Trouble in Cedar Key: It looks like it just might happen

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By Gene Benedict

"It looks like it might just happen." Those are Anne's words a few days back. We were walking around Dock Street at sunup, Anne looking for her perfect photo, that special pose, that candid moment to catch in time on her camera. She's good with the camera, at capturing that single moment.

She was standing on the walkway looking at the big dock glancing towards the Captain's Table, "It just might happen." Again, someday soon, not that long off, we'll walk along the Big Dock, there with the droves, remembering the Dock as it was, seeing it as it now is. Forget that it took so long to get rebuilt, that it's way up in the air, that it's not made of wood on rotting and replaced pilings put there to shore it up.

We'll soon have the Big Dock back. A place for big boats to dock, for fishermen to fish, for tourists to wander. And gone will be the tiring parade of questions. "What happened to the dock?" "Will it be rebuilt?" "When will it be open?" And more.

Then there is the getting used to the massive concrete structure up in the air, the melancholy over the loss of the old wooden dock, witness to history, source of captivating tales.

Clyde and Duffy loved it, hanging out there, Clyde in his cowboy hat, covered in decorative long feathers, perennial cigar between his teeth. And Duffy, the small white, furry dog went everywhere with Clyde.

Duffy died and then came the second Duffy. The two took rest on an old wooden bench to the side as you approached the dock. Someone made a well-carved wooden plaque and placed it where they sat. Now they are gone. Hilde kept in touch for a while but now we have lost track of her.

Someone removed the plaque. It has disappeared. Was it more valuable to him than to the town and its memories?

The Dock had a history. Several boats have gone down while tied there, some by sailors unaccustomed to our waters, some during storms when captains chose to ride them out rather than move to safe harbor. One sailboat with mast up got tangled in the live overhead wires with a man on board. The Fire Department freed the mast, Chief Kenny in charge, during a windswept torrential downpour.

A former Navy Yard Patrol Boat, owned by the White Foundation and crewed by U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, was frequently tied off at the end of the Dock. Sadly it was later sold, and eventually moved to Corpus Christi, Tex.

A large two-master over eighty feet long came to port every few months, tying up to the dock for a couple days at a time. It was crewed by first-time offenders from inner cities of the Northeast. They served some of their time sailing, working hard, well-supervised by professionals who were sailors. Many of the offenders were homesick, seasick, teens wanting to be back in their cities, even if that meant time in jail.

The Dock was lighted at each end, overhead wires on poles down the length. Within days of replacement, the light at the end would be out. Sometime later, measured in weeks, the light would again be replaced only to go out a couple days later. Officer Ron of the Cedar Key Police on night foot patrols at that time found strange things on the Dock when the light was out. So, he wrote it up. The final solution came when the county sawed off the poles. Surprise.

The lights were soon replaced by elevated halogens secured under the Dock. Good solution. Then a brighter dock, much brighter!

As you can guess, the tales go on. If you'd like, we'll revisit them soon. Till then, join me on that eternal search for Trouble in Cedar Key.

E-mail: tnckgebe@yahoo.com