MASTER LLOYD COLLINS


Today’s Weather Report: Bright Sun, No Clouds. Crisp, Clear, 40 Degrees, Sharp Northern Wind.  Glove Weather!

When visiting Mo, to buy smoked mullet dip (like smoked whitefish and better) and shrimp that tasted so sweet I felt I’d never before tasted a true shrimp –  John learned about the oldest fishing guide in Cedar Key.

“Lloyd Collins – and his brother – they can be found at the Island Place Motel over by the dock. His wife runs the place.”

Chris Collins

So we went to find Lloyd and met Chris, sitting behind the desk, his round head and merriment smile pegging him to have been a handful in elementary school. Chris is Lloyd’s nephew – or some other relation – who considers Lloyd a father figure.

“Yep, Lloyd will give you a call an come over an have a talk with you. A long talk. Lloyd always has a lot to say and I learn from him every day.” Chris’s eyes glowed with deep appreciation, love and respect. Standing 8 feet away, I could feel his embrace of the man.

Barbara and Bob Hudson

On New Year’s Eve at the Island Hotel, we sat across from Bob and Barbara Hudson, who had also hired Lloyd to guide them when they first came to Cedar Key. “He knows all the holes.” Bob confirmed, pulling out his phone and called Lloyd a right then, on New Years Eve, telling him to call us.

And he did, on New Years Day and we met him at the motel the next day at noon, where we listened for two hours.

John with Lloyd and his friend Michael at the Island Place Motel

Lloyd is a large man – many of the locals are – and from what Lloyd says, he had a hard childhood, living in a houseboat where the tide came into the boat and the rain came through the roof, yet mama somehow gave them three meals a day: They had oatmeal for breakfast and cornmeal for lunch and nomeal for dinner (da-dum-bump)

Michael adn Lloyd - ol' pals

In a matter of minutes we learned about Lloyd having to leave school at 10 to go to work – about his sister’s husband, Eckart – whom they called “yella legs” because his legs had a yellow cast, and Eckart’s brother whom they called Greasy, because he slicked back his hair with lard. – and how they were the two best guides every – how they could navigate with only a compass and find their way out to the small buoy – way out in the middle of the gulf – marking where the sea turtles traveled “Cause them sea turtles are good eating – even though they banned them”

His sister – who died of pancreatic cancer – is revered in Llyod’s eyes – she raised her nephew, who requested to stay with “Aunt Rosie” and when she was about to pass on, and she knew she’d be leaving her earthly goods to be divided among 7,  she told Lloyd: “Now, whatever you get, pay yer bills”.  And he did, then got himself a nice boat – a 21 footer.

Lloyd's Other Sister, who works at the motel

We learned that Lloyd’s father got hurt when he was young – crushed spinal disc – which is why he had to go to work so young. But in later years, his father became a master mechanic – could fix anything. But then Lloyd told the story about his truck, which he bought new but it wasn’t working right. So his father helped him tinker with the motor but Lloyd insisted he set the timing by ear – “can’t do that by numbers – it has to have the right sound” which he did and hasn’t had a speck of trouble with it since.

Brother and Sister

“I always tell my kin- Get every license you can – for whatever it is.” Lloyd advised, and then told the multi-tiered story of getting his captain’s licenses – how someone along the process took him in hand and made him study , telling him: “if you pass this, you owe me nothing. If you fail, you owe me the $1600”. He passed. And went on to get his Masters – for 100 miles – then 200 miles and I forget how many tons.

We first talked in the reception area of the motel, then moved to the back porch – overlooking the pool and gulf.  They were shaking their heads at the windsurfer – “as there weren’t much wind and some mighty cold water.”

Chris - Preparing the Hibisucs for rooting

While we talked, Chris came out and was stripping down Hibiscus leaves, scraping the bottom bark off the branch and making an cut into it before planting it in some virmiculite -“when they root, I’ll replant them – one per spot, and by next year it will be as big as the bush over there.” It was a 5 foot high, full bush.  Damn, I love it here!

A good gardener

We learned about the Eastern shoreline – where we plan to go on Sat if the weather and tides cooperate – how there is so much rock there “Rock all the way down to Tampa” and nothing much has changed over the years – “except airboats who cruise over the grasses, killing ’em”

“But the rocks are everywhere and oysters grow right on’em”

The oyster bars are a problem in the area – they have grown so much, filling in the gaps where a boat can get through. “You gotta know these waters, especially these days”

He talked about how the old timers used to take the seaweed from the shore and hoe it into their gardens and come fall, grow the greenest, best tasting greens you ever had.  He now lives on the mainland shores “where nothing grows. Heck, that soil is so poor, you have to stand on a 100 pound sack of fertilizer to raise an umbrella” (da-dum-bump) – Me thinks he has a 1000 of such jokes.

Lloyd - holding court

We got green cooking recipes and learned about Ronnie Taylor, who built on his daddy’s success and made his money in construction in Jacksonville and bought up property in Cedar Key – he’s behind Nature Coast Realty.  Lloyd’s wife Patti – who is also in real estate – thinks he may be overextended in this market – having bought during the rise in prices. And Lloyd says people don’t like Ronnie because he made good for himself.  I guess that is a universal truth of human beings.

But the best moments with Lloyd began when he spoke about how he spent  his youth listening to the older folks, learning their stories, understanding their persepctive – something he did  instinctively even when his friends chided him for doing so.

That led to a story about his newphew, who had begun recording Lloyd’s stories, until he suddenly died.

Which led to sharing about THE HEART CODE – and the sense of something inside you, that knows what you need to do.

Lloyd heard that and became more emotional, his eyes welling up as he spoke about that something inside, the knowledge

Master Lloyd Collins

inside that you can’t explain but you know you have. And how he feels it about the wind, about the tides, about the currents. How he can tell, by the direction of the wind, the smell of it, the strength of it, the wet of it, as to whether the storm will come or pass them by.

There is so much more to learn from Lloyd Collins and his family.

We really look forward to doing so. xo Laura

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7 responses to this post.

  1. A wonderful view into an intimate community. And I am really glad ‘mullet dip’ has nothing to do with hair!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jennifer on January 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Sounds like you have picked the right place to spend your winter. Sounds like the making of another book…

    Reply

  3. Posted by barb on the hill on January 4, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I am hooked….. see you soon !

    Reply

  4. Posted by Patti McHugh on January 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Sweet story..Heart code lady!

    Reply

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