TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Night Of The (Frozen) Iguana

In an effort to shake off some of this winter’s cold, Ginny and I decided to head south for a few days, about as far south as we could without having to break out our passports. We ended up in Fort Meyers, Fla., nearly as far south as the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West, along with the other minor keys.

We just needed a few days in the sun. If you’re my dermatologist and you’re reading this, we just needed a few days in the shade.

But imagine our surprise when our first night in Florida it hit 30 degrees! That’s 30 degrees. Fahrenheit! I’m not making this up. At one point, it was eight degrees warmer in Fort Meyers than it was in Grand Forks. Talk about frozen margaritas.

It was so cold iguanas were falling out of the palm trees FROZEN! Not frozen, frozen, but stunned by the below-freezing temperatures, as were we. It was on the news and everything, local and national. Again, I am not making this up.

Iguanas aren’t supposed to be in Florida. Someone just brought them here and dropped them off. Like Ginny and me. There are professional, full-time iguana wranglers in Florida whose only job it is to round them up, and do God knows what with them.

Still some Floridians were feeling so badly for the iguanas they were holding them up to their outdoor patio heaters, trying to de-thaw them.

But by happy hour the next day, and for most of the rest of the week we were there, it was well into the 70s. Some of those perfect Florida days that attract so many retirees and other crazies. So, I guess, like North Dakota’s, if you don’t like the weather in Florida, wait a minute.

As crazy as frozen iguanas falling out of trees would seem to be, in Florida it’s just not THAT crazy. The locals didn’t seem to be all that surprised. They seemed to take in it stride.

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Florida. Actually, it’s more of a love/hate/love relationship. Other than North Dakota, Minnesota and Georgia, where I spent a year playing soldier, I’ve probably spent more time in Florida than any other state. I like Florida a lot, but it’s crazy there. Schizophrenic, almost. They serve freshly squeezed orange juice on the breakfast buffet, along with cheesy grits.

One of my favorite images, one that will stay with me for a long time, is that of two gentlemen of a certain age on the beach, wearing somewhat baggy swimwear. One of them was showing the other his brand-new, souped-up metal detector. I’m sure he was hoping the buried treasure he was about to uncover in the sand with it would pay for the machine in a season or two.

And so, until next time, that’s where we leave Florida. On the beach at sunset. One eye to the sky, watching for falling iguanas. Just in case.

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