August "Gus" Muench oral history interview

August "Gus" Muench oral history interview

Material Information

August "Gus" Muench oral history interview
Guidry, Joe J
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Digital Scholarship Services - Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program


Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
letter ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )


General Note:
Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Joe J. Guidry.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
E21-00007 ( USFLDC DOI )
e21.7 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information



This item has the following downloads:

Full Text
xml version 1.0
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd leader ntm 22 Ka 4500controlfield tag 008 s flunnn| ||||ineng datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a E21-000072 USFLDC DOI0 245 August "Gus" Muench oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Joe J. Guidry.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.1 600 Muench, August7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local700 Guidry, Joe J.710 University of South Florida.b Library.Digital Scholarship Services Digital Collections.Oral History Program.773 t Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program Oral History Project4 856 u

xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
idx 0
time 00:00:0.0
text Joe Guidry (JG): This is Joe Guidry on February 8th, interviewing Gus Muench in his home in Ruskin, and hes on little Manatee river, a beautiful place here. Gus, when were you born and raised?
August Muench (AM): Well, I was born in Tampa, June 26, 1936. So, Im 80 years old now.
JG: Did you go to Hillsborough High School?
AM: I graduated from Hillsborough High SchoolI went to Hillsborough High School and graduated in 1955. I think Jan Platt graduated in 54, I believe, maybe.
JG: Yes. Shes 80, I was wondering if you went to school with Jan.
AM: Well, my problem was I didnt like school. I think my mother spent more time at school than I did, because I failed half the first grade, then I failed half the second grade, so it took me three years to get through the first two grades. And Id run away from school, and Id want to go fish in the river. I lived near the river.
JG: So, you loved the water for your entire life.
AM: And I didnt like the school. I liked the riverI liked to be outside.
JG: How long has your family been in Hillsborough County?
AM: Well, dad was born in Plant City, and they had their homesteadwhere Dad grew up was across from the Floriland Theater drive-in theater. I guess it was the Floriland? Out on Florida Avenue. And right now, that homestead is where the post office is at, right there on Florida Avenue.
JG: So, he was a farmer then? And his parents?
AM: No, he worked for the post office.
JG: Oh, he worked for the post office.
AM: His dad worked for the post office, and then my dad joined the post office and worked for the post office too. And then, hemy dad went to the University of Tampa and played football with Rudy Rodriguez and some others thereCrockett Farnell.
JG: Mm-hm.
AM: In fact, my dad made little all American playing football at Tampa U. He wanted me to be a football player, but I justI didnt have any interest, you know? I played at Hillsborough some, but I didnt the power. I wasnt interested that much, you know? But it was good discipline. It was good discipline for me. I really appreciate it now that I look back on it.
JG: So, your family has been in Hillsborough County for generations.
AM: Right. In fact, my grandmother on my mothers side used to own the property where the Aris Diner was located at the University of Tampayou remember the Aris Diner on Kennedy?
JG: Yeah.
AM: That was her property there, and she had a rooming house, a boarding house there. And thats where my dad met my mother, was at that boarding house, because he would eat there. Thats how come he met my mother.
JG: Aw, thats so good. Did you go to college?
AM: I started for six months but decided Id rather work outside or do something else.
JG: And you went to work
AM: At General Telephone Company. Well, I started at Peninsular Telephone Company back in 56, and worked there until General Telephone merged withwell, actually, I take that back. Peninsular was bought out by General Telephone, and then General Telephone merged with Bell-Atlantic to make Verizon. Thats how Verizon came along. But I retired, I was General Telephone Company.
JG: Yeah, you worked your entire career there, but you also
AM: I was crabbing on the side, fishing on the side here, and decided Id rather fish than work for the phone company. So, I retired. But I was crabbing at nighttime, and fishing, and hauling crabs to Tampa when I go to work. And it was just a lifestyle that I enjoyed.
JG: What was the bay like? What was Hillsborough County like when you were growing up and when you first started crabbing?
