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Publisher's Letter

Publisher's Letter: Reflecting On The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

From the time he joined Gulfstream Media Group 18 years ago, Art Director Craig Cottrell has shown a flair for written expression. His office memos, while not frequent, are invariably clever and entertaining, so much so that on more than one occasion we encouraged him to try writing for our magazines. He never reacted, until this month, and the reason is that he finally had the motivation to don a writer’s hat. He has a daughter and two nephews who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and for him, the news of the mass shooting was traumatic. More than a month after that tragedy, his recollection of the day retains a poignant immediacy. 

When we came to Florida in the late summer of 1970, it seemed every other house had a fruit tree of some sort in their yards, usually in the back. Our next door neighbor had an orange tree that produced enough oranges to feed a regiment. They were rather small fruit that would win no citrus beauty contest, but the juice was wonderful. In those days there was no fence between our yards, so we picked those delicious oranges whenever thirst warranted. Unfortunately, after the original neighbors sold, a new owner got rid of that great tree.

In the yard behind us, there was an ancient mango tree, as tall as the old oaks that grow in our neighborhood. You needed a ladder to reach even the lowest hanging fruit, but the mangos fell from the tree as they ripened. You could hear the thump of their landings in the night, but you had to get to the fruit fast before raccoons, squirrels and other beasts spotted them. One small nibble and the mangos quickly rotted on the ground.

We dabbled in citrus for a few years. We killed our first grapefruit tree by failing to note that the bug spray needed to be heavily diluted, and we gave a newly planted tree a dose six times stronger than called for. We, therefore, avoided spraying our second effort, a lime tree, and it became so productive that we used to take bags of limes to our favorite Las Olas bar. That tree disappeared when we covered the backyard with a deck. But we allowed space amidships to put in a grapefruit tree. It took a few years to become productive, but when it did, the fruit was a bit small, but delicious. It produced enough that a family could almost live on it.

The first fruit ripened in early summer, and unlike mangos, the grapefruit stayed on the tree for months. Edible fruit remained almost year- round. Then in 2005 came Wilma. That storm knocked off the entire top half of the mango tree, which landed on a young oak (about 30 years old) with such force that it uprooted it. But a few months later, the grapefruit tree, which survived both the mango and oak landing on it, developed canker. That had not been a problem in our neighborhood previously, and we theorize that because Wilma crossed Florida, turned around, and attacked from the west, it blew in contaminated spores from groves in west Broward that had been infected by the disease.

As for the mango tree, it survived both its amputation and the canker, only to fall victim to a builder who razed the old cottage where it grew, and took the tree out to make space for a McMansion.

This is all by way of introducing Kristen Desmond LeFevre’s piece on the new disease damaging Florida’s citrus industry. It’s a serious problem that is getting attention from the experts. Our only advice is to remind them to dilute the bug spray.