Michael Harrell is a local artist, brought to WFSU-TV’s attention by one of our viewers. Michael paints in both oils and watercolors and among his nautical themes are depictions of the oystermen of Florida and South Carolina. This video looks at that series of paintings. The thing that I found so beautiful about his work is his ability to capture a sense of time with his portrayal of light. You can find additional information about the artist at MichaelHarrellArt.com.
Our local oystermen, as you see in this video, typically harvest subtidal oyster reefs like those in the Apalachicola Bay. Michael Harrell also shows South Carolina oystermen harvesting intertidal reefs like those covered in this blog (i.e. Alligator Harbor). The South Carolina sites of the biogeographic oyster study are sampled by Jeb Byers’ group.
A few weeks ago we posted a video of a blue crab molting, and about the blue crab reproductive cycle. The man narrating the video was Leo Lovel. That video was an offshoot of a segment for WFSU-TV’s dimensions program, which we present here. As a commercial fisherman and restauranteur, many of the species he makes his living off of are residents of Salt Marsh and Oyster Reef habitats.
Clay (L) and Leo (R) Lovel outside of their business, the Spring Creek Restaurant.
I heard about Leo Lovel from Rick Ott, a friend of mine who owns a recording studio in Sopchoppy, FL. Rick was working on a project to record Leo’s books, The Spring Creek Chronicles 1 & 2, to audio files for books on tape or CD. Rick thought I might be interested in Leo’s short stories about his fishing and hunting experiences around the big bend, dating back to his childhood, so he gave me a copy of the first book. I read some of the stories and then arranged to meet Leo to talk about the books. At that meeting is where he told me about his idea to publish the All Florida Reader. Now, Leo’s day job is owner of a restaurant called Spring Creek Restaurant. It’s a family run business and the Lovel’s have cultivated a very loyal following throughout the southeast over the past 30+ years. They either catch the seafood themselves or they buy it fresh, only from local fishermen. It’s a pretty time consuming way to stock a seafood restaurant menu, but it’s the only way Leo Lovel will serve you a meal.
Back in the 90’s, Leo was also a commercial fisherman who was on the front line of the Florida net ban battle. Although it doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, that era is quietly passing into Florida’s history as those old-timers pass on. And that’s the unusual value I found in the stories that Leo took the time to put down on paper… these are first hand personal accounts of a specific area and people over a long period of time. But Leo took his book project a step further. He turned it into a tool in his personal attempt to help motivate local school kids to “want” to learn to read and write. That’s the All Florida Reader and I think that speaks volumes about Leo Lovel.
Leo's marina at Spring Creek Restaurant. Into here will drift boats carrying what will become dishes in the restaurant.
Here are two more poems by Dawn Evans Radford. In her first post, she depicted the day of an oysterman. Here we have a limerick about the oysters themselves, and a more serious piece on our relationship with our natural surroundings.
Dawn Evans Radford
Down in the bay lived a plump little oyster
whose hormone changes eventually forced her
to fly into a tizzy.
Cried she, I get dizzy
trying to decide if I’m a girl or a boyster.
In Yesterday’s post, Tanya Rogers wrote about an old-timer oysterman in Jacksonville whose local knowledge aided David Kimbro and his team in locating reefs to study. In today’s post, we take a poetic look at the life of an oysterman.
This is the first post by Dawn Evans Radford, a resident of Franklin County with deep roots in the area. She is a published writer of poetry, literary research, and fiction; her novel Oyster Flats won the 1993 Sherwood Anderson Award. Most recently she contributed to Unspoiled, a compilation in which Florida writers speak for the preservation of Florida’s wild coast and against offshore drilling. She is currently writing a second novel and, happily, contributing posts to this site.
We have some photos from the event, and you can see the turnout was good. The SAIL Bluegrass Ensemble played in the garden. It never ceases to amaze me how many young people in Tallahassee not only get into bluegrass but put on a good show. Inside, there were some artful cards made by LeMoyne students that could be obtained by donating, and which were intended to be sent to legislators so that people could express their concerns over offshore drilling in Florida. And then of course there was the art. Allison Jackson’s oil paintings were featured in our previous post. They depict scenes along the Forgotten Coast, or scenes featuring animals of the Forgotten Coast. Patrick Lane had some mixed media pieces, some of which are featured in the slideshow below. Their artwork will be sold and the proceeds split between LeMoyne Center for Visual Arts and two organizations, both of whom were present on Friday.