AM: Uh, I have to go back to my childhood when we talk about what the bay was like. I lived in Seminole Heights on North Street, and at the end of North Street was a little park, a little city park there, and they had a little eight-foot boat chained up on the river there. And I fished in the river, and I had a little two and half horse kicker I put on my bicycle, and go down to the river and spend all day on the river. I was like a river rat. And I could go all the way up to the dam, and at that time, they were dumping the sewer in the river, okay? They were treating it with alum, but it made itit was white. And that was back when polio was going strong too, at that time.
But it was quite interesting. Id eat the crabs and the fish out of the river with the sewer being dumped into and I didnt think anything about it. But there was a lot of crabs then, and we used to go out to Davis Causewayit was called Davis Causeway back then, not Courtney Campbell, and get crabs out there at nighttime with buckets and lanterns, and catch speckled trout in the wintertime, along Davis Causeway. It was great fun for a kid growing up.
JG: And despite the sewer being dumped in there, the bay was in pretty good shape?
AM: It seemed to be.
JG: There were a lot fewer people.
AM: The dredging really affected the bay, I think. I dont know if you remember, but there was a big shellthey were mining shell in the bay at one time, where the channel was at? And that shell was brought in over near North Boulevard, where the bridge was at, there was a big shell mound.
JG: I remember that.
AM: Okay, there was a big shell mound there. And that shell came from Tampa Bay. And they were mining it out there, digging it up and bargein fact, that property there now is vacant. I think theyre going to do something with it commercially one day.
JG: Id forgotten about that. So, youve seen enormous changes in landscape and things through the years.
AM: Ive seen a change in the environment of the bay, yes. I could say there seemed to bethere was (sic) more crabs than there are now. There were more crabs back then.
JG: There were more?
AM: Yes. In fact, I used to sell my softshell crab that I was catching to Robert Richards there on the Seabreeze. And Robert was telling me how he saw a change. He said that when he first started shrimping, he would pull his nets between along Davis Island there, in that channel, and he would pull up tons and tons of oak leaves in his net. Okay, well thats detritus. Thats detritus. At the same time, he was catching a lot of crabs and shrimp in the bay.
So there was a change there because he stopped catching those leaves in the trap. Because of his netsbecause of the development taking place in Tampa. And so, when that happened, when we lost that detritus, or a lot of people call it nitrogen, that was affecting the bay, but actually, I think that was helping the bay. It was helping the bay. Because thats food forshrimp and crabs eat detritus. Detritus has bacteria on it, and thats food for shrimp and crabs. So, we lost a food source, you might say, because we dont have all that runoff that we used to have. And theres comments saying its bad, but I dont know how bad it is. I think its good.
JG: Well, you saw things changing for the worse. Have you seen areas where its gotten better too? I mean, did it go down and then come back up? I mean, theyre generally saying seagrasseswe have more seagrasses now than we did 30 years ago.
AM: I look at the crab population and how its doing, but then, Im not an expert on crabs. I catch crabs, and I have concerns about them. But as far as saying that, you know, its bad compared to what it was, I think it is. But then, Im told, Hey, you know, its not. But it just may be Tampa Bay. You know, I look at Tampa Bay as every time a new person moves around, moves on Tampa Bay, it takes a hit. Maybe just a small hit, but from the runoff pollution, and from extra gas, and everything, the runoff pollution, it takes a hit. Maybe small, but when you start adding all that up, growth does make an impact to Tampa Bays water quality.
One of the things that Ive noticed here in the Little Manatee River this year, is that the river turned brown. Never saw that beforewell, I did last year, it turned brown too at a certain time. It was when we had a lot of rain, and it believe it turned brown because of the row crops, increased row crops in the upper reaches of the Little Manatee River. And Im not sure what the impacts going to be, but what kind of chemicals were runoff in those row crops? Into the Little Manatee River? And also, you got the south prong that goes into Manatee County. The row crop. But row crop production has increased on the Little Manatee River, and Im not sure what the impact is going to be.
JG: Have you also seen an impact from the increased number of people using the bay? You know, recreation and?
