I have a clear least favorite among the Christmas cards that show up on the lawn of the old courthouse in downtown Brooksville this time of year.
I'm talking not about standard cards, but the 4- by 8-foot plywood variety, and the one I have in mind carries not a greeting but a brief lecture from Christ, the last part of which is underlined in red for the benefit of us slow learners:...
12/06/13 Local Government
Hernando County is paying Jennifer Raines' salary — at least for now — but her training came free.
Raines' mother, Flossie, ran the Little Rock Cannery for nearly 20 years, often with her daughter at her side.
"I was here all the time," said Jennifer Raines, 29. "I used to get off the school bus here."
She learned to sterilize the glass canning jars and to screw the lids on just firmly enough to guarantee a good seal. As a kid, she wasn't crazy about spending her afternoons at the cannery, but came back regularly as an adult and, for example, cooked and put up baby food for her daughter, who is now 9 years old....
Brooksville's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade always happened, if it happened at all, because of the efforts of black people.
Actually, it was less a parade than a crowd of regular folks walking up Main Street, an homage to the historic marches of the Civil Rights era. So were the stirring speeches at the march's terminus: the lawn of Hernando County's old courthouse.
This was usually followed by a picnic at Kennedy Park, just southeast of town. For about 15 years after the holiday was first observed in Hernando County, in 1989, everything was organized by the Hernando County branch of the NAACP....
12/02/13 Human Interest
Welcome back, snowbirds.
I know lots of you are here already because I rode bumper-to-bumper with you on Interstate 75 this weekend as our family returned from North Carolina, where we went to get a taste of what you are fleeing — winter.
Yes, I know all about the appeal of Florida this time of year. The fantasy that sold a few million homes here — that you can walk outside in shirtsleeves in December and pluck a ripe orange from your very own tree? We're living it right now....
11/26/13 Human Interest
The 1996 Ford did long service in this country, where it is assumed that children will have access to public schools and rides to and from them, where a bus like this one is usually one vehicle in a big fleet.
It will go to a country, Haiti, where none of that is true. Where education is neither free nor universal, where one bus can help fill a major void — carrying students whose opportunities are blocked by a lack of transportation to a new vocational school run by the Haitian arm of the international health care organization Partners in Health....
11/21/13 Local Government
It's impossible to keep a car clean. Pressure washing and replacing air conditioning filters are regular chores, like mowing the lawn. The school bus arrives trailing a Pig Pen-like dust cloud, one reason kids in the neighborhood always seem to be coughing.
I heard these common complaints about living on lime rock roads during a visit last week to the regional mecca of lime rock roads, Royal Highlands....
I've heard people call Hernando's fertilizer ordinance, adopted last week by the County Commission, a "good start."
And if it's just that, a start, maybe it is good.
It requires people who apply fertilizer for a living to be registered with the county, which will make it easier to ensure that they know how to do their jobs responsibly and to punish them if they don't.
Creating 10-foot no-spray zones around lakes and rivers and other bodies of water is a no-brainer. So is the prohibition on spraying immediately before or during monsoon-like downpours....
Laurie Trenholm is a professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida whose job includes, she said, "educating people how to manage lawns in an environmentally responsible fashion."
She is not an expert on groundwater, she told me, and "not a political person."
Yet there she was last week, appearing before the Hernando County Commission, where she was thanked for her help in developing a new fertilizer ordinance and where, in turn, she thanked the commission for not putting extra restrictions on fertilizing lawns in the summer....
You can't even climb into Alan DeWitte's truck without a safety briefing.
"Three points of contact," DeWitte said, opening the door of his cab and pointing to plastic handles and stainless steel steps. "You want two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet."
Only after I had absorbed this lesson was I allowed to begin the least hazardous reporting assignment imaginable: a ride to the Land O'Lakes Walmart Supercenter with DeWitte, 61, who recently became the first driver in the 21-year history of the company's Hernando County distribution center to cover 3 million miles without causing an accident....
Trader Joe's so-called Two Buck Chuck is not, as you might have heard, a perfectly serviceable table wine at an incredible price.
It's vile stuff, one of the few wines my wife and I have ever poured down the drain.
Nor were we wowed by Trader Joe's interior, with lots of bare, blond wood paneling reminiscent of a 1970s-era health food store.
As far as produce goes, you'll find a better selection, and lower prices, at Walmart....
When I watched cars plow through headlight-deep floodwaters in the parking lot of the Brooksville Publix in August …
When on that same evening a nearby stretch of State Road 50 suddenly became a fearsome set of rapids …
When I talked to a woman the next day as she sorted through belongings ruined by a second straight year of flooding of her Brooksville mobile home … ...
The Hernando County School Board needed to show strength and unity.
It needed to be a firm advocate for students. Its members needed to take political heat, which, in turn, would have turned up the flame on the County Commission.
And at last week's meeting it didn't do any of those things. Some of its members tried, but as a group the board sent a wishy-washy message that will be easy to ignore....
It was a sweeping generalization made by a reporter who had spent all of a week in town, but it was also basically true:
"Brooksville is a (place) where one man's ability to whip another man still means something. Fights are a regular happening, and all it takes to get one started is a little beer and a parking lot."
Former Times staffer Rick Bragg wrote that in 1990, two weeks after Russell Coats, 19, was beaten to death in a racially divided brawl....
A friend at the state Forest Service promised me a "magic moment" — a few minutes before dawn when decades would fall away and the Florida woods would fill up with the calls of bobwhite quail.
So just after 6 a.m. Thursday, I met with a dozen-member crew — mostly Forest Service workers in dark green uniforms and scuffed boots — under the glare of a fluorescent light at an open-air hunt depot in the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest....
In more than 20 years in Hernando County, I've listened to maybe 20 minutes of Bob Haa's Haa-Wire morning talk show on Brooksville's WWJB-AM 1450.
I didn't consciously boycott the show. I just heard enough of it, and enough about it, to know it wasn't for me.
Before his death last week at age 65, Haa hosted his show for 23 years. For part of that time, he was a paid staffer of the county Republican Executive Committee. For all of it, he stuck to the party line — or so people tell me....