Gnomeman’s land

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.”

‘The Lion’s Paw’ by Robb White holds its grip on old Florida.

Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer, 
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.”