AM: Yes. One of my pet peeves about people moving to the bay or on the river or creeks is shoreline wildlife corridor. I went and introduced language for the Hillsborough comprehensive plan, SWC Shoreline Wildlife Corridor. And I was actually giving awards to people who protect their mangroves on the river for two years. After two years and six awards, I couldnt find anybody else that didnt cut their mangroves. Everybody wants to cut their mangroves. We have an ego problem, I think, as far as humans, we want to show off our houses and see as far as we can, but we fail to realize the importance of edge habitat. Edge habitat is that habitat along the shoreline that is productive for fish, wading birds, animals, uplandand we dont understand that. And so, we cut it all down and then we have erosion into the rivers and the creeks and the bay, and then we have a loss of habitat. Thats the probably thethat edge habitat is the last habitat we have because weve cleared all the uplands for houses and then we go put our seawalls in and destroyed all the remaining habitat, that edge habitat. Its very important.
JG: How did you initially get involved in the environmental effort? I know youre out there crabbing and love the bay, but then, you decided to take another step.
AM: I guess it happened with the uhback in 86, being on the water all the time, I saw the Indian mounds out there, and I decided we need to buy an Indian mound. So, I proposed that we buy the Indian mound. And I went to you, Joe, and said, Hey, Im gonna take my boys down and do a canoe trip from Manatee County and taketo show the importance of the Indian mound, and
JG: You went from Manatee County to
AM: Yes. Went underneath the Skyway, the small bridge, and then we camped on the island down there, Port Manatee, which you cant do it now, but we camped overnight there. And then came on up and took pictures of kids fish while we had a canoe, and thats how we took those pictures and came up through there.
JG: I remember that. How old were your sons then?
AM: Oh, 14, 12.
JG: That must have been quite a memory.
AM: Yeah. In fact, thats probably between you, Joe, and Frank Sargent, yall got me involved in this environment issue. And thats the truth of the matter because I was writing letters. I dont know, I guess thats why you told me to take some pictures because Id been writing letters about things thatd been happening in the environment. And Frank Sargent, he turned me in for the Chevron Conservation Award, and then, your article. And I got involved in ELAPP. You know, it was 86 that you wrote the letterarticle about, we need to buy again, Trust, Try Again I think it was called. Lets try again to tax ourselves, to buy environmentally sensitive land. And then, the next year in 87, Jan Platt picked up on it and proposed it, and the commissionthe Board of County Commissioners passed that, to have ELAPP. And then we went out and sold it to the public to pay. How about voting for this? And it passed. And so thats how the ELAPP program started, was Jan Platt.
JG: Did you ever think that you were going to make in that canoe trip, that it would lead to uh this program thats been around for over 20 years now? Thirty years it is.
AM: No, but it has changed my life, being involved in it. You know, you cant appreciate environment unless you get involved in it. You and I wouldnt be here, Joe, if it wasnt for the environment. And so we dont really consider it, but you have to get involved with it. You have to go out there and plant trees, and sea grass, and oyster bars, and then you startit startsits a learning process. Were not taught that in school. You know, were not taught that in school. It has to be taught through the family values, camping. Thats whats great about camping, is you learn so much about it. I went camping with my dad so many places in Florida. And thatsit started out at a young age I guess. I guess I started out at a young age being involved in the environment. It takes a lifetime to learn it. Its a shame we cant learn it overnight.
JG: Yeah. When you began to push for ELAPP, did you run into many obstacles? Was there much opposition?
AM: We didnt really. I think we started out at the very beginning, the board passed it. We took, I dont know how many brochures to supermarkets, different restaurants, and they passed them across the counter when people were, you know, payingbuyingpaying their bill. They would pick up the brochure, you know. Phyllis Velanski was in charge of that group of us that were pushing for the ELAPP program. And we met at the county parks.
JG: And have you been pleased with how the program has worked?
AM: Oh yes. The programELAPP has worked very well. I dont see any problems with it.
JG: Every once in a while weve had a commissioner say, well were taking property off of the tax rolls, or this is land thats not doing anything, or we need to manage. Usually that ityou know, it hasnt been a very common thing but we do have commissioners that say that or candidates.
AM: Right.
JG: But youve never seen that to be a
AM: No. I have not beenIm on the ELAPP committee, okay, and with Jan Smith, who has been the president for I dont know how long. But uh, we have a group of citizens who get involved in that, looking at different properties and evaluating them. The thing that Im interested in today is, um we had Commissioner Stacy White create the Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award program. And thats going to award one person, every year, conservationist of the year, okay.
