What a wonderful month this has been on The Gulf, punctuated by good company and glorious views. Although we didn’t drive around to explore the area beyond our usual comfort zones this year, I did take a tour through the evolution of the The Gulf through the eyes of a marvelous historian Jack E. Davis and his new book.
The Gulf is a thick, 500+ page paperback, that is a treasure trove of information for those with an affinity for this special body of water and its surround. Davis tells the story of The Gulf largely through the developers who created the human habitat off its seas, and he views The Gulf largely through an American lens. One important lesson that he imparts is that although school textbooks count thirteen British colonies caught up in the war for American independence, there were really fifteen.
It’s not that Betsy Ross didn’t know how to count. It’s that the two Gulf colonies of East Florida and West Florida were left out of the equation. Spain originally controlled the Gulf coast west of the Mississippi, and Britain to its east, except for New Orleans. The Indians were viewed as part of the landscape and their rights never respected. So the conventional 13 colonies, the Brits added Nova Scotia to West and East Florida to complete their control of the North American Atlantic Coastline. But American textbooks tended to discount West and East Florida, as these two colonies remained loyal to the king during the Revolution, and hence technically anti-American. It wasn’t until 1819 that the U.S. formally acquired Florida as a territory and united the West and East colonies into one. Florida became the 27th state of the U.S. in 1845.
Aside from the human explorers and developers, the story of The Gulf can be told through its vegetation and non-human occupants. Among the non-humans, the more odd-looking occupants (to us) are the pelicans. The Gulf witnesses two of the world’s eight pelican species, the browns year-round and the whites who fly in for the winter. You might say that the white Pelicans are the original snowbirds. I very much enjoyed Davis’s citation of Dixon Lanier Merritt’s catchy limerick:
Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week.
But I’m darned if I know how the helican.
Of course our Pelican friend from his perch on Pier 60, Florida’s southwestern-most extension into the water off Clearwater Beach, has his share of breathtaking sunsets. But we humans savor this view as well, our favorite vantage point being the balcony off 1107 in the Sandpearl Residences, with the ground view from “Tate Island” being a close second.
And lastly, a tip of the cap to Colt Clark, his silky voice and sumptuous guitar, while sipping a margarita in tribute to this lovely territory and month.