Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Naked Came the Manatee

Published in either 1995 or 1996 (Why I have two different dates noted I have not the vaguest idea! And, by the way, I have no intention whatsoever of looking it up in Wikipedia. That would take all the fun out of it!), this delightful book is the result of a baker's dozen of Florida authors each contributing a chapter, the final one (which quite neatly ties up all the loose ends) authored by none other than Carl Hiaasen.

[I don't want to leave the other twelve out, so here they are: Brian Antoni, Dave Barry, Edna Buchanan, Tananarive Due, John Dufresne, James W. Hall, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Hospital, Elmore Leonard, Paul Levine, Evelyn Mayerson, and Les Standiford.]

Anyway, as I vaguely remember the story, it revolves around a very elderly woman (100?) who swims naked with the manatee, an endangered species because of all of the power boats in the area (among other things). The book has many hilarious episodes that are intricately interwoven with mystery and intrigue.

[I've just enticed myself to go to the library and see if the book is available for checkout. You might have noticed from one or two of my posts that I do not 'buy' books. No, no. I've already paid for them with my tax dollars!]

Very recently one of my blogger friends returned from an extended vacation with her family. In one of her posts recapping their trip, she mentioned that they had not been able to photograph the manatee because the 'lighting wasn't right'. And that, folks, is what provided the inspiration for this post!

Some years back -- fewer than twenty but more than ten -- Houston had a manatee within its city limits, 'lost' in the quagmire of Buffalo Bayou.

How did it happen? Very easily, actually. Galveston Bay is quite large, and extends inland from the Gulf of Mexico for many miles. Somehow or other, this particular manatee swam inland from the Gulf, traveled up Galveston Bay and into Buffalo Bayou, where it realized (at one of our sewage treatment plants) that it had made a wrong turn somewhere but then didn't know how to get back.

Well!! All of Houston immediately became enamored with the manatee's dilemma. What could be done to feed him? to save the poor creature? to get him back to where he belonged?

Day after day, headline after headline focused on this problem. It was exCIting to see how caught up in this creature's life the whole of Houston became. Newsreel after newsreel showed how he was being fed, how huge crowds of people were showing up at the sewage treatment plant to observe the daily feeding, and how many different attempts were made to 'steer' him back out to his normal habitat.

It was decided that he should be called "Hugh", as in 'hughmanatee'. Time went on. Hugh was being fed, but there was really no way that he could be considered a permanent resident of Buffalo Bayou.

'Mattress Mac' (a local furniture dealer) stepped in with an offer to transport Hugh to San Antonio where, supposedly, the locals there had the expertise and facilities to deal with him in the short term and, in the long term, hopefully reassign him more or less permanently to his normal habitat.

We were all watching as Hugh was gathered up in this humongous net and then loaded onto a truck that would transport him to San Antonio, some 200 miles to our west.

It was only AFter 'Hugh' was successfully transported to San Antonio and then examined by the powers that be that it was discovered he was actually a "she". Not only that, but she was pregnant!!

Is that funny or what?!?

For the life of me, I cannot remember what the name "Hugh" was changed to, nor do I recall what became of the baby.


Tammy said...

Well, guess what? We actually have that book at our library, and I've put it on request-hold for myself. Thanks for the recommendation!

And I love the story of Hugh and how he (I mean she) got her name.

Goldenrod said...

I think you'll enjoy it, Tammy. Let me know, OK?

whalechaser said...

Naked came the Manatee...many different authors ending with my newly found and personal favorite Carl Hiasaan...I will have to go searching now.

Goldenrod said...

Just make sure you're looking under the right spelling, 'Whale'. I always have to look it up myself, just to make sure. Norwegian? Don't know. Don't care, either. All I know for sure is that I have to look it up.

I don't know if it's possible to find a book he has authored that is not hilarious!

Sometimes he has continuing characters, such as the ex-governor of Florida who lives off of road kill and lashes himself to a bridge to see if he can survive hurricane-force winds.

One VERY funny episode that I recall in one of his books is the one where a monkey (?) makes off with the wig of a person who's in this garage investigating (?) the practice of santaria (sp?) Don't you just LOVE how accurate my memory is? (Maybe it was the mother-in-law's wig!) Actually, I don't really care WHAT the actual details/circumstances are/were ... hilARious!!

You absolutely MUST let me know what you're reading of his and whether or not you are enjoying them, OK?

Craig Peihopa said...

a great post