Whats going to happen? Whats going to happen? It hasnt happened yet. In fact, I think [at] this next commissioner meeting is going to be brought up that we can give two thousand dollars to that person to donate back to their ELAPP property of their choice. In other words, they dont get the money, but they get the
JG: Thats a great idea.
AM: They get to donate the money towards an ELAPP site that they want to donate it to. And that would go towards, you know, parking, signage, picnic tables, and trails of that particular site. And so were going to do that every year. Now its supposed to come up for the board, I think on the 15th for approval, I believe, this month. This next board meeting. So this off the record, but anyway.
and I said, you know, its not right that I dont pay back something. You know, for that 40 years of catching a resource and not giving something back. And so today Im able to take what I make on Guss Crabby Adventures and the profits, then send it back. And I have a goal of one hundred thousand dollars to give to the ELAPP program.
JG: Wow.
AM: And if I dont fall out the boat and drown before then, you know.
JG: When you um, in the initial stages of ELAPP, who were some of the other people that were helpful to you and worked with you?
AM: You shouldnt ask me that. You know, Rob Heath was working for the county at the time. And Sally Thompson and I dont remember the names. I cant remember names very well at all. But, Pete Fowler worked for the county; he was involved in that. Ed Radice was in charge at the time.
JG: Were there some organizations?
AM: Local. There was, I dont remember the names. I cant remember names period. So I dont. I have to go back and look at
JG: But some of the organizations, were there some citizen groups you went to that got involved?
AM: Youre best to ask somebody thathow many people [have] we got to interview now in the future.
JG: Yeah.
AM: How many more people you got to interview?
JG: Probably six or seven.
AM: Okay. Some of those, you want to ask them. They know the names. They got it started. Rob Heath especially. Have you interviewed Rob?
JG: Not yet but I will.
AM: Get involved
JG: Joel
AM: Yeah, get involved with Rob. He can tell you exactly who was involved in that to start with.
JG: Is there anything about the ELAPP that you think the public doesnt understand? Doesnt appreciate?
AM: I dontyou know, ELAPP is not part of the parks and recreation. So, itsbut its land that I think is underutilized by the public not understanding it. And thats what Im hoping, that this will happen with this. The two thousand dollars is stepping stone for people to understand how they can donate to the ELAPP program. Okay?  I dont think people understand that they personallythey voted it in. They voted in the process. But theyI think theres people out there with money. I had one person tell me, Im going to put it in my will, money going to ELAPP. I did have one person. And I think theres a lot of people out there who would like to donate money if they just realized that they could. So Im hoping that it will come out from this donation that Im making, that there is a way that you can donate to ELAPP and be effective for the environmentally sensitive land in Hillsborough County. I dont put it very well but that
JG: No, that (JG and AG talking at same time; inaudible)
AM: I think its a start. It could be a start. Im hoping Andy can work this in somehow or another. Into hey, theres thisthis is the way that the public can get involved in helping these environmentally sensitive lands. You know, we give to libraries, we give to parks, we give to all sorts of things, churches and everything. But I dont think people have understood that they can give to ELAPP. I mean they voted it in to tax themselves. I think theres people out there and could be businesses out there, that have money. And they could help these areas as far as creating theso public can go out there, park their car, walk through these areas and visit them and learn to appreciate them more. Because I dont think theyre being appreciated or understood by the public that much.
JG: What do you think ELAPPs biggest accomplishment has been?
AM: (long pause) Um, the biggest accomplishment
JG: Or some of it, you know.
AM: Yeah.
JG: Its more than one.
AM: Well were seeing land that could have been developed, could have been developed thats being protected from development. We saw it in Cockroach Bay area, you know. TECO was going to build that power plant down there, and they decided that it would be good for the public to have this environmentally sensitive land. Well, the Little Manatee River, weve seen areas that could have been developed and now is being protected in a natural state.
JG: Yeah, and they were going to put the marina at one time or they wanted to put a marina in Cockroach Bay.
AM: Yeah, I had forgotten about that. Thats where I got started. I got started with that. Robin Lewis
JG: That might be where we first (inaudible) because we really were strong against that.
