Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Is Florida’s Swamp Ape Now Living On Cumberland Island? Fernandina Man Pleads Guilty To Making SCOTUS Death Threat


(Have a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. This column will return Friday, January 5.)  

Cumberland’s Swamp Ape or just a local tree hugger?

For many decades Florida residents and tourists claim to have spotted a fur covered ape-like creature that has been tagged with names ranging from Swamp Ape and Skunk Ape to Florida Yeti and Big Foot, among others.

Most sightings have been reported in or near the Everglades and some in the Tampa Bay area.

The most recent sighting I’ve heard about came from a boat captain hereabouts, and his pal who gave me the photo shown here of a creature they say was seen prowling Cumberland Island recently. Like most photos I’ve seen of the creature, this one is blurry and somewhat out of focus.

Is this Sasquatch-like creature a figment of their imaginations, a result of a happy hour gone off the rails, a drunken Palace Saloon patron hopelessly lost, or just one of the local tree-hugging anti-development environmentalists spotted howling at the moon?

Ever since I can remember Florida’s version of Bigfoot has always been described as being able to walk erect like a man but covered completely in hair like a gorilla or a member of the local tree conservatory organization.

Serious researchers, journalists, scientists, and amateur sleuths have issued reports, but nothing has ever been proven. Numerous national TV networks, some serious scientists and even the prestigious Smithsonian Magazine have studied it and written about it but have never produced conclusive evidence that’s it exists or is just phony baloney. Many folks think it’s a bear, an escaped zoo orangutang, or that the whole thing is a hoax with some guys running around in an ape costumes.

When I first heard these Swamp Ape stories I was a Tampa Plant High School student in the early 1960s. A gaggle of my pals and I piled into my 1940 DeSoto and headed East down State Highway 60 toward Brandon where local newspaper reports said it had been spotted more than once. As I recall we had no definitive plan as to what we would do if we encountered this thing except snap photos of it with a Kodak Instamatic camera we brought along.

The only thing we discovered during that trip was that Brandon stinks – literally. The rotten egg stench of the phosphate mine sludge ponds was so strong we cut our trip short and scratched any plans for future expeditions.

Reports of this bizarre creature are at times associated with descriptions claiming that it reeks of an odor of rotten eggs. Maybe there was something to the fact that it was spotted in Brandon, where it would have blended in perfectly.

My Cumberland correspondents didn’t mention a peculiar odor or if they have seen this local Big Foot more than once. They just provided the above photo saying: “Here’s something that might interest you,” while adding that this is just one of many Cumberland Island sightings of the creature.

Dave Shealy’s Skunk Ape HQ

Dave Shealy, who lives in a dot on the map called Ochopee, runs what he calls Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters in the Everglades and knows more than most about the comings and goings of this elusive hirsute legend. He also grew up in the Everglades, made moonshine and hunted and fished there his entire life.

Imagine the Fernandina Fletcher Avenue Hammerhead Bar with a souvenir booth selling Skunk Ape koozies, T-shirts, hoodies, skunk-ape repellent, skunk-ape hunting permits, etc. and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters looks like. Or go to

Based on what I’ve read about him there are two things that Shealy hates: 1— the federal government and 2— environmentalists. He says the feds forced him and his family off their property in the Everglades because the environmentalists didn’t want anyone living there except critters and vegetation. It’s sort of like the relationship between Nassau County’s conservatory crowd of grey haired granny harpies and local builders.

But back to the Swamp Ape. Shealy says he first spotted the creature when he was 10 years old. He’s made plaster casts of its footprints and talked to tourists and locals who have also seen it. He dismisses skeptics who say it doesn’t exist.

Maybe my Cumberland Island correspondents are onto something. Perhaps the Skunk Ape, like Shealy, is fed up with the environmentalists and the feds too and moved north to Cumberland Island. Maybe some local entrepreneur will set up a Skunk Ape tour of Cumberland and buy a Skunk Ape franchise from Shealy and  arrange a merger with the Hammerhead. If so count me in as a regular.


