Saturday, January 13, 2007

Babysitting On The Dock In My Old Backyard.

The view from my backyard when I was the resident NPS Law Enforcement Ranger at Fort Matanzas National Monument. That's looking west across the intracoastal waterway. The squarish building in the distance is Fort Matanzas, a 1740's era stone watchtower that protected the back door into St. Augustine.

(These are old scanned prints ...sorry for the quality)

One of the benefits (besides the HUGE paycheck and occasional danger) of being a Ranger is you get to live in some of the prettiest places on the planet ... not for free by the way, the NPS charges you rent. At least they did in the Reagan years when I was doing this.

These pics are of the last duty station and my last year as a Ranger before switching careers. I had transferred back to Florida to a sweet little position at a quiet park, near home, with ocean beach on one side and the intracoastal on the backside. After 5 PM, the park gate shut and the park became ours until 8 AM the next morning.

As a new Dad, I had become quite adept and enamored of babysitting my tiny new daughter Katie. Occasionally such babysitting duties coincided with a rising tide and the resulting flounder bite beneath the park boatdock outside our park housing.

The current flowing in from nearby Matanzas Inlet carried shrimp and mullet which the flounder would ambush as they drifted under the dock. I would ambush the flounder with a jig tipped with a bit of shrimp.

I found with a little practice, I could balance babysitting Katie with catching flounder in my back yard. Sure, sometimes she smelled like fish afterwards, but babies produce such "interesting" smells anyway ... nobody seemed to notice.
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18 comments:

LauraHinNJ said...

I have this mental image of a playpen on a sunlit dock and you hanging yoour feet over the edge with pole in hand.

Hurricane Teen said...

Well, she's definitely a Florida girl. Rangers make a lot of money? I never would have imagined...

robin andrea said...

I know you love teaching, but it must have been really hard to walk away from that. What a beautiful place.

roger said...

i love that picture of katie. it sent me off in a reverie of times with my own daughters when they were very young. the fish are nice too.

Rurality said...

I thought I had been to your fort but it may have been the other fort instead. I just ran across my old St Augustine pics a few days ago... will have to check!

vicki said...

Mmm. I saw flounder in Alaska but some of them weighed 70--80#. These don't look very- ah- big? I'll scan a picture (at the time I was more interested in the rugged and handsome fisherman). They surely are ugly fish with that one eye roaming all over their face, where God didn't put it. But I'm with you, there's nothing better tasting.

When I was in Alaska, eyeballing fishermen, a woman friend I met there said, "Here in Alaska, when it comes to men, the odds are good but the goods are odd."

I think this picture of tiny Katie on the dock is the sweetest picture I have ever seen here, FC.

Sarge Charlie said...

Nice post, I love St Augustine, made the mistake of coming there in August one time. We are located south of you, West Palm Beach, spend the winter here and the summer in the Mountains of North Georgia. You have some great photos, I will be stopping back by to visit a spell.

Floridacracker said...

Laurahinnj,
A playpen on the dock? We actually did do that...my wife insisted on more between the baby and the water. She's cautious that way.
I do have a pic of Katie and a full grown labrador retriever in a playpen together.

HTeen,
Oh yeah. It was her birth that brought me home. That was sarcasm, the part about the $$$ ...teaching was a step up...imagine.

Robin,
One of those life decisions you anguish over, back and forth, and then (if you're me) you go for it. Cool thing is, you and I own this place together and anyone can go there ... between 8 and 5.

roger,
thanks, glad it sent you. daughters...they do tug at the heart... sons too for that matter.

Rurality,
You were ... both of those forts are mine. I worked at Castillo and Fort Matanzas.

Vicki,
Every once in a while that fact that you are a snowbird does come out! :)
In Alaska you were seeing halibut which can get over 800lbs and are like flounder on steroids! These are summer flounder, a different species. The world record for this species is only 22 pounds, 7 ounces. Those flounder in the picture are bragging size for the species!
On the other hand, your kind comment about Katie totally erases this snowbird faux pas.

Sarge,
Welcome!
Thanks for commenting. Your migration pattern is a real common Florida plan. Sounds like the best of both worlds.

threecollie said...

Sweet picture of Katie! It is a lucky child that gets to share their parent’s life and interests right from the start.
And thanks for the peek inside your tackle box. Looks just like Alan’s on a good day.

Floridacracker said...

ThreeCollie,
LOL! You WOULD notice that old thing! I think I kept that box for about 15 years before I finally got a new one.

vicki said...

Well. I did say, right upfront, that I was paying more attention to the fisherman than the fish. Halibut. Right. I knew that. And they have that goofy wandering eye problem, too. Charles Kuralt's favorite halibut restaurant is a hole in the wall in Haines, Alaska. Down here I just eat grouper toes with my sweetie. Wandering eye is a thing of the past.

Laura said...

What a beautiful sunrise! I'd agree with Robin Andrea, that job must have been hard to walk away from, but I can understand the reasons why you had to. Maybe it will make a nice side job in your retirement?

Very glad you shared these pics with us, FC. they were well worth the scanning time!

swamp4me said...

Once a ranger, always a ranger. I know what you're saying about the money - that comment made me laugh out loud.

Here we're lucky in the fact that we aren't moved unless we want to be. Treebeard has been a ranger at the same park for the past 26 years. (Our kids grew up in the park housing so you know they're tough!) I'll never make 26 years at my park, but I do intend to stay put until I retire.

Oh, and by the way, you weren't "babysitting," you were parenting :)

Floridacracker said...

Vicki,
You are on a roll! Mrs. FC and I are chuckling ... grouper toes? toes? Grouper fingers I know, grouper toes ...ROFL.

Laura,
Okay, I'm not grading or anything, but that's looking west... um, it's a sunset after a light rain.
:)
There is a federal refuge 15 minutes from here, but they hire fewer folks and have a tiny budget. Maybe that will change with changes in DC. Maybe not.

Swampy,
Thank you for correcting me. That WAS parenting not babysitting. Right you are.
This park housing was a CCC vintage coquina structure with heart pine floors over the tiny visitor center. Pretty nifty.

LauraHinNJ said...

I think I must have been distracted by your tackle box too - didn't even register that as a baby asleep there on the dock. Sorry!

Deb said...

That picture is precious...I think back on my babies and I don't recall them sleeping calmly enough for me to do anything like fishing!

SophieMae said...

Gosh, it had to be super-hard to leave that place! What a great place/way to bring up that sweet adorable baby. They made you pay rent?!

Nice looking flounder! Have you mastered the art of snagging sheepshead? Mmmmmm!!!

Floridacracker said...

Laurahinnj,
Funny. I thought you didn't see her either, but I wasn't sure.

Deb,
Put them on a floating dock gently swaying with the tide, add in a warm breeze off the ocean, and the lap of waves against the pilings. They will sleep.

Sophie,
Almost all Rangers who live in a park pay rent. The rent is based on the surrounding area too, so it's not cheap. Rangers (like teachers) do what they do for reasons beyond money.
Catching sheepshead 101:
Set the hook just BEFORE they bite!
:)