Once upon a time, way back in the mid 1800's, there lived a man named Henry Plant. He loved trains. He began working in railroad service in New Haven Connecticut and in very short order, he had entire charge of that express railroad business. In short order he went south and established express railroads in various southern railways and eventually he purchased, then became president of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad of Georgia. Later, he organized the Plant Investment Company, which was not just about trains but also steamships. And at some point, he created a train line between Tampa Bay Florida (and other Floridian points slightly further south) and the rest of civilization. Which was was actually a rather big deal.
"Well" I hear you say, "That's very cool in an historic Florida sort of say, but what does that have to do with anything?"
As it so happens, last Friday I hiked with not one, but two rangers, Ranger Joy and Ranger Bob! Just a tip, if you are ever offered the opportunity to hike with rangers, do not hesitate for one moment to take advantage of it. You will learn so much cool stuff! I mean, I always learn cool new stuff when I hike with Ranger Joy. This time, I am quite certain that I learned twice as much!
So there we were, randomly selecting hiking paths and once again, we found a new trail to hike. To our surprised, we came across an old train trestle. It was one of the coolest things we have ever stumbled upon in all of our safari's. Joy and I snapped away happily, wondering about the old structure. It looked for all the world as if there should be an old gold mine nearby.
While I was just curious and idly considering possibilities about this old train trestle, Bob actually knew the history of Henry Plant and his Florida trains and thus I not only got some awesome photos, I also got a history lesson. Very Cool.
I could easily imagine those enormous steel behemoths chugging overhead, the timbers trembling from the weight an the force, smoke spewing from it's front stacks, whistle blowing. Of course there are no longer any trains passing over head, but there were still some noises of a much quieter sort.
Bicycles! Yup. Overhead now is a biking/walking path called the Legacy Trail. So it's not a train anymore, but it is transportation so it counts!
The thing you may not be aware of when it comes to Florida history (I certainly never learned this in school) is that the east coat of Florida was developed WAY ahead of the west coast. Just in case you do not recall my piece on St. Augustine Florida, I'll nutshell it for you. St. Augustine is on the east coast and it is the oldest continually populated town in the United States having been settled by Pedro Menedez in 1565.
The west coast on the other hand, not so much. In fact, the town we live in, Venice, didn't exist until the 1920's. So just a little bit later. Only 400 years or so.
So back to this Henry Plant fellow. He was obviously a man of vision. In the unremitting jungles and bugs and alligators and swamps, Mr. Plant saw the future of the West Coast of Florida. And he envisioned it with cities and people and prosperity. And then he did something about it. I admire that. People who see opportunity where other people see nothing at all.
There was a line in the great old Robert Redford/Paul Newman film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" that I always liked. It's when Butch says to Sundance, "I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals".
All the great ones had it. Vision I mean. The ones who take a deep breath and roll the dice. Oh it's a gamble, make no mistake about that. And I don't know if it's a "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" kind of thing, or just a single minded focus, or maybe people with great vision just know something that us regular folk don't. But whatever it is, it's the reason that Pilgrims were willing to give up everything they knew and get aboard those creaky wooden vessels to sail for the new world. It's the reason that men have stepped on the moon's surface. It's the reason that most things were invented. Somebody had vision.
I wish I was that kind of person but I'm not. I will never invent something new. I will never create something amazing (besides my children of course). But I most definitely am the sort of person who sees it in others and admires it.
And that counts too.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.