Right in the Middle of Nowhere

Anyone who thinks Dade Corners is just a gas station probably thinks the Everglades is just a little wet spot west of Miami

"No," Sally corrected him. "We put that in the casserole.")
But the cook isn't going to get wistful about the rumored sale of Dade Corners. "I think I met the new owner before," she says, a sly grin beginning to grow on her face. That morning, Sally begins, the Frog Pond was the venue for a state-mandated safety meeting for commercial truck drivers, and the place was packed. "Tony comes in here with a guy and I say, 'You can't come in here right now,' and Tony says, 'We need to go check the bathrooms.' I said, 'Together?'" She dissolves into laughter. "Somebody said, 'Hey, I think that's the new owner. He drove away in an $80,000 car.'"

For her part, Sally says she's retiring this summer, so it doesn't matter what becomes of the place. But then adds in a rare moment of seriousness: "The new owner needs to learn that there been a lot of people out here for a long time who will respect him, but he has to talk to the employees and present himself as a gentleman. With me, you won't get my respect unless you earn it, and that's a known fact."

More stuff: fried chicken gizzards, water purification tablets, night crawlers, Lotto tickets, Sport Utility and Truck & Van magazines, Blue Moon beer, fish scalers, a plastic "talking frog" with a built-in motion detector that croaks.

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BOB

"I've been coming here for 38 years. Wasn't nothing but a little shack out here. You could buy cold beer, bait. Nothin' but a little shack. Hell, we used to hunt off of 107th Avenue." Just about every day Bob swings by the Frog Pond and takes his customary seat at a table beneath the buck's head, his back to the wall. (He doesn't want his last name used.) It's coffee in the morning, Miller Lite in the afternoon. He has red, leathery skin and a head of shiny dark hair that migrates down to long, gray sideburns. Even though he retired fifteen years ago from the City of Miami Fire Department after a heart attack, he has the wiry steel arms of someone who's led a life of physical labor.

"You want to know about memorable moments at Dade Corners? Son, I've been a part of those moments!" he exclaims, and without another word clicks out his false teeth and raises his right fist to show three broken knuckles: dividends from years of fighting.

He cups a hand around his mouth like a megaphone and looks toward the bar: "What happened to that waitress with a beer?" Julie the waitress rolls her eyes and says something about Bob having one too many, but plucks another cold one from the cooler anyway.

"I drive twelve and a half miles every morning just to have my coffee," he states, his voice dropping conspiratorially. "I live off Bird Road but there's nobody I can talk to any more. They don't speak my language. This is one of the last refuges we got. I'm not housebroken, son. I don't belong in town. I live in town but I come out here." For emphasis, he downs the rest of his beer -- perhaps his fourth of the afternoon, maybe fifth, he's lost count. "Everybody speaks English in here. I'm Irish, but I don't speak Gaelic. I speak American. Sally's Eye-talian, she don't speak Eye-talian, she speaks American. I'm just a dumbass country boy and this dumbass country boy paid taxes his whole life. I've never been on the dole. I don't mean to sound belligerent, but I am belligerent. I'm just tired of getting kicked in the balls.

"People make fun of rednecks," he continues. "Well, I have to plead guilty to being a redneck, but I never cheated anybody. I've worked for everything I got. I have twin daughters. They're 29 years old. I raised them out here -- fishing, camping. You can't do that any more. I got here in June of 1958. It was wide open. You didn't have to worry about getting ripped off. You're not safe out here any more. I am, 'cause I carry what they carry. If they want to shoot, we shoot.

"I've been in all kinds of shit, all kinds of fights. I love to drink and I definitely love the women. You can ask the ol' bitch over there if I lie. I don't lie. Hey, Sally! Do I lie?"

Sally says no.
"Sally's tough but she can get more protection than any woman we know. You can't put a hand on her. She's tough-talking -- she's mostly cussing me. If she don't cuss you, she don't love you. She calls me every night to tell me what an asshole I am. But she'd give you a free meal and the shirt off her back. Ain't a person up and down the Trail who don't know her. I don't know anyone around town who she hasn't helped once or twice. Sally's a landmark. They don't make 'em like her any more." He pauses to take a swig from his can and inhale a lungful of cigarette smoke. "If they close this place down," he says deliberately, "they close down the Trail -- as far as I'm concerned."

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