AM: Yeah, I swear, I forgot all about the marina, but thats right. I did get involved in that. That may be the first place I got involved, was with the marina going in on Cockroach Bay.  And Robin Lewis was working for the developer and how they wanted to dredge a channel out through Big Pass. In fact, thats where you and I fished, in the Big Pass area there where they were going to tear up all the sea grass and put a channel out through there. And luckily that [was] turned down. Thats where I really got involved in the environment. I forgot about that.
JG: Yeah. Managed to stop that.
AM: Yeah. And that was a big. That would have destroyed the area. Absolutely.
JG: (JG and AM talking at same time; inaudible) Lycee?? family too. Wasnt it, if I recall?
AM: It was the Lycee?? property.
JG: Yeah. And they had some pull with the commission.
AM: Yeah.
JG: What has it been like working on the bay most every day. I mean you really see it up close, and yet you obviously still love it. You never get tired of it. What keeps you going? And youre still crabbing after all these years. Still bringing out people on your crabbing tours.
AM: Well, I got involved in taking people out on tours back eight years ago. Uh, I had a friend I went to high school with, Bill Rince, and wed go down to the Keys and dive for lobster every year. And his son, Billy, stayed down there and became a guide fisherman. And then Billy was telling me, his son was telling me. He says, I would take people out going diving or fishing, and I had these few recreational stone crab traps out. And wed go by and pull them up, get the stone crabs out, go to the beach and get a little Coleman stove and boil these stone crab claws and get a bottle of wine. He said, man they love that stuff.
So I was thinking, well maybe I could do that here. You know, I had a place on water and I could do the crabbing. So thats how I got started was withbecause of what Billy was doing down in the Keys. So Im probably, maybe the only one in country who does this. Take people out, let them pull traps and come back and feed them. And they get the experience that theyve never had and never will get again, of being a crabber, commercial crabber.
So well catch one or two bushels of crabs, and well come back and cook them up, and fry fish and hush puppies and have a big party. And thats part ofeating is half of the tour, okay. But, I was doing that for the Florida Aquarium, for the kids in the summer aquatic camp. Theyd have 15 come out [on] two different Wednesdays in June. And we would take them out and theyd pull the traps. Half of them would fish off of the dock and half would pull traps and wed switch around. And wed come back and steam the crabs up. It was the number one thing they liked to do for summer aquatic camp, but my wife got sick with cancer and I shut down for a year, taking care of her. So I stopped and I havent started back, but thats how itand everybody who goes really enjoyed. Ive had people come from Singapore. They had three Chinese come from Singapore. I had people come from New Zealand, from Switzerland, from England.
JG: How do they find out about it?
AM: Well, I have a website, and it goes worldwide. I have people looking at my website from China (AM laughs). All over the world looking at the website. And I have people come from Canada four times in a row now. They come back. Theyre repeats.
JG: Really?
AM: Yeah.
JG: Now were onyou have beautiful house here on the Little Manatee, and you told me that you built this yourself. What wasand youve been here 50 years. Where you the only one here when you came here? What brought you here? And tell me a little about how you
AM: Well this shoreline was dredged up by Henry Willis, okay. Henry Willis was related to Ellsworth Simmons at the time and his wife, I think, was a Simmons, okay. And they dredged up this strip of land along here. Uh and I found out about it and came out and bought a lot on the water. They uhbut since then Ive bought two extra lots. So now Ive got like 180 feet on the water, but it wasIm probably the oldest one living on this street. But there was (sic) a couple of houses, in fact there was a house next door next to me with two odd seawall lots. And when I was building my house here, that sold for ten thousand five hundred dollars, okay? The two sea wall lots and a house, ten thousandthat shows you how prices have changed. And I actually bought an extra lot down the street forand sold it for 25 hundred. And then when the economy was booming here, a few years back, it was up for sale for 250 thousand dollars.
JG: Good gracious.
AM: But it didnt sell. And the economy went down. But that shows you how prices have changed over time. I could have bought the whole strip along here, but I didnt have no (sic) money. Nobody had money you might say back then.
JG: Well when you bought this, it had been dredgedthere was probably nonow you have uh beautiful mangroves along the shoreline. None of that was here when you uh
AM: There was a few mangroves starting to grow along the shoreline, and I have to admit something. Because the mangroves were growing and I worked for the phone company, I was in charge of underground construction. And we put duct in from Ruskin to Apollo Beach and in the process they dug up all this rock, lime rock. So they wanted to figure out how to get rid of it. I said, Bring it down and Ill dump it along my shoreline. So they did. And I built mybehind these few mangroves that were growing. And at the time I was trimming the mangroves down, okay. See I wasnt an environmentalist to start with. I was trimming them.
