Thirty-three years ago my parents migrated to Citrus County. Hernando, to be specific.
Since the first few years of our life had taken us from the hills of Africa to the towers of London and New York City, my brother and I were too young to understand the finality of this move. We just didn’t know or couldn’t comprehend if this was simply another pit stop.
But as we moved into the town of Hernando, it did not take us long to realize this was and will always ever be our home. And thus, it was the sweet air and soil of our county that shaped and transformed our lives.
But all sons must leave. It is a rite of passage. To go forth and explore this big, great world.
This country of ours is full of amazing places, and I just had to go on my adventures.
I went away to go to college and graduate school in the Midwest. Kansas City became my temporary home. It was my first experience with big-city life, in the midst of my formative years.
After that, I spent a year in the big city. Everything Manhattan had to offer, I was able to witness and enjoy, albeit for short period. But all in the meanwhile, the truth never wavered. The thoughts of my passage home kept intensifying as the years passed.
My heart kept calling me home. Not because the town and county I grew up in had some unique experiences or miraculous scenic beauty (although to me it does)! What I missed the most was the people. I missed my neighbors. I missed my friends at our local establishments such as the Shamrock Inn, where I get enjoy a 60-ounce beer free on my birthday.
I missed being a part of something special; the opportunity to leave a positive mark on future generations. I am a product of our school system, and it something I take immense pride in. Mr. Darrick Buettner, along with many others have worked tirelessly over the past 21 years to elevate our school system to one of the best in Florida. The education foundation, lead by Ms. Shaunda Burdette, helps not only families in need, but also champions our future generations. It is these individuals who help mold the minds of our next generations.
I missed the people the most — the great people of our community — like Ray Parrish at our local grocery store, the people who work in our hospitals and police department and around every corner; our neighbors, our friends, and family who call this place home.
And as I mentioned briefly earlier, there are wonderful and beautiful natural attractions at every mile. Here a just a few of my favorites:
-- Don’t miss out visiting Lucifer the Hippo at the Homosassa Wildlife Park.
-- While in Old Homosassa take a picture of the water tower and stop at the Sugarmill Historic site. Say Hi to John the owner of the Old Mill Tavern next door.
-- Go to the boat ramp at Macraes and join in with the peanut gallery, judging tourists while they load their boats.
-- Visit Howard’s Flea Market just to get a Dixie Dog and lemonade from the Foster siblings.
-- Swim in the caves and saltwater crack of the Chassahowitzka River.
-- Visit actual caves off of 491 in the Withlacoochee State Forest.
-- Swim near the manatees in Crystal River.
-- Scallop the coastal waters of Crystal River.
-- Hang out on the sand bar of Sandy Hook.
-- Cruise the winding roads of Ozello trail or Gobbler Drive.
-- Bird watch (bat watching) in Ft Cooper Park.
-- Enjoy Pudgees foot long hot dogs and Frito pies in Floral City.
-- Visit Copp Winery and say hi to Fran Copp, my calculus teacher in high school who is now a local brew master legend.
-- Walk out to the Flying Eagle Preserve at the end of Moccasin Slough Road and see the wooden bridge.
-- Order "Debbie" wings at the Cove.
A special thank you to Rodney Worthington.
Dr. Rushi S. Patel, DDS, Ph.D., with Citrus Oral and Facial Surgery, is board certified and a graduate of Lecanto High School. Visit on the Web at www.citrusofs.com.