Even in Paradise there are decisions to be made.
When Kelly Callaway, formerly of Washington, D.C., gets up in the morning -- which is optional -- he must decide whether to step out the back door and pick oranges for his breakfast juice or step out the front door and go for tangerines.
That's easy enough; Callaway usually chooses oranges, sometimes mixing in a little grapefruit juice. But then comes the time when he must decide, as he marches down the hill toward the fabulous St. Johns River, whether to take out a boat and fish for monster bass or just hang around the dock at Norton's place and thin out the giant bluegills, locally known as bream.
Whatever Callaway decides, it's all the same to Allen Norton. He'll rent Callaway a boat to seek out the ferocious largemouths that make St. Johns world famous or deal him crickets one by one and watch Callaway cream the bream.
Norton understands. He, too, was once a wage slave, bound to the five-day week, doing certain things at certain times at the behest of an organization that does not know or care when or where the fish are biting.
Next to fishing, what Norton loves best is watching other people fish, especially if they're using his bait and boats and gear. In Callaway he has found a blood brother.
"I'd fish every day, but it gets embarrassing," said Callaway, a marketing specialist retired from the Department of Agriculture. "The freezer's full of fish now. The freezer is always full of fish."
Callaway would be content to eat fish, fresh and free, every day, but his wife, Virginia, drew the line after several years of fish for dinner three times a week. Now she won't even let him cook them in the house, a small matter in North-Central Florida, where the climate is almost as good as the land speculators claim.
Callaway doesn't fish all the time. Sometimes he and Norton and a dozen other fanatics conspire to find out how Old Man Sears does it. What Old Man Sears does is go out every day, according to no apparent pattern, and fill his boat with fish. Big fish, bigger fish, and bigger still.
On days when they have had bad luck, other fishermen come in early or stay out late to avoid arriving at the dock when Sears comes in. Because even when the fish won't steal anybody else's bait, they jump in Sears' boat.
Of course a man can't fish his life away. There are other serious things that must be done. Callaway can seldom stroll through the orange groves on his way to the dock without being assaulted by quail and/or doves; they, too, must be dealt with in their seasons.
And raccoons. A raccoon man need not die to go to heaven. All he has to do is move to Florida to be hip-deep in the furry little bandits. And there is in Florida a strain of wild turkey wary enough to satisfy the most masochistic of gobbler hunters.
And, of course, everybody knows where the wild goose goes after it is finished making fools of the gunners freezing in their blinds around Chesapeake Bay.
But for Callaway and thousands of other American sportsmen who retire to Florida the central theme is always the fishing, salt water to the south and in the Gulf of Mexico, fresh water at a dozen great rivers, of which the finest is the endlessly bountiful St. Johns.
Bream that a Washington area fisherman would show the neighbors are thrown back without ceremony here. Keepers are fish big enough that a grown man who has eaten one will not try to eat another. Anyone caught cleaning six- or seven-inchers on Norton's dock must be prepared to listen to a lot of cradle-robber jokes.
That rule is relaxed only in the case of grandchildren. Anything a grandchild catches is a keeper.
Grandchildren are much in demand in Florida, because they are a wonderful excuse to go fishing again, even if you have to spend most of the time baiting their hooks. Grandfathers here bless Disney World, Sea World, and the galaxy of other theme parks that lure the grandchildren from Bethesda and Grand Rapids.
This week was grandchild week for Callaway, and he scored three days out of five. The final morning was the best; all three kids were fishing, even the 4-year-old, and the bream were in exceeding frenzy. One impaled himself on Laura's bare hook when granddaddy fell behind in his baiting several times she and Karen and Mark all were waving hooked fish at him simultaneously. One bream may actually have jumped up on the dock, it grew so impatient.
It was such a hectic morning Callaway was ready to quit at 9:30, and he didn't go fishing again until 4 p.m.