The Coconut Doctor Story
Written 2010, rewritten 01/2016 unedited
A true story
I had always felt that living in the Florida Keys was just like living in a foreign country.
Another thing, when I first started coming down to the Keys in 1963, I noticed that a lot of the people looked like they were running away from something or somewhere, and wherever I went, lots of people appeared to look the same. We started saying it was the “Keys Look.” And it became kind of a joke, it was almost as if someone had authorized a mandatory dress code for anyone wanting to live in the Florida Keys.
For men, an emaciated look and a dark tan was required, and most of them had a pony tail with an elastic band around it, They had a pony tail even if they had little hair on the top of their head. Next came the tee shirt, most were tie dyed or they were printed with some kind of nonsense on them. What junk was written on their tee shirt wasn’t important, as long as it didn’t detract from the multitude of blurry tattoo’s they all had. Most of these emaciated looking guys finished off their costumes by wearing raggedy worn out, cut-off jeans and sandals. That to us was the Florida Keys look. They all looked like they had just come off a drug or alcohol binge.
However, after living there for a while, the Florida Keys started to become a little more upscale. It appeared that there was a change, I think the change came once the drug smuggling days were over. These emaciated guys didn’t completely disappear, but you had to look a little harder to find them.
You could always be assured of finding them in front of you, shopping at the local Winn Dixie supermarket checking out a six pack of beer. They were easy to spot as they all looked like they were hanging around in the woods somewhere.
Now, forty years later, the free living days in the Keys are disappearing and all these free living guys have had to get jobs, and they have become part of the Florida Keys workforce.
Now having a bunch of these fellows in the local workforce has led to some interesting situations.
In September of 2001, my wife Katherine and I entered into a new adventure, by attempting the renovation of a really neat piece of property in the Keys.
How we found the property was interesting. We lived in an area called “Plantation Key Colony” and whenever we would go fishing, we would take our boat onto the Snake Creek waterway to get us from the Gulf side of the Keys over to the Atlantic Ocean.
Living on the bay side of Plantation Key left us with only two ways to reach the Atlantic Ocean. You could use Tavernier creek at the North end of Plantation Key or use Snake Creek, which was at the South end of the Key.
So, as we motored up Snake Creek with our boat, we had the opportunity to look at all the waterfront properties along the way, and as we passed through an area called Venetian Shores, we were always attracted by a run down piece of property with a weird looking house on it. The house, had a boat slip built in under it, and even had a bridge crossing over the boat slip. The property reminded us of Palmyra, the home of Largo the villain in one of the James Bond Movies.
One day, while having coffee, Katherine noticed the property was for sale, and we went over to see it. Our sole intention was to see this weird place close up, that’s all. However the next thing I knew we owned it.
The property was located right on Snake Creek at the end of a finger of land, in a sub-division called Venetian Shores, and its property was 7/8 of an acre, which is very big for the Florida Keys.
We moved on to the property in September of 2001, and as we started renovating we also started working on the landscaping.
My wife Katherine counted 14 coconut palm trees that needed trimming, some of them were over forty feet tall. She knew that coconuts on palms trees are nice to look at, but during storms, the coconuts become cannon balls, so it’s prudent to trim the coconuts off especially before hurricane season arrives.
There were so many tall trees that there was no question Katherine would need assistance in the trimming and removing of the coconuts off the property.
She saw that most of the trees were so tall, it would be impossible for her to reach the tops, without renting some serious equipment, like a mobile cherry picker.
Our neighbors Bob and Thelma were from the Carolinas, and they happened to be down in the Keys on vacation. We knew they said that they used a local fellow to help them trim their trees and they seemed to be very happy with him.
We were well aware that looking for a tree trimmer on our own, could lead to problems, because we knew that many of the tradesmen in the Keys were the remnants of the characters we had described earlier, and they were all known to be unreliable.
The standard joke was that most of the unreliable Keys workers suffered from what everyone called “The Keys Disease”, it was a common and well known problem. It was when a worker was hired but fails to show up at the prescribed time, or sometimes never shows up at all.
Besides this, there was also always the risk of hiring people you didn’t know to come onto your property.
But our neighbor, said he had the perfect guy called the “Coconut Doctor”, who did all his tree trimming. He said that the “Coconut Doctor” always showed up at the prescribed time and did a really good job, so what more could you ask for, so I jotted down the guys telephone number.
That evening we drove north about twenty miles to shop at the Publix super market in Key Largo, and as usual the market was very busy.
While we were shopping, it was impossible for us to miss a fellow who was also there shopping, he looked like a throwback to the hippie days of the 1960’s.
As we watched him, it appeared that everyone else in the store was also watching him. They watched him because, he looked like he was in a standard hippy costume, but it wasn’t even Halloween, the guy looked like he was in a time warp.
He was perhaps 50-60 years old, and he had his graying hair in a ponytail, and he was wearing a tie dyed black shirt. We thought he was a real character to be sure, he was just like the hippy guys I had remembered from the old days in the Keys.
As the fellow was leaving the store I saw printed on the back of his shirt was the name “Coconut Doctor”.
So a week later, despite our reservations, Katherine called the Coconut Doctor up for an appointment. She told him that she would like an estimate for trimming all of our coconut palms.
We were very surprised when the “Coconut Doctor” himself showed up, and carefully looked the tree trimming situation over, then he quoted my wife his price to do the job, and that’s when I came over to meet him myself.
The Coconut Doctor said, “You should be very careful in the Keys, as most of the tradesmen living here are alcoholics or drug users. He said, “I know because I was one
Of them. But, he proclaimed, “I have been drug free for over 8 years.”
A couple of weeks later as Katherine assessed all the work to be done, it was time to
Call the Coconut Doctor to come over and do the job.
So, on a Friday evening I called him up, and after reminding him who we were, he said that he remembered talking to us. However, he said, he was having a party at his house at the moment, and he was very busy entertaining friends.
I asked him would be possible for him to call me back after the party or the next day so we could confirm everything. “Yes,” he said.
So, to verify, I asked him, do you have our phone number? “Yes.” he said, but just to be sure I gave him the phone number again. I did it because he sounded a little woozy.
I repeated our name, address and telephone number.
That call I made to the Coconut Doctor was in early 2002 and I am still waiting for his return call.