Thursday, March 19, 2009

B.D. Cedar Key

Before Disney (B.D.), Cedar Key is one of those unique Florida small towns that can trace its claim to fame in Florida to the time before Disney. Pencils, brooms, clams. An unusual combination to be sure. But this is what Cedar Key's history is made of.  Cedar tress were harvested and turned into Faber pencils on the island in the 1800's at the first major US pencil manufacturing company.  The city was also the location of fiber broom and brush manufacturing. A state-wide ban in 1995 on large scale net fishing turned lemons to lemonade on the island. A government retraining program helped fishermen, now out of work because of net bans, learn to harvest clams in the shallow warm waters of Cedar Key. Today, the aquaculture clam industry brings in millions to the tiny, historic fishing village economy. Cedar Key is the largest supplier of hard shell clams in the U.S. 

Beloved and I are visiting Cedar Key this weekend. It's been a while. I'm looking forward to returning to this part of Florida. Small towns along the west coast are much more rural and authentic than many other areas of Florida. I plan to stop by the bookstore in Cedar Key that's famous for its large selection of books about Florida, by Floridians, etc. It's called Curmudgeonalia.  

A post about Cedar Key just wouldn't be complete without a retelling of my favorite Cedar Key memory. Longtime NativeMom acquaintances will have heard this story, probably more than once. The last time Beloved and I visited Cedar Key, we took a ride on the motorcycle out into the wooded surround. It was hot, muggy and after riding for more than an hour in the middle of what seemed to 
be nowhere, we were looking for someplace to stop and cool off. That's when we spotted a homemade sign on the side of the road for a fish camp. Oh well, it would probably have a bottle of water or an ice cold Coke to sell. We turned down the dirt road and discovered a beautiful piece of property on the river. A little shack, with what seemed to be a large deck that led to a dock on the river, seemed to be the fish camp the sign indicated. As we pulled to a stop under a gigantic old moss covered oak tree, we could hear music. 

"Cool, there's a band playing," said Beloved as we entered the small, ramshackle fish camp bait shack. We ordered two beers, which the bartender charged us a dollar each for and slid over a bowl of peanuts. We grabbed up the beverages and nuts and headed out to the deck to enjoy the band. Only to discover there was no band. It was just a redneck family singing karaoke
It was a blast. Until, after a few beers, I asked the mom of the singing family if I could request a song for their daughter to sing. She was a teen with a beautiful voice.  Her momma slid the song book my way and I quickly picked a favorite. Travelin' Soldier by the Dixie Chicks.

"Oh, she sings that song so purty," sighed her momma. "Only her daddy don't let her sing Dixie Chicks songs no more. On account of the politics and all."

That was it. We were done. It made for a great story though. 


Floridacracker said...

That is the most photo'd shack at Cedar Key, but I can't resist it.

Sandcastle Momma said...

Haven't been to Cedar Key in years but your post has me itching for a road trip. Have fun!