In Jim Cook's Archive


My wife and I got to Florida before any horrible winter weather hit Minnesota. The weather in southwest Florida was balmy and pleasant. But as in life, nothing is perfect. Red tide was in full bloom and that caused a bout of coughing each time we went outdoors. The fish kill was enormous and at times the smell of rotting fish overwhelming. About ten yards of mangroves exist between my yard and the ocean. My house is another twenty more yards from the mangroves (no the ocean isn’t rising here). Dead fish floating into the mangroves brought an influx of turkey vultures constantly circling overhead and landing on my roof, porch and yard. At one time, I scared up forty buzzards from my neighbor’s roof and my yard. They are a big bird and they can make quite a mess with their droppings. My wife will confirm this after cleaning off a large white splatter from her windshield and car hood.

We’ve been coming to Boca Grande, Florida for almost forty years. My wife found this barrier island after one of our gold customers recommended it. We came so I could write my first book here, The Startup Entrepreneur. Boca Grande is the name of the community located on Gasparilla Island. The island is seven miles long and a quarter mile wide with Charlotte Harbor on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It’s famous for its tarpon fishing and its Gasparilla Inn is considered to be one of the nation’s finest old resort hotels. Peak population is 4,500 in winter. No large high rises or food franchises are allowed and it costs six bucks to come across the causeway. The beaches are fabulous except for when they’re dotted with dead fish, which has become all too frequent lately.

That’s not the only blemish on this paradise. A huge population of iguanas, not native to Florida, began to take over the island a few years ago. Some of them were so large and ugly they scared the wits out of people going for a walk. Last year we had two of them take up residence on top of our screened porch. My wife was quite nervous when she saw them hanging on the screen. Fortunately, we could call the iguana sheriff. He was hired to spend the year shooting iguanas and we pay an annual iguana tax that goes for his salary. One day I heard a shot and when I ran to the porch, the iguana sheriff was holding up a dead iguana. My wife could finally rest easy.

A big part of our island is in greenery which to me looks like a jungle. Plenty of wild critters exist including possums that try to get into your garbage and raccoons that do their business next to the pool. Bobcats, cougars, coyotes and gators are sometimes present. One year, I had a pair of snakes in our garage and every year we have to contend with a few large Palmetto bugs otherwise known as cockroaches. I mention all this as proof that “every sweet hath its sour,” and you don’t have to deal with any of this up north.

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