Monday, March 25, 2013

Cedar Key Back in the Day

Back when I was a kid, we lived in Cedar Key for a year.  My Dad was Principal of the school.  Not the High School.  The Whole School from Kindergarten through High School.  The house we lived in was old and had been through many a storm.  In reality it was sort of a ramshackle hell hole but it was beyond cool for us kids. That was before they outlawed so much of the commercial fishing.  People on Cedar Key went out into the Gulf in little boats and brought home fish for a living.  It was real.   I always had a soft spot in my heart for the old Cedar Key. 

Always eager to broaden my cultural horizons, I was reading a book called "Tellable Cracker Tales" last night.  Its a collection of short stories about life in the old Florida.  You can find it in tourist traps all over the State.   In one story, an old man is telling a visitor about how his youngest son is the only one that ever amounted to anything.  The punch line is that the boy never wanted to be anything but a lazy, good for nothing bum and he's the best one of those there is but it was the old man's assessment of the second son that caught my attention.

Number two son had gone "to the seminar" and learned how to be a preacher.  He got ordained and the church sent him to some little back woods congregation.  The next year, the whole church demanded that he be sent someplace else so they sent him to another church in the middle of nowhere.  He barely lasted a year there too.  The whole congregation got together and demanded a new preacher. 

In desperation, the church sent him to Cedar Key to pastor a church there.  A year went by and nobody complained.  A second year went by and there wasn't a peep out of anybody.  By the time the third year was coming to an end, the old man just had to know if his number two son was actually making good at bein' a preacher so he got on his horse and rode all the way to Cedar Key to find out.

He got to town and sat down near the water under a shade tree and started whittling.  Pretty soon, one of the locals stopped by to greet the stranger.  The old man said that he'd heard they had a mighty good preacher in town and asked if that was true.  The local said that the preacher was all right.  Something about the way he said it made the old man dig a little deeper and he asked if the whole town didn't think a lot of the preacher.  The local answered that it wasn't that he was a great preacher.  It was just that nobody in Cedar Key really wanted a preacher at all and he was the closest thing to no preacher that they'd ever had.

Not too long after my Dad had retired from the Army Reserve and from everything else did, he told me that he often wished we'd never left Cedar Key.  He said that as backward as it was, it was the only place that had ever hired him and then didn't try to tell him how to do his job.   I'm not sayin' that my Dad wasn't any better of a Principal than the old man's son was a preacher.  I've met too many people who worked with him and too many of his students who still have nothing but respect for the man to think that.  I'm just thinking back on Cedar Key and the kinds of folks that used to be there before it became all touristy and yankified.  That old story sure rings true.

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