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Real Florida

  1. Gaping crusaders help protect Florida's bats

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — Bat people develop superior eyesight. They often develop acute hearing. Sometimes they develop painful cricks in their neck. Bat people are always looking up.

    Bats stream out of what might be the state’s oddest tourist attraction: the two bat houses at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The houses shelter roughly 400,000 bats of several species.
  2. Light but lethal, stray fishing line takes toll on seabirds


    CLEARWATER — On a sunny spring morning the mangroves bustled with life. Nesting birds flapped wings, hopped and preened amongst a cacophony of clucks, grunts and peeps. It was one of those days when Ann Paul and Mark Rachal were confident their jobs were the best in Florida.

    A brown pelican swoops by Clearwater Harbor I-25 Bird Colony. One of 29 rookeries in the bay area, it is among the most productive.
  3. Living in Florida can be a real pain


    It can begin early if you grow up a little wild and more than a little barefoot in Florida: Something is going to bite you. Something is going to sting you. At the very least, you are going to touch something so horrible, and so repugnant, that you'll be scarred and scared for life. Decades later, while working in the …

  4. Oh yeah: Hanging with the Beatles in Miami in 1964

    Human Interest

    Sharon Alford receives the best Christmas present in the history of Christmas presents, a boss portable hi-fi with fold-out speakers. A sophomore at Hialeah High near Miami, she can now listen to her new Beatles records endlessly. Lying in bed in February 1964, she studies the photo of beautiful Paul on …

    John, Paul, George and Ringo take a dip in 13-year-old Billy Pollak’s pool during some downtime in Miami Beach. Billy is sworn to secrecy about his guests, which kills him.
Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images (1964)
  5. Remembering Patrick Smith, author of beloved Florida novel, 'A Land Remembered'

    Human Interest

    Born in Mississippi, a former Studebaker salesman, Patrick Smith sat down at his Merritt Island dining room table three decades ago and on his trusty manual typewriter banged out a novel that many Floridians regard with the affection usually reserved for the family Bible.

    Patrick Smith, who wrote seven novels including A Land Remembered, is pictured in the living room of his Merritt Island home in May 2012.
  6. Rattler's deadly bite sank into psyche of famous snake handler

    Human Interest


    Joe Wasilewski has handled thousands of snakes during the last half century. He has suffered more than a dozen venomous bites, including a few that led to the emergency room. "If you're an electrician,'' he tells people, "you expect a shock every once in a while. If you handle enough reptiles, you're …

    Joe Wasilewski, right, and former Miami Herald photographer Tim Chapman brought an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake to the lower Florida Keys for a film shoot for National Geographic in early November. Later that month, the snake sank its fangs into Wasilewski’s arm as he tried to return it to its cage after cleaning. South Florida’s longtime reptile wrangler has no hard feelings. “It was my own fault,” said Wasilewski, 61. “I got careless. It’s not the snake’s fault.”
Courtesy of Tim Chapman
  7. Joe's Stone Crab closes in on a century of serving Florida's famed seafood delicacy

    Human Interest


    What would Joe Weiss think? Would he even recognize it now? When he fried his first fish at his sandwich joint about a century ago customers had to take a boat from Miami to reach the sandspur-covered barrier island. Inside the rickety eatery, sweating profusely, hungry patrons swatted away ferocious …

    Customers eat lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab Take-Away. The Take-Away is a recent addition to the restaurant, which has grown substantially over the years and has become a Miami Beach landmark.
  8. Fight Doctor's last round

    Human Interest


    In his studio, Ferdie Pacheco stares at the canvas and picks up his brush. Another friend from his youth has passed away. Time to summon a memory.

    Many of his own vibrant paintings fill the walls of the Miami home of 85-year-old Dr. Ferdie Pacheco and his wife, Luisita.
  9. Meet Miss Martha, the oyster-shucking survivor of Apalachicola

    Human Interest


    Miss Martha wills her hands to do the work, which is shucking one oyster after another, a hundred oysters, five hundred oysters, a thousand oysters, day after day and year after year.

  10. Sound advice: 'Drop on Down in Florida,' 'The Bouzouki of George Soffos'

    Human Interest

    I've always thought no state boasts such diverse music as our own. On my iPod you'll find songs from Greenville's Ray Charles and Gainesville's Tom Petty. I've got Orange Blossom Special, a famous bluegrass stomper from Gladesman Ervin Rouse, and Zora Neale Hurston's a cappella rendition of an old Bahamian tune …