There's a neighborhood called Whispering Oaks Estates way down in the southeast corner of Hernando County, a hop, skip and 3-mile jump from the Pasco County line. It sits in the middle of nowhere, a nirvana shielding its residents from the troubles of the world.
They tool around the streets on the same golf carts that other times carry them from hole to hole on the adjacent Ridge Manor Golf and Country Club course, waving to neighbors as they putter in their yards or slowing to a crawl to chat with others who shout cheerful greetings from doorways or screened lanais or from the windows of passing cars.
One can't help but look around for Mr. Rogers.
Rainey and Geraldine Council pulled up very deep roots three years ago to move from Dade City, where they grew up and later raised their four boys. Rainey still practices law there.
They left a large pool house on 10 acres in which they had lived for 40 years to move into a smaller, lower-maintenance Whispering Oaks house that backs up to the eighth fairway of the public golf course (which residents have to pay to join). They had found out about the neighborhood, which is 11 miles north of Dade City, from friends and clients who had moved there.
Geraldine, a retired school secretary who has taken up golf, said she recognizes most of the golfers she sees from her chair on the screened-in lanai that stretches across the entire length of the back of the house.
The golfers she doesn't recognize are usually in club-issued carts instead of their own — a sure sign, Rainey said, that they don't live around here.
On the newer side of the 291-lot subdivision — construction began in the 1980s — Dan and Deb Leuszler take a dip in their lagoon-style pool almost every day, quite a change from the life in northern Ohio they left two years ago.
Like the Councils, they, too, found the neighborhood through someone who lived here.
Its remoteness — you have to drive a distance even if you just want to go out to dinner — is okay with them. They'd rather have friends in for the evening for socializing and card-playing. In fact, next week, they are going to have a dinner party every night, with a different set of friends at each one — including Nancy Frizelle, a neighborhood activist who lives around the corner from them.
She and her husband, Gerry, bought a lot and had their house built in 2007, after moving from Marion, N.Y. They wanted to live in a golf community and within 45 minutes of Tampa.
She said the master plan consisted of seven phases, and although not all of the lots are built out, they are all improved with underground utilities in place. Mailboxes are in several central locations. There are also many affordable two- and three-unit villas, most of which also back up to the golf course.
Sue O'Connell, a retired teacher and registered nurse from Long Island, was one of Whispering Oaks' first residents. She and her husband moved into a three-bedroom villa 29 years ago — before the single-family homes were built — because the golf course they were living on in Tarpon Springs was getting too crowded.
She said she would like a mall that's closer but not nearly enough to trade her home for urban living.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected]