The “Scoop” – The Early Years of Shrimping on Ft. Myers Beach

AUTHORS NOTE: I wanted to apologize for the obvious lack of attention having been paid to this site during the last few months. I was going through a bit of personal drama, which has been resolved, so expect to see regular postings from this day forward : )

With the diverse population we have here on our island paradise, there are undoubtedly more stories than there are grains of sand on the beach and I’ve captured a lot of them at the Sand Paper. Such stories are important because they make up the fabric of who we are as a community. One tale is that of island historian Deacon “Scoop” Kiesel – who moved to Fort Myers Beach with his brothers shortly after World War II to cash in on a new kind of gold rush that had recently been discovered off our shores – pink gold that is – known as Florida Gulf Shrimp. Scoop, who throughout his long and storied existence has worn more hats than you can fit inside his 89 years of life, has agreed to tell me his tale, and the following is the first of several installments during which Scoop shared with our readers the his fascinating story. In this piece, Scoop shares with me the saga of how the shrimping industry came to Fort Myers Beach, and how his life would become forever linked to that pink gold.



South Florida Water Management District Makes Historic Vote

            On Monday, December 15th, 2008, the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) governing board convened for what would have been a regular meeting except for two things – a vote that was to occur on the acceptance of the Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan and the vote on whether or not to accept a contract to purchase 180,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar. The latter represented the largest land acquisition by a state government in our nation’s history, and before the board finally voted 4-3 in favor of the plan they listened to two days of testimony – including some 50 public comments – and deliberated for 4 hours. The decision was a landmark one for our state, and very emotional, as both the fate of a community and the future of the Everglades hung in the balance. I was there for both days of this historical meeting.



Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Barack Obama

Last night I watched as first my state, and then my country elected a person of color to the  office of President. Future generations will sing of the decisions that we made on this historic day, and I am proud to be an American this morning, to live in a land where everyone has a voice.

Sitting at a party given by a  man I am now proud to know as my friend – Commissioner Ray Judah – who was celebrating his own victory of winning the office of Lee County Commissioner for the 6th straight time, I watched as news footage rolled in from around the country. As the states turned blue, people on TV cried and sang. As my own state finally turned blue – making this the first time since the Dixiecrats that Florida has gone to a Democrat – my jaw dropped and I began to feel as if anything were possible. The old-timers, including my sweet Dad, will say that it is a sign that the damn Yankees have finally overrun Florida and it is time to go. That may be true, but Virginia and North Carolina went to Obama, too, showing that bigotry no longer has such a stranglehold on the Deep South.

John McCain, in the most eloquent concession speech I have ever witnessed, enouraged his followers to move forward and unite this country around our new president. I agree – if we are too accomplish anything, we must do it as a whole.

Congratulations to Ray Judah, to President-Elect Obama, and to my fellow citizens! Today, we write history.

Published in: on November 5, 2008 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Legendary Bluesman Plays on Fort Myers Beach

The Island Arts Foundation (IAF) is known for bringing some legendary talent to this Island. But they’ve really outdone themselves this time. Last Sunday afternoon, Leroy ‘Hog’ Cooper  appeared for the inaugural show at the IAF’s brand new Purple Heart Theater. Playing with Ray Charles – an American icon if there ever was one –  for more than 20 years certainly qualifies the Hog as a blues legend, and I spoke with the amenable Mr. Cooper this week about what life was like on the road with the late, great Ray Charles.


My Friend, Greg Watts – A High Voltage Life

Greg Watts is one of those people who is a friend to everybody. Self-effacing and unassuming, he listens to everyone’s problems, shows up to help out at everyone’s benefit or fundraiser and does his best – often at detriment to himself – to make sure that those he loves are happy. What many people do not know is that sweet Greg, with his corny jokes and compassionate nature, has done things in his life most can only dream of. Through what Greg in his modesty describes as a “fortunate series of lucky chances”, he used to model for Calvin Klein, travel the world as a famous roller skater, do stunt work for Hollywood and star as Cher’s love interest. Oh yeah, and then there’s the work he’s done as a musician and songwriter. I felt like it was high time everyone got to know the man behind the bass. This is the story of my friend, Greg Watts.