, to peck at her reflection — starting at dawn!   Tap, tap tapity tap…groan.  I finally covered the outside of the window with cardboard so we could sleep.  After a week, the rain took the cardboard off and the cardInal did not return.

One day I discovered a giant four foot lizard in the planter in the corner of the pool.  How it got in the pool enclosure I do not know.  The animal rescue guy who came to get it told us it was not native to Florida, and was an illegal pet.

We arrived home one day to see the big turtle that had moved into our pond, crossing the street in front of the house.  Betty ran to the rescue!  She lifted his rear end, hoping to speed him out of the street.  Oops.  He disappeared into his shell.  Several cars stopped, blocking the street, but Betty poked at the turtle’s rear, and finally got him to our yard.  Once he saw the pond, he made a fast dash for the water.

Most nights during the summer we enjoyed our evening swim serenaded by the magnificent harmony of the 500,000 mixed voice frog chorus in the miles of swamp north of us.  At their best on rainy nights, the chorus was joined by three guest operatic bull frog bass soloists stationed near our bedroom window.  The deep bass bull frogs were a counterpoint for the special echo arias across the swamp!  Beautiful!

A few nights, between 3:00 & 4:00 AM, the choir was joined, (or startled silent) by the punctuation of a “night-caller.”  It sounded like a 300 lb. Flamingo frightened from sleep by a bad dream, or the dying scream of the Creature from the Black Lagoon!  Someone suggested a screech owl — It was either a very LARGE screech owl, or one close to our window with a megaphone!  The only bird we have learned about with such a call, is the Sand Hill Crane, which can be four feet tall.  But why they would be flying at 3:00 AM, we’ll never know.

One moonlit night as I shuffled to a mid-night raid on the refrigerator, I noticed a shadowy figure in the backyard!  A huge masked bandit rousting the bird feeder!  A large raccoon ambled over to check the offerings.  After failing to reach above the squirrel “discourager” shield, Mr. Coon sat down and shook the feeder pole so the seeds fell down.  Why climb?   Round 1 — Mr. Coon.

Next morning, we discovered the top was off our garbage can and trash scattered over the yard as our stuff was “searched.” — Round 2 — Mr. Coon again.

We tied the top on the garbage can.  Next morning we found the can tipped over with the top worked open just far enough for Mr. Coon to pull stuff out – Round 3 — Mr. Coon, still ahead.

We then tied the secured can to the house by the pool enclosure so it couldn’t be tipped over.  Next morning.  Round 4 — We win! — can still intact!

So, that night we put the can out by the street for the next day garbage pick up. (We’re smart, but a little slow.)  You guessed it!  Next morning the trash was spread a little too thin along the street for the men to pick it up.
Round 5 — and winner again— Mr. Coon!  From then on we took the trash out in the morning.  Game over.

The vision isn’t always the result.  The “sit tub” was so deep, I couldn’t see out the one-way window, which incidentally was one-way out during the day, and one-way in at night when one is bathing.  The water in the solar roof over the pool heated nicely on warm, sunny summer days, so I swam at night in bath-tub warm water, but in summer, Florida also has many grey days, and the water was like any other pool — too cold for me.

The “dream home” was fun while it lasted.  My sister Jan moved to Tampa to live with her daughter, and Betty’s mother moved to an assisted living facility.  The house was too big for the two of us, so it was time to move on.


73. Dream Home

73. Dream Home

When we got acquainted with the young couple upstairs at our Twin Lakes apartment, we learned that his father was a small contractor building houses in the county north of us.  Real estate was cheaper, and taxes lower, and his father was a custom quality builder.  My retirement money had kicked in, so we decided to build our dream home.

Betty and I had great fun workIng with the contractor to design our dream home which we built on a choice end lot in the Cyprus Lakes subdivision in Pasco County.

The house had three bedrooms with private baths.  One was a mother-in-law apartment for Betty’s mother, and one bedroom for my sister Jan, who joined us during winters.  The house ended up being twenty-two hundred square feet, with a great room that had double sliding glass doors out to the pool.  There was a large Pullman kitchen with a serving counter at the end.  A dining room with a wall separating it from the great room, we used as our office.

There was a thirty foot screened in exercise pool, three feet deep at the ends, and four feet in the middle.  We made a deal with a contractor who was getting started with a new solar roof imported from Australia.  For a steep discount, we agreed that he could send referrals to see the pool roof, and hear our testimony.  Tiny tubes ran through the roof panels where water was heated for the pool.  The panels were designed to reflect the sun in summer, and transmit sun in winter to moderate the enclosure temperature.    

Betty tested our custom “sit-tub” Jacuzzi in the large master bath, while the workers were finishing it. With panoramic one-way windows over the tub, I gazed out on my domain.  One view was in to the woods, the other over the pool toward the pond.  With the water jets massaging my back, this was luxury!

The house was next to a cyprus woods, so we were expecting to see wildlife.  With the pond in back attracting the big herons and egrets, we were not disappointed.  You’ll meet our visitors next time.

72. Billboards & Pelicans

72.  Billboards & Pelicans

People asked us if there was much difference between Florida and Hawaii.  There are palm trees, beaches, and ocean views, and this is “The Sunshine State.”  An immediate distraction and difference that we had to adapt to was the proliferation of billboards and signs.  Hawaii has no billboards or big store front signs distracting from the beauty of the islands.

Another difference was the temperature range.  We arrived in October, and two months later it got cold — real cold!  The temperature went down below freezing, and there was ice on oranges just north of Tampa, which is about midway down the west coast of the state.

