Day 503: Key West Chest

Laetitia chose Key West as the next Mind’s Eye Limerick Tours destination. The island was named Cayo Hueso during its period as a Spanish territory. The name translated means “bone cay” or “bone island,” a name derived from its use by the Native American predecessors as a burial place.

Two of Key West’s most famous residents were Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Hemingway moved there with his second wife, Pauline, in the late 1920s, and lived there off and on throughout the 1930s. While there, he worked on For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. He used depression-era Key West as the setting for his novel To Have and Have Not. Laetitia and her group visited Hemingway’s home on Whiteside Street. Hemingway was fond of polydactyl cats (those with extra toes). The house staff takes care of a number of these six- and seven-toed felines that live on the property.

Tennessee Williams was a frequent visitor to the island in the 1940s and purchased a home there in 1949. He is said to have worked on A Streetcar Named Desire while staying at the La Concha Hotel in 1947. Williams’ home is privately owned and not open for tours. Though Williams and Hemingway were sometimes in Key West at the same time, they allegedly only met once.

The Mind’s Eye group was scheduled to go on a sailboat sunset cruise, so Laetitia gave them some time off in the afternoon to go to the beach. She sat on a bar stool shaded by a thatched roof, sipping a piña colada. She was enjoying the gentle breeze and her view of blue water, white surf, sparkling sand, and gulls. She knew she would have to write a limerick, but was enjoying the scene and was in no hurry to get down to work. Then a limerick presented itself.

The beach bar was mostly filled with tourists, but there was one table of women from the local community. They were talking about a neighborhood lady of French descent. Mimi was in late middle age and unmarried, but loved children. When she saw kids playing in the neighborhood, she invited them to come up on her porch for lemonade and cookies. A brouhaha ensued when a neighborhood boy told his parents that he and several friends had been invited inside to see Mimi’s chest. Without talking to Mimi, the parents called the police, who investigated. They found that the chest in question was an ornate wooden trunk filled with interesting family treasures that her great grandparents had brought with them when they sailed from France.

Fascinated were boys in Key West
With Miss Mimi’s magnificent chest
Which they wanted to see
For it came cross the sea
In a ship with her forebears from Brest.

Day 502: Bed in Homestead

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, comprising about 25 percent of the original Everglades. It features marine and estuarine habitats, coastal lowlands, cypress and mangrove swamps, pine and tropical hardwood forests, freshwater sloughs, and marl prairies, the latter characterized by soil lime-rich from seashell remains. Laetitia and her group spent the day in the park. She booked ranger-guided tram and boat tours and then led a hike herself. In the late afternoon, they headed east toward their evening’s destination.

Homestead, Florida, is the second oldest city in Dade County. Miami, 35 miles to the northwest, is older. Homestead is a small city with about 32,000 residents. Laetitia and her group walked down the city’s historic Main Street. The gossip at happy hour was about Freddie, a local man and Joan, a local woman who was a bit naïve.

When Freddie who lived in Homestead
Asked Joan to go with him to bed
She thought he meant to sleep
And said, “I can’t count sheep,
When I’m tired, I loose track in my head.”

Day 501: Cape Coral Sorrel

Cape Coral is a city of approximately 155,000 residents near Fort Myers. It has more than 400 miles of canals—more than any other city in the world. Laetitia booked a half-day cruise on a private yacht for her group that included sightseeing, wildlife watching, and lunch on board. In the afternoon, she arranged with a local stable for a trail ride in the area. Afterward the group stopped near the stable at a bar that was frequented by the horsey set. A bartender’s story about Bob and Kay, two of the bar’s regular patrons, provided the fodder for the limerick of the day.

T’was the goal of young Bob from Cape Coral
To make love on the back of his sorrel
But his girlfriend, Kay
Preferred her own bay
So instead of lovemaking, they’d quarrel.

Day 500: Yeehaw Junction

Leaving Ocala, Laetitia took her group to the Bok Tower Gardens near Lake Wales, Florida. The centerpiece of the 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary is its “Singing Tower,” a Gothic Revival and Art Deco structure in pink and gray marble rising 205 feet above one of the highest hills on the Florida Peninsula. Housed in the top of the tower is a 60-bell carillon played daily. Edward Bok, editor of Ladies Home Journal, and his wife, Mary financed the construction of the tower and gardens in the 1920s. Early pictures of the garden show flamingoes in some of the garden reflecting pools, but efforts to establish a colony there failed. They are a south Florida bird, and can’t tolerate the central Florida winters.

The tour group spent much of the day there enjoying the lush greenery, the reflecting pools, and the birds. At the appointed time, they listened to a carillon recital. The gardens are also home to abundant grey squirrels. When Laetitia had been here as a child on a Florida trip with her grandmother, the squirrels came right up to them and posed for photographs. However when Laetitia and her grandmother walked on, the squirrels became aggressive and scolded them loudly. When they continued down the path they understood why. There was a stand that sold peanuts for feeding the squirrels. They had gone down the path in the wrong direction and thus were empty-handed.

The group was spending the evening in Yeehaw Junction, a town of 240, named after a Native American word that means “wolf.” The town began as a trading post where a couple of trails crossed in the late nineteenth century. It was in the middle of ranch country and was called “Jackass Crossing.” Later, when highways replaced the trails, the trading post morphed into a bordello called the “Desert Inn.” When Florida became interested in attracting northern tourists for the winter, they changed the name from Jackass Crossing to Yeehaw Junction. The Desert Inn is now a restaurant and bar with a historical marker in front. Laetitia went to the bar. Later, her group was joining her for dinner at the restaurant, and they were then going to hear a bluegrass band perform at a nearby resort. The limerick of the day grew out of some bar gossip about Dan, a local man, and Jan, who had a plan.

When Janice went to Yeehaw Junction
To meet Dan at a town social function
She lacked underwear
For she hoped to ensnare
Him through lust and endearments with unction.