Note to readers: We at the paper have been talking about ways to fill the gap created by the lack of Monday and Tuesday editions of the Hernando Times. This is one solution. I'm planning an Internet-only column filled bits of news, opinion pieces, or maybe just notes on worthwhile things I saw or did in the county over the weekend. Look for it to show up on the Hernando page of tampabay.com about midday on Mondays. If you have complaints, comments or suggestions for items to include, contact me by telephone at (352)754-6116 or by email me at [email protected].
Those of you who didn't live here 12 years ago won't remember what a big deal it was when John Capel made the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. His blazing talent had already broken the rhythm of the best American sprinters at that year's Olympic trials. He had the fastest qualifying time in the 200-meter finals at the Olympics, was the clear favorite and lost only because of a moment of hesitation at the start. A lot of people remember that. A lot of people forget that he later won the 200-meter at the world track and field championships, not to mention that he was dominant runner at the University of Florida and a state champion sprinter at Hernando High School.
And yet, he was recently passed over for induction into the school's sports hall of fame. Nothing against any of the athletes named. Glance down the list of past inductees, which now numbers a couple of dozen, and it seems pretty remarkable that they could all come from such a small school. But none them made the Olympics. None of them intimidated the likes of former world record-holder Michael Johnson.
It's time to remember Capel's athletic brilliance and look past his problems, including failed drug tests (for marijuana, not performance enhancers), and put him in the hall, where he belongs.
I get where the letter writer is coming from. A letter to the editor in Sunday's paper, Attire lacks look of a professional, slammed (not by name) Spring Hill Elementary School teacher Jennifer Campbell for her lack of professionalism in wearing a "baggy and obviously messy and sloppy-looking T-shirt" to meet with students and parents during an open house last week.
Being the son and brother of teachers, I know that late-summer visits to school usually involve desk moving, dusting, hanging posters and stocking cabinets with supplies. Nothing wrong with wearing a T-shirt to do that. More importantly, I saw a father giving a teacher a big hug, and her returning it with a warm smile. Obviously he knew her, at least by reputation, and was delighted to have her son in her class.
Isn't that more important than her baggy T-shirt?
Sonny Vergara, the self-described "Muscadine Grape Farmer Guy," has opened his vineyard on White Road for his annual U-pick season. Don't just treat yourself to grapes, you asphalt-bound Spring Hill residents; treat yourself to a tour of Spring Lake in eastern Hernando County now that every pasture is green and every basin is filled, as it should be, with a brimming lake.
Head east on Elgin Boulevard. It's called Powell Road by the time it crosses U.S. 41 and climbs into a landscape of citrus groves and pine plantations. Take a left at Old Spring Lake Road, a right onto Neff Lake Road and a quick left back onto Old Spring Lake.
When you hit Spring Lake Highway, you can go straight for a slow drive around the most beautiful lake in Central Florida. But I'd wait for the return trip, when you'll have sweet, juicy grapes to munch on during your tour.
Vergara's put up plenty of signs, and if you get lost a this point, well, lucky you, because no matter which way you drive, there will be canopied roads and grazing cattle. So, I won't give you turn-by-turn directions from here to the farm at 5075 White Road. It's open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and I not only picked several pounds of grapes (photo available at [email protected]), but got into a rousing political discussion with community activist Tom Baldwin, who was keeping Vergara company in his open-air barn.