It’s good to hear your voice, you know it’s been so long
If I don’t get your call then everything goes wrong
I want to tell you something you’ve known all along
Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone
By Randall Grantham
As everyone did, especially the growers, I’m sure, I felt great anguish over the fact that our local strawberry crop was to be plowed under because of the glut on the market. After pumping our aquifer dry and causing many people to lose their water supply, if not their homes to the sink holes that accompanied the events, to see it all go for naught was painful. Who would have thought that the emergency measures taken to coat the plants with ice to protect them from the harsh winter would be a lose-lose?
I watched as the prices dropped to $5 a flat and then to a point where they were prepared to leave them fallow in the field as a cost saving measure. I was as outraged as all were to know that there were hungry people in our area who would love to have that bounty of fruit, only to be told that they couldn’t even go U-Pick them because of liability concerns.
So I was very happy to read that the farmers would, after all, allow both free picks and low-cost harvests by those interested. I even managed to take a trip out to Plant City to get in on the deal and brought home several flats. It brought back memories of other trips to the fields, made when I was much younger, but also for profit or economic reasons.
Growing up in rural Lutz, we didn’t have lemonade stands. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic on the dead-end dirt road I lived on. Us kids had to devise other methods to try to earn a buck. And we did.
My next-door neighbor, Cheryl, was the same age as me and we developed a variety of enterprises to try to get money for the Fair or for candy or special toys. The one I was reminded of was going to the U-Pick fields in Plant City and then setting up a strawberry stand in front of my Mom’s office on US 41. But we had others.
Every year, before the State Fair, when it was still downtown on Boulevard, we would ride our bicycles around the area and pick up “Coke” bottles that people had thrown out in the groves and pastures around our homes. I think the deposit was 2 or 3 cents a piece when we first started. When it got up to 5 to 10 cents, we thought we were in the money.
That girl could spot a bottle, let me tell you. It could be under 6 inches of dirt with just the lip of the top sticking out and she would scramble off her bike and dig it up, hoping it wasn’t broken. It took a lot of bottles to get our admission and ride money, but we did it. We had other, more entrepreneurial, gigs too.
We had our annual fish fry that made us rich. For several months during the summer, we would go fishing and stock up on bream, blue gill and maybe even a few bass that we caught in our clear deep lake. After accumulating a sufficient supply in the freezer, I would carefully type out rows of identical tickets on Mom’s old Royal typewriter. Row after row of tickets were painstakingly typed out, one by one. No white out and certainly no “delete” key.
“C&R’s Fish Fry” they would read and then list the menu, which usually included grits, BBQ beans, hush puppies and, of course, fish. All for the remarkably low price of, I think it was, 35 cents. Heck, we probably cleared $3 or $4 a piece and that included the neighbors who would buy their ticket in advance, but not show up for the meal. Of course, our parents supplied the grits, oil and other side dishes and cooking materials, but we never considered their costs.
Things have changed a lot since then. The lakes are down and the aquifer stressed from the population growth. The pastures and groves are mostly subdivisions and strip malls. They don’t make “deposit” bottles anymore and the government would probably shut down the fish fry because the Health Department hadn’t inspected our kitchen or approved the outdoor dining.
Still, some things haven’t changed. Strawberry fields still dominate the landscape in that area of our community, and I’m still chasing a buck wherever I can. Speaking of which, I gotta go. There’s a paying client on the phone.
Randall C. Grantham is a lifelong resident of Lutz who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway. He can be reached at . Copyright 2010 RCG
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