By JEFF KLINKENBERG, Published February 19, 2006
Solomon’s Castle, sometimes called Florida’s real Magic Kingdom, rises from a swamp in the middle of Hardee County nowhere. In the castle are many gnomes. They are pointy-headed gnomes carved out of wood. A man’s gnome is in his castle.
You ought to hear Howard Solomon talk about his gnomes. He goes on about them like a Borscht Belt comedian.
“I have made so many gnomes that I’ve learned their language. It’s called gnomenclature. If you give them a feather it’s a gnome de plume. If you put them on the stove it’s a gnome on the range. If you put them on a piano it’s a metrognome.”
I like to think Florida is a magical place — and here’s more evidence. This story about Gary Revell and how he harvests earthworms for his bait business is in my book “Alligators in B-Flat.’’ And here’s Maurice Rivenbark’s wonderful video that went along with it.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Rube Allyn’s Dictionary of Fishes was the first book with which I fell head over heels in love.
I discovered it at the same time I discovered a passion for fishing in 1956. As a curious first-grader, I was determined to learn the names of all the pan-sized fish I caught a few blocks away from home in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Allyn’s humble paperback, despite the crude drawings and fanciful text, became at least one barefoot Florida boy’s Bible.
In 2004, I wrote a column about my favorite Florida books. Dictionary of Fishes was the guilty pleasure on a list with a dozen serious offerings that included Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
Eventually I took my book list on the road and lectured in Florida cities south and north. At virtually every stop someone with graying hair would stand, stare me balefully in the eye and ask, “So where’s The Lion’s Paw?”
“Never heard of it.”
When I was a kid, my mother — the astonishing Beatrice Mary Grace O’Donnell Klinkenberg — was an avid reader of “Dear Abby” as published in The Miami News. I could always count on finding one of her columns cut out and taped to the refrigerator where I could easily read it and understand that mothers were always right and know-it-all sons always wrong. “Wake up and smell the coffee!” my mother often declared, as did Abby. Must have also been true for John Prine.