There are so many wonderful places to see on the Florida Panhandle. At least once per year, I make it down to enjoy the beautiful beaches and all of the other things that have drawn folks here for as long as most of us can remember.
Originally, this geographic area was a British colony, then a Spanish colony. During this colony business, “West Florida” included modern-day Florida west of the Apalachicola River as well as small chunks of what are now Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
As I stand in one of those stores that sell beach towels and inflatable alligators, I think about things like this or at least I would rather think about things like this.
There was this Spanish conquistador named Narváez who wandered around the Florida Panhandle back in the early 1500’s looking gold and other neat stuff. He got discouraged after stumbling into an Indian village where the folks were dirt-poor and barely getting by. What was discouraging to the Spanish fellow in the fancy steel helmet was that these folks supposedly lived in the most prosperous village in the area.
It would be similar to someone showing up in Detroit now and saying “Is this all you have?” It’s not funny, it’s discouraging.
What I was imagining was this fellow in the fancy steel helmet, most definitely with a feather plume that once stood proud but probably now was a little wilted, walking into one of these beach stores with all of these “treasures.”
He could have very well gotten so excited that it would have made his feather plume look happy again.
In 1527 Narváez had received a “royal commission” to subdue and plunder Florida. Just think of all the nice things he could have taken home.
In addition to the inflatable alligators, sharks, killer whales and ducks, he could have taken home loads of orange, yellow and lime green t-shirts and hats. The Mexican jumping beans, sand crabs, shells imported from the Philippines and little bottles of sand art would have also been hits with the royalty and empire builders back home.
Why do they need to import shells from the Philippines to sell in the Florida Panhandle beach stores?
I’m sure they would have been impressed that Narváez got a free sand crab with every cage he purchased. I do wonder if he would have gotten a mile or two offshore and decided that the sand crabs needed to be set free as I often have.
The beer opener key chains could have been puzzling at first, but I’m sure they would have figured out something nifty to do with them. The refrigerator magnets could have been stuck to their helmets and other armor I suppose.
I can just see Pánfilo de Narváez showing up with an airbrushed t-shirt with an “I Heart Maria” artistically and tastefully painted on it and one in a plastic bag saying “Pánfilo Cranks My Tractor” for his wife.
All the Spanish conquistador fellows on the boat would be wearing cheap sunglasses and flip-flops carrying bamboo back scratchers that had a way of hitting all the right places under their armor.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Narváez was a miserable failure. It is not certain where and the exact date that he died in 1528. If I were to assume, I would have to think that he got too far out in the Gulf of Mexico on one of those inflatable alligators and his sword or lance pierced the plastic.
It is important to note that it is plainly noted on all of those inflatable things that they are “Not to be used as a lifesaving device.” In my opinion, none of them should be trusted outside of one of those blue plastic pools they sell outside of the Wal-Mart or K-Mart.
My historical thoughts were interrupted inside of this beach store when I looked over to see my two teenagers holding and discussing what was obviously a coffee cup that looked like a female front body part/headlight.
My daughter, who is 17, was holding this thing by the handle arguing with her 15 year-old brother. She said, “No it’s not, it’s a shell.” My son started laughing saying something to the effect of “Look where the hole is.”
My daughter, who did incredibly well on the SAT and can have her pick of colleges turned a sunburned shade of red. She was not sunburned; the weather had been rather rainy, cloudy and yucky since we arrived.
Then they both looked at me…
It was one of those priceless moments…
My son then made the observation that our candy store back home also carried the edible bathing suit looking things made out of the little rings of candy my Grandmama used to sell as “candy necklaces” in her ten cent store.
Grandmama would not have been amused, Papa would have.
I love the Florida Panhandle, memories are made here.
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