I finally found the album on our trip to Florida from when I was five. A lot of the space is taken up with brochures and leaflets from things like the jai alai games and greyhound racing that my parents went to with my cousins. There are also the notes that my mom left for the babysitter that watched me and my cousins’ children those nights. There are also post cards from places near Savannah that I do not remember at all, such as Fort McAllister and Tybee Island Light. I don’t know if I ever actually went to those places or if they were in a package of Savannah post cards (all but eight of the photographs in that album were post cards) and my mom just included them.
One thing I sort of remember is our trip to the Florida Keys. My mom always told me that we got about halfway down the Keys and my dad got frustrated and we turned around. However, this photo album has a leaflet from Ernest Hemingway’s home, so it certainly looks like we made it all the way to Key West.
I remember parts of that trip. My mom told me that we were going to visit some islands. My only frame of reference for “island” was the television show “Gilligan’s Island,” so I basically spent the whole trip looking for lagoons and sandy beaches. I didn’t realize until years later that every time we were on land for most of that trip, even without any visible shoreline, was still on an island.
My now-ex, Alex, and I went to Key West in 2003, and so I have better memories of that trip. We drove down, stayed the night, and then toured the island the next day. On that trip, we went to the Southernmost Point in the Continental United States, Key West Lighthouse, and we returned to Ernest Hemingway’s house (though I didn’t realize that I had been there before). And, since Alex has always been fond of animals, we spent quite a lot of time stalking the gypsy chickens of Key West.
Early on the morning of our trip to Key West, I heard a vague sound that sure sounded like a rooster in the distance. I told my now-ex that I had heard a rooster and he doubted me. Then I heard it again. This time he heard it, too. So we headed out for our adventure and there they were. Chickens. Everywhere. No one is really sure how they got there. It is likely that they are descendants of several waves of chickens, from birds brought by early European settlers to animals released once cockfighting became illegal. The gypsy chickens are numerous and reproduce quickly, so the Key West Wildlife Center have begun exporting them to the Florida mainland. As they are feral, they are actually excellent predators of insects and other pests. Several farms on the mainland use Key West gypsy chickens as part of their pest control plan. Alex, who was three at the time, had just begun learning to take pictures, so we gave him a disposable camera (he went through several on this trip) and let him have at it.