Local Makes National News: A number of news outlets this week reported that “Fernandina Beach resident Neal Brij Sidhwaney pleaded guilty on Monday, December 18 after threatening to kill a U.S. Supreme Court justice in July.”

U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced that 43-year-old Neal Brij Sidhwaney pleaded guilty to transmitting an interstate death threat.

The Department of Justice said on July 31, 2023, Sidhwaney called the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. from Florida and left a threatening voicemail that was reportedly filled with expletives.

According to court records, the suspect identified himself by name on the voicemail and repeatedly threatened to kill a specific Supreme Court justice who was unnamed by the DOJ and only identified as Victim 1 in the grand jury indictment.

Sidhwaney’s Facebook page says he is from Washington State and worked as a software developer for a number of companies including Google and Microsoft, among others in Washington, Alaska, New York, and California. It also said he lived in Jacksonville, not Fernandina. A cartoon on his Facebook shows what appears to be the Supreme Court.

So far I haven’t found anyone hereabouts who says they knew or even met the guy.


Pajamadave and the infamous Ty Ross bike.

Bicycle Recycle: I never met Fernandina Beach’s short-term City Manager Ty Ross but based on reports I’ve heard from people who did, he was one heck of a nice guy with an engaging and warm personality, exactly the kind of person needed to manage city hall’s cast of eccentric characters.

Over a couple of beers at our favorite watering hole the other evening a few of us were discussing the brief tenure of former city manager Ross and how difficult it must have been for him to explain his resignation as City Manager of Fernandina Beach to his wife after less than two weeks, not to mention the loss of a job that paid a quarter of a million bucks a year to live in a beautiful Florida coastal resort town.

In case you have been in a coma recently Ross resigned after a day of a “drinking-to-win-friends-and-influence-people” episode in downtown Fernandina and then falling off his bike. He and his bike were given a courtesy ride home by a local cop and police body camera photos of Ross sitting on the ground were plastered all over the local media.

People I know who met Ross really liked the guy, saying he was congenial, smart, funny, and interesting, all traits lacking by a cranky City Commissioner also named Ross, who can be spotted occasionally cycling hereabouts on a bike telling onlookers he “runs this town.”

My opinion and that of many I talked with that met the short-term City Manager is that he should have stayed on the job while others said the incident would have been impossible for him to live down.

My local chum and hail-fellow-well-met, Pajamadave Voorhees, owner-host of the popular PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, at 12 South 2tnd Street downtown, was benevolently gifted the notorious bicycle by the departing Ross in a gesture of good will. It’s not a cheap ride.

PJD told me Ross was very gracious and told him he should put the bike to good use. Maybe Dave could rent it, set it up as a photo op platform, auction it off, or convert it into a breathalyzer station. Other ideas were using it during a testing of the new City Manager by making that candidate drink a half dozen beers then ride the bike around the block.

Anyway I’m disappointed I never met Ty Ross. I think I would have liked him.


City Manager Refund? This past Tuesday it was revealed that the city of Fernandina agreed to pay the departing City Manager Ross almost $51,000 in severance. The Commission also discussed once again using consultant Colin Baenziger, the guy it paid $60,000 to find Ross, in a new search for a replacement.

So will tax payers get a refund on the fee paid for Ross? Will it have to pay another $60,000 for a new search? Unless this guy has a “no return after 30 days” or “purchase as is” policy something doesn’t seem quite right here. Tax payers are out more than $110,000 and have nothing to show for it.


All The News That Fits Our Narrative We’ll Print: A number of News Guild Staffers in The New York Times newsroom want their news writing colleagues to issue a statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

WOW! Most folks know the Times is staffed with biased lefty reporters. Now they’re publicly admitting that their reporting is one-sided says a Wall Street Journal article Monday, December 18.

Unions, which are predominantly leftist and contribute mostly to Democrat Party candidates, are now outwardly attempting to dictate what can and cannot be printed. This takes place despite a New York Times policy that states: “Staff members may not march or rally in support of public causes or movements.” Maybe the paper should insert the word “write” in that policy.