Well the aquatic preserve manager come by one day after I stopped trimming them. She said, Im glad to see you stopped trimming your mangroves. Well, that got to me. I said, well, so I let them grow. Okay, I let them grow, blacks, whites, and reds all growing there. And the more I let them grow, the more I appreciated them.
And I saw black mangrove crabs crawling on the trees. The herons would eat the mangrove crabs and [they] provided shade, provided screening from neighbors. And Ive learned to appreciate that. Although, its been a slow process, but Ive learned to appreciate the environment by just living here.
If my wife had a choice, she would have said, cut the mangroves down. (JG laughs) But we had different opinion aboutI saw the value. I finally learned the value, okay. Its a learning process.
JG: Did you ever think when you took that canoe trip with your sons that it would lead to such an important change in county policy?
AM: No, but I wasnt the one who started this. You have to go back to people ahead of me, okay. Joel Jackson, Sally Thompson, these people were pushing for it at one time before, if you recall. You know, they were pushing for uh buying land, I think it was. And it wasnt called ELAPP I dont think, but they were ahead of me on this thing. I just happened to come along andI wasnt the first to start this thing, process.
JG: But you seemed to have had a big impact though. I mean, maybe it was because of the way you put it in a way that.
AM: This is off the record, right? Or are you recording?
JG: It can be if you want it to be. Ill stop.
AM: (inaudible) in the morning, they fly inland to feed in the wetlands, okay, fresh water areas they feed in the morning. So youll see flocks of them following the river in the morning, going. At five thirty in the afternoon, theyre coming back to roost on the islands. And thatsI like to see that. And the second thing, people dont see the birds on low tide because they cant get to the Cockroach Bay, but from all the grass flats, all the grass flats on low tide where the water goes out and you have the grass exposed, are thousands of birds. And the public cant see that because theyre not out there. They cant get to it.
And thats what I see. I see all those birds of all kinds, wading in that shallow grass feeding. And so theif there was a way that the bird watchers could get out there on low tide and see that, they would be amazed at how many birds are feeding on the grass flats. Thats why the grass flats are so important, shallow grass flats. Because of the birds feeding on those grass flats.
Now the second largest bird rookery here is in this area, okay. You have the Alafia banks and then you have the second one here in Cockroach Bay area, the second largest on Tampa Bay. Were uh
JG: Well Gus, weve covered a lot of territory. Is there anything I should have asked that I did not or anything that youd like to talk about, either ELAPP, Tampa Bay, the environment?
AM: (speaking softly; inaudible) Just going back on my history. My dad took me camping a lot of places. He also taught me how to knit, make cast nets. So I learned how to tie thousands of knots making cast nets. So every weekend we would go uh to what was called Pappys Bayou. Now its called Weedon Island Preserve. Back then it waswe called it Pappys Bayou. There was an oyster house. There was an old bridge, a wooden bridge that crossed over uh Pappys Bayou down there. And they had an oyster house there where they shucked oysters.
And there was an airport. There was an old airport there, concrete old hanger. And it may be where they put the new pavilion, new Weedon Island pavilion. Im not sure, butand I learned to throw the cast net there and catch mullet, in the net I made. And grew up wading all Pappys Bayou area. And that was a great experience for me as a kid. Going over there on weekends.
We would take a tub and dump our mullet in the tub, no ice. Put mangrove limbs over it, leaves over it, and push it underneath the mangroves. And then go back wading. We threw a cast net, no hand line, no brails. You throw the net and you had to pick your fish out of the net. That was interesting. You had to reach your arm under the net and grab the fish and pull him out and stick him in a bag.
So I learned to do a lot of wading on the bay. And that was an experience that a lot of people dont get to do, is wade a lot. That was one of the reasons that I came up with the uh Uzita Trail, Uzita Walk/Wade/Swim Trail that goes from the Manatee County line all the way back up to the mouth of the Little Manatee River. It was the fact that I knew how you could wade. The Indians waded, you knowwhat would happen back in 1537, I think it was, Hernando de Soto startedcame into Tampa Bay and landed somewhere near Port Manatee. They came up to the mouth of the river, the ships did, they drifted with the tides because it was so shallow.