July 25, 1990!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!   A red-letter once-in-a-life-time birthday!  I was 55, and officially retired from my first major career as Instructor at the University of Hawaii for twenty-four years.  We could also officially close the sale of our house — and officially get my retirement income started — yahoooo!  To celebrate, we went out for dinner at a beachfront restaurant at Clearwater Beach.  My sister Jan was there from Miami to share in our dinner party.  Incidentally, our dinner was compliments of Barbara Pratt, our real estate agent, benefactor, former student, and super-friend in Hawaii.

The sun was still fairly high on the horizon when we sat down at the window table in the empty restaurant — just us early birds, the waiter, the manager, and a super chef somewhere.  We were entertained by a bevy of seagulls and a pelican trio outside.  The pelicans flew in line above the shallow water along the beach, and dive-bombed the minnows.

The beach curved away into the distance, a golden highway to memories of our Hawaiian honeymoon, and to dreams of our future “second time” and place.

Those were exciting days!

71. Aloha Hawaii – Aloha Florida

71.  Aloha Hawaii – Aloha Florida

After two days reminiscing at the Hawaiian Regent, we were winging our way to San Francisco — so we thought.  Just past the midpoint, the pilot announced an earthquake had damaged the airport in San Francisco and we were diverted to Sacramento.

After being stranded at the airport overnight, we flew a small United Express to San Jose the next day to spend a few days with Betty’s Aunt Ella and house friend, Mary.  Things were tense at their house.  After the second time the big sledge hammer hit the house, I could see why.  The earthquake aftershocks got one’s attention!

We finally flew into Tampa, and made it to Dunedin, where we rented an apartment at “Twin Lakes.”  Betty’s mother had an apartment across the street.

We enjoyed being with “Mother,” Betty’s mother, who was our local guide and recreation director.  Mother treated us to “THE ICECAPADES” at the St. Pete Convention Center.  There was a day trip to Cypress Gardens to enjoy the waterski show and the flowers.  When we asked Mother what she liked best about Cypress Gardens, she said she liked driving the golf cart we rented for her.

We had dinner together most days, and went out for dinner after church on Sundays.  Saturday night rapidly became “family movie time” when we watched a video together.

I sat on the edge of the inlet and watched a big sailboat furling down to come to mooring.  I eyed the pelican camped on the end of a pole soaking up the sun, and savored the sight of a few sea gulls skimming around looking for minnows.  A huge white Egret, probably three feet tall, stalked up the grass two yards down from me.  I inhaled the salty pungent smell of waterfront — this is Florida!  The pelican winked, the gull squawked, “Welcome Kanaka! ( Hawaii native) Welcome new Cracker.” (Native Floridian)

70. Memories – Last Days in Hawaii

70.  Memories – Last Days in Hawaii

Our last two nights in Hawaii we moved to the Hawaiian Regent Hotel with a beautiful room overlooking Waikiki Beach. (thanks to some Amway friends for arranging that!)   Twenty-four years ago, on our wedding night, I surprised Betty with champagne and a portable record player playing Hawaiian music.  This time, with Aileen’s help, there was a bottle of sparkling apple juice in a bucket of ice waiting in our hotel room, and the radio supplied Hawaiian music — awww shucks — I’m a romantic, OK?

I sat on the lanai of our hotel room and looked down the sweep of Waikiki Beach, I could see the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel where we dined at beachfront, the  Halekulani, where twenty-four years ago our Ionia friend Mel Haney, took us to the beachfront lanai to listen to a Hawaiian trio.  It seemed fitting that our last time “out” in Hawaii was the Halekulani.

I watched the beach catamarans sailing in with conch shells sounding the alert to swimmers.  We had sailed on one of those the first day of our first honeymoon.  And of course, there were the times we sailed our own boat along the shore off Waikiki to anchor and snorkel, while we snickered at the tourists paying a fortune to enjoy what we had all the time.

It was right out there we had sailed with a school of porpoise dancing around the boat, crossing under the bow close enough to touch.  It was right out there we saw the whales blowing spray.  It was right out there we saw simultaneous rainbows over Kalihi, Nuuanu, and Manoa Valleys — a beautiful sight on a beautiful day!  It was right out there we “popped the spinnaker” and “flew” a mile offshore while Betty was bouncing in a high powered speed boat to photograph the sight!

There, just past the Royal Hawaiian, I could see the top floor of the Sheraton Waikiki.  Was it our 14th wedding anniversary we danced to the music of Trummy Young in the Hano Hano room?  I surprised Betty with a cake for dessert — and got surprised myself when the waiter brought THE WRONG CAKE!  Betty blew out the candles, and we got our anniversary cake.

Moonlight over Waikiki after dinner at the historic Moana Hotel. Waikiki! —a magic place!  Just up the street from the Halekulani, is the Reef Tower, our first honeymoon hotel twenty-four years ago!  How many times have I seen the sun set behind the Waianae Mountains!  There are a lot of memories, but, the “Hawaiian Honeymoon” was over.

Our decision, and departure were sudden; three months to wrap up, close down, sell our place, notify everybody, sell everything we could, including the cars, pack for shipping, etc. etc.  Betty and I worked around the clock — thirty-four hours straight to prepare for the shipper.  I have never worked so long and so hard in my life!  Then we collapsed fully dressed and slept fourteen hours to catch up.

Our second car sold the night before we departed.  We left our place in the able hands of Barbara Pratt, our realtor, who took care of the sale and closing.  Two weekend “moving sales” cleaned out tons of stuff, including all furniture and bed.  We ate on a borrowed card table, and slept on borrowed futons.  As we closed the door of our home of the past ten years, I turned to Betty and said, “finished?”  She answered,”pau” — the end.

Aloha Hawaii.  Aloha means “hello,” and also “goodbye”.  Leaving Hawaii was painful!  Looking back, we are grateful that God pushed us along to save my life, and to open new doors of opportunity and new adventures for us, that we would not have experienced had we still been living there today!