#17 The Adventures to Great Soap & How to Find it: The bravest uncle, A true Floridian
Updated: May 2
This is about the bravest uncle of them all, my uncle Sonny.
There has been a long running joke for years about my uncle Sonny in our town among many that have known him. "Give Sonny a can of gasoline and a toothbrush, send him out on the woods and he will cook you a 5 course meal". The funny thing about that is its TRUE. Born the youngest of 5 boys, Sonny is hands down the most knowledgeable & adventurous of all in our family. There are 2 people in my family that I credit for all of my knowledge to when it comes to the backwoods & waters of Florida. My Dad & Uncle Sonny taught me all that I know and encouraged me to learn on my own. One of the most recent adventures was going blue crabbing with Uncle Sonny. He knew all the secret fishing holes and hunting spots. When it came to hunting, cooking, and cutting loose Uncle Sonny was a pro. I credit him many times for being the only one in our family to truly want for nothing, just asking for the basics so he could enjoy what was truly important to him. He was always at home among the woods, a bonfire, country music on the radio and a friend or loved one to cook for.
One thing that I was always Intrigued with him was he never seemed scared of anything. Years ago we went fishing in a lake in the middle of nowhere (again, secret fishing spot!) We began to see alligators. exclaiming that "Fishing is shot until the gators leave" he removed his shirt & shoes and dove into the water. In one breath, he swam underwater for what had to be 5 to 7 minutes. I started to panic, My Dad began to chuckle. "He is going RIGHT TOWARDS the gators! " I whined. My dad kept smiling and scanning the water in silence. "Watch, hes ok" Dad assured me. Minutes dripped by like the sweat on my brow. "Bubbles ! " I said. "watch, there he is !" my Dad pointed out. A mere ripple appeared. My uncle surfaced, swimming slowly. He eventually returned to the shore. "Well, the gators are gone. I told them not to hang around. They know better to ruin a day of fishing with me" Uncle Sonny said in between heavy breaths. He reached down in the cooler for a drink. Plopped down in the dirt with his classic wide smile. "grab your pole, they're gone" he said to me. This isn't the only time he went to go have a talk with nature in my presence. The fish & crabs that day filled our crab basket, we all ate well that night. To this day, I don't know where the alligators went, I don't know what he said to them. I wish he could have taught me the secret.
I always get mixed responses to a quick story when the topic arises, People are always looking for a good shrimp dish when they come to Florida. I always joke with them that "You wont get fresher than just out of the water". People always smile and I tell them the quick story of the shrimp. Englewood where I grew up used to have an old pier that was free to use and enjoy 24 hours a day. We would go a few times a year and spend the evening fishing. Uncle Sonny would suspend a Coleman lantern a foot or two off the water. It would attract shrimp. He would slowly skim his long handled net in the water and catch the shrimp. "Best shrimp you'll ever have" holding one up for me to see. In 2 motions, he removed the shell and vein, handing it to me still twitching.
"Eat it!" my uncle exclaimed. I looked at him & then my dad in shock. " Eat it quick! before the salt water dries" my Dad said. I trusted both of them so I threw this LIVE shrimp in my mouth, chewing and swallowing it fast as I could. I could feel myself turning green in the hills. They laughed at me and offered another. I asked if they were jerking my chain. The answer was "No" out of the both of them. "Freshest You'll eat" They both agreed. They really weren't wrong. Would I do that all the time ? No. Would I encourage someone else to try it? yes.
I have so many Uncle stories, I could fill a book. I feel lucky to have had uncles who are all every different.
Sadly, Sonny passed a few years ago unexpectedly. It broke many of us in our family, he was the adventurous and comedic glue that heald our family together. I cherish the love and adventures we shared.
My uncle was quoted once in an interview for the local Herald Tribune " Life is a bowl of cherries, just don't choke on the pits"
I always took that as Life is a great gift, dont get hung up on the small parts that arent so great.