But they unloaded like 220 some horses and men, and the men all went inland looking for gold. And they all met back one week later at the mouth of the river, which isand there was an Indian chief names Uzita, Uzita. And the Indians had lived here for 700 years I guess it was, or more.
It was paradise. It was paradise. You know, all Florida was paradise for those first Indians because they could get the shellfish. And thats why they made all these Indian mounds, out of the shells that they.
And they didnt have to chase a deer out through the woods to catchand theyd go out and eat thedig a stingray or a manatee or a fish and pick up a shell and eat. And it was, to them it was paradise. I really believe that. Until we got here, okay. And it was interesting that when Hernando came inand the Indians lived here for 700 years. Well they only lasted five years after that, the Indians did because what happened was they brought slave traders in at the same time from Cuba. And so was theyd go through thethey wentHernandos trail starts here, in Ruskin here. Goes all the way up through Florida into Georgia, and as the went through the Indian villages, they would steal their food, catch the Indians. And the ones they didnt want, they killed because the slave traders didnt want to fight the Indians coming back to the ship. And they came back. So they killed the Indians they didnt want.
So it was a sad trail. It was a sad trail for the Indians, and one of the reasons that they lasted only five years I think, was due to the slave traders, you know. Could be.
JG: Well this Uzita, Uzita walk that you have now. Tell me a little bit more about that.
AM: Well, its actually, the Uzita trail is actually a very shallow shoreline along all of Cockroach Bay. And Ive checked this, and you can wade the whole area. And you can even walk the beaches. What you do is you take your canoe or kayak down there, and you can go to Cockroach Bay Road and put in and go south to the Manatee County line and drag your canoe and kayak with all your gear in it, okay. And only one place you have to swim and thats across the channel at Cockroach Bay. The rest of it you can wade the whole distance. And its a pretty hard bottom. Just shelf with your feet for stingrays. But you get to enjoy an experience, what the Indians did, okay. The Indians waded that for five, seven hundred years, and so you get to experience what an Indian did, by wading that.
Or you can go north and go over the Manatee County line, I mean to the Little Manatee River and get in your kayak and swimpaddle back to where you started. But you can experience it either way. But you take your kayaks though. Once you get to the end or you get tired, you can get in your boat and come back. Thats the reason you drag your canoe or your kayak is to get back to the camp where you put in at. But you get to enjoy nature like Indians enjoyed it.
JG: Now has that been uh designated an official trail or is this just something that you
AM: No. There was an article written. I took a newspaperin fact, heI invited him to come because he worked for the Observer News. You cant pull it up anymore. I tried to pull it up anymore. You cant. But I took him down there and he did a story on it. And
JG: What would you like to see done? Hillsborough County recognizeHillsborough County Commissioners recognize the trail? Is that what you
AM: I dont know what it takes to recognize it. I really dont. I really dont. But itsIve tried to get uhthey had a management plan come up for theCockroach Bay management plan come up, and I introduced it to them but they didnt include it. They didnt include it in the management plan although they did include some trails. But I didnt doI did a hand drawing.
You can look on my website. Lookyou can seeIve got all these links onall the things Ive been involved with the environment. I put them in there, okay. From the uheverything in there. If you look, its got all kinds of links. And you know, from the Cockroach pavilion that I got built. You know, I gave money. As a matter of fact, I gave 24 thousand dollars to build a pavilion on top of the mountain down here. And thats, thats why were having the party is tois something I told ELAPPwhen I said, when we get the pavilion built, Ill have a fish fry on top of that mountain to celebrate the pavilion. Well, the problem is of having it up on the top is too much, too much. So, thats why were having it here.
JG: That should be great. Okay, well Gus is there anything else youd like to.
AM: No I cant think of anything right now.


COPYR I GHT NOT I CE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Univ ersity of South Florida. Copyright, 1995 201 7 University of South Florida. All rights, reserv ed. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the Univ ersity of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


Download Options

Choose Size
Choose file type
Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.