Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Monday's Quick Hits: Glidewell, bullying and a winter trip down the Withlacoochee

Legendary Times columnist Jan Glidewell has cancer ...

and my colleague Bill Stevens wrote such an outstanding, moving piece about his battle with the disease — tinyurl.com/b3zdj56 — that I don't have much to add.

Except that I have a lingering grudge against Glidewell because he is so lavishly talented that, when he was working full time, he could spend 45 minutes on a column about, say, the trials of getting garbage haulers to haul away an old, unwanted garbage can, and it would be good enough to make readers in three counties laugh uproariously and to stick in my memory for two decades.

Most of the rest of us, meanwhile, spend half a day making phone calls and then the rest of it sweating over every sentence. And our editors read it with a blank expression, which always makes me wonder if they're wondering why we can't just write unlimited amounts of hilarious copy the way Glidewell could. How hard can it be?

Believe me, it's very, very hard.

My Sunday column about bullies ...

brought emails from several readers who remember — often decades after it happened — being pushed around physically and emotionally at school.

A common theme was in this one from Doris Taylor of Brooksville, who as a young girl in the 1940s moved to Detroit from Tennessee.

She was teased — and pelted with gravel-laced snowballs — because of her Southern accent, saying "bob wire" rather than "barbed wire," and "clumbed" rather than "climbed."

But the "worst bullying came from the teacher, Mrs. Douquist. ... She often asked me to read aloud, then would correct my Southern accent with a little smile playing around her mouth."

So, bullying is extra painful, leaves an extra helpless feeling, when authority figures act like they are in on the joke. I'm not saying that happens here. Just that these stories are an excellent reminder of how important it is for teachers and administrators to actively defend the most vulnerable kids.

On winter trips on the Withlacoochee River ...

I've come to expect the super-clear sky — with the moon hanging around past noon — that I saw while paddling there Saturday morning.

What I didn't expect was the clear water. Not as clear as the Weeki Wachee's, but clear for the Withlacoochee, which is known for being clean but not clear.

With few big industries and relatively few big industrial farms in its watershed, the amount of chemical pollutants in the Withlacoochee is, I've been told, quite low.

But it is mainly fed with runoff, which filters through bank-side swamps, which means a high content of tannin — the brown stuff that gives this river and many others in Florida their well-known tea-colored tint.

But on Saturday, we could see the bottom through a half-dozen feet of water.

Charles Lee, the director of advocacy for Florida Audubon — who I met there for a column on another issue — gave me his well-informed theory about what's going on.

The groundwater is high because of the solid rainy season last summer. Because groundwater is feeding the river, the water level hasn't dropped as fast as it normally would this time of year — and it's clearer.

My point? Only that you might want to check it out. In three hours, we saw — including Lee's kayak — only three other boats.

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