Friday, March 22, 2013

Indian Pass Raw Bar

If you’re anywhere near the Redneck Riviera on Florida’s panhandle, Indian Pass Raw Bar is a definite must-see! Actually, that should be must-experience. Believe me, a meal at this local institution is an experience you won’t soon forget! And it’s not just the fresh seafood that makes this place so special. It’s also the atmosphere, the history, and the people.

The restaurant was built in 1903 as the company store for the turpentine operation. What’s that? You’re not familiar with turpentining? That’s the process of tapping pine trees for their resin, or rosin. Anyway, the site turned out to be a great location. In 1929, the highway was built through the area, and it ran right in front of the store.

The store became a restaurant in the 1930s, when Gypsie McNeill began serving lunch there. She also hosted dinner parties in part of the restaurant for local affairs and celebrations.

The McNeills were also in the wholesale oyster business, shipping the famous Apalachicola oysters all over the country. When Hurricane Kate hit in November of 1985, it devastated the oyster beds in the bay. The McNeills no longer had enough oysters to stay in the wholesale business, so in 1986, the restaurant became a raw bar.

Indian Pass Raw Bar is located on a rather isolated stretch of Highway C-30. It’s only about a ten or fifteen minute drive from Port St. Joe, and it’s also close to Cape San Blas and MexicoBeach.

You won’t believe the laid-back atmosphere at this place! Come in your tank top, shorts, and flip flops, and you’ll be in good company. Get a soft drink, a beer, or a wine cooler from the cooler and find yourself a seat. When you decide what you want, signal the waitress.

You’ll have a choice of oysters – raw, steamed, or baked, and these babies are FRESH! In fact, the ones you eat will have spent the night before in the bay. You can also have steamed or stuffed shrimp, crab legs, or seafood gumbo. For the landlubbers, there are hamburgers, hotdogs, sausage dogs, corndogs, and barbecue sandwiches. Round out your meal with corn-on-the-cob, and end it with key lime pie, cheesecake, or ice cream.

When you visit this place, you don’t just enjoy some of the best seafood you’ve ever eaten. You also get a feel for what “Old Florida” was really like – before the condos, resorts, and high rises went up. It’s a totally unique experience!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Real Georgia Bigfoot

Several years ago, my Uncle Jack and his best friend Jim were members of a hunting club in middle Georgia. Both were also pals with a guy named Pete. Pete was kind of a timid guy, and he was also pretty gullible and scared easily.  Of course, these characteristics often made poor Pete the target of the rest of the rough and rowdy men in the club.

While in his tree stand one crisp autumn morning, Pete thought he heard a large animal moving in the brush. As he told the tale later, he assured the guys around the campfire that it was something REALLY big – too big for a deer and too tall for a bear, the way the bushes were moving. Pete’s story planted a seed in the minds of Jack and Jim.

The two men were close neighbors and often worked together, and so they did on this project. They constructed what’s known down here as a “bull horn” or a “bull roarer.” It makes an awful sound – like some wild beast either in agony or in anger, depending on how the device is made and on how the string is pulled.

The next trip they made to the hunting camp, the bull roarer went with them. When Pete went to his stand early one morning, Jack and Jim hid out near the stand and activated the bull horn. They could see Pete, and he was obviously shaken. The two reprobates were certain that Pete had broken some record for coming down the tree. This success spurred on the imagination of Jack and Jim.

A couple of weeks later, Jim went over to Jack’s house early one morning. There Jack was, in the field next to his house, making giant strides through the soft soil. Jim couldn’t imagine what his pal was up to. As he got closer, he saw that Jack had huge wooden feet attached to his boots. My uncle had made a pair of Bigfoot feet and was working on his footprints. Of course, Jim thought this was a great idea, so he was ready to critique the prints and offer advice. They decided that to make the prints more believable – and scarier – they needed some claws. No problem! They nailed short nails into the wooden toes, and voila! Bigfoot feet!

A few days later, Jack created his crowning work of art. Jim was eating breakfast with his family when Jack came to the door. In his hand was a shoebox with a lid. Jack was very excited, which was totally out of character for him. He’s an unusually stolid type.

“What ya got in the box?” Jim asked, curious by now.

“Just wait till you see!” Jack answered.

He took the lid off the box. My uncle had crafted two Bigfoot turds!

Jim told me that they were totally convincing. Jack had taken cow manure, small twigs, and insulation “fur” to make them look real. Then he crossed one over the other as they might appear in nature. Their plan was to place these near Pete’s deer stand, along with a few tracks.

I can just picture Uncle Jack making these. He’s shaping the vile mixture in his hands and then rolling them into the desired “rope” between the palms of his hands. He’s gauging the proper diameter and length to make sure they’re convincing. I’m wondering…how does one from South Georgia know how big Bigfoot poo is?? Is there a book somewhere, a guide, if you will? How to Make Bigfoot Droppings in Three Easy Steps? Is it on Amazon?

As it turned out, Jack and Jim never got to try out the feet or the Bigfoot scat. They were called to Mexico for an extended period of time for a job. And they had some wild adventures south of the border! But that’s another story…or two!