I recall being bluntly told many years ago by the managing editor of a daily paper I once reported for: “Scott, If I see one more of your opinions in a news story it will be the last news story you ever write for this newspaper.” Those days of balanced news reporting are long gone.

Even former Times editorial page editor James Bennett writing in the Economist, December 14, wrote: “Now journalism is becoming another job for joiners, or, to borrow Twitter’s own parlance, “followers,” a term that mocks the essence of a journalist’s role.”


Wait! What? Whatever happened to all those college campus “safe spaces” and professors and administrators condemning “hate speech” and “defamatory language” aimed at minority students, such as LGBTQ , blacks, Hispanics, indigenous people, and others? Where are those voices now in support of Jewish students?

Where is the Harvard “task force” that was created to  to support students experiencing doxing, harassment, and online security issues.?” Apparently it doesn’t apply to Harvard’s Jewish community as acts of intimidation against Jewish students continues with no interference,  protection or condemnation from school leaders.

In addition to ignoring blatant attacks on Harvard’s Jewish students Harvard’s President Claudine Gay is also being accused by several prominent academics of plagiarism in her academic writings and her doctoral thesis. Apparently this woman has never had an original thought.

“Why do safe spaces, microaggressions, and hate speech not apply to Jews”, asked Fareed Zakaria on his CNN show, of all the unlikely places. “If universities can take positions against free speech to make some groups feel safe, why not Jews?” asks Zakaria.

If the KKK or a white supremist student group demanded on their campuses the genocide of blacks, would they hesitate to stop them? Or would they look for context? These same university presidents that issue “trigger warnings” for classic novels like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” allow groups to scream for intifada.

These three “It depends on the context” presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT displayed their hypocrisy and total lack of moral clarity to the American public with their pathetic Congressional testimony. The two remaining  twits  at MIT and Harvard need their schools’ trustees to kick them in their woke DEIs out the door.

At the rate its going the once prestigious university could easily become a Harvard Business Review case study itself titled: “How iconic brands like Bud Light, Target, Disney and Harvard decimated themselves.”

Harvard and other hypocritical schools’ failures were made obvious in front of Congress. But how did this vile ant-Semitism seep in and transform these elite education institutions into racist institutional centers comparable to those of 1930s Nazi German society, that was one of the most cultured and educated in Europe at the time? And where is the national outcry?


  • Comment (44)
  • All parties involved in the Ty Ross debacle should scrutinized for continuation of employment by the city. In short, the wrong person resigned and should be reinstated. The remaining parties should be fired.

    Ty Ross is guilty of bad judgment or, perhaps, having a drinking problem. The police watch commander and superiors, the city attorney, and anyone else involved in the incident and subsequent cover-up are guilty (in my opinion) of dereliction of duty and of abusing their respective offices.

    Ross should have been arrested and taken to jail. He should have been charged appropriately, tried, and punished. He should have had the opportunity to pay for his stupidity.

    Those who made the decision to give Ross special treatment, including a ride home and cover-up, need to have their actions reviewed. The authorization of special treatment by the police is a gross misuse of the law. The acceptance of Ross’s resignation and payment of generous severance pay is a travesty of public service by all that are responsible. All should be subject to disciplinary action, in my opinion.

    If Ty Ross was the best man for the job before this debacle, he’s still the best. Save the city a ton of money and ask him to come back to work.

    • The soon to be former city manager was in a new town without his family. That can be a huge burden on anyone. He made a mistake getting inebriated in a public location and trying to ride his bike home. He should have taken his beer home and drank while watching Fox News Channel. The police officers, city attorney, and elected commissioners who facilitated the coverup are really the ones who should pay a huge price. In my years in law enforcement and public safety I worked with numerous city, county, and state attorneys who were great. I just do not understand a town like Fernandina Beach electing commissioners and those commissioners hiring a city attorney who is outright clueless as to their roles. The voters who put in an idiot such as Chip Ross and the red nose BLM supporter former commissioner who plays being a reporter is just dumb. I pray one day someone will wake up and put this great town on the right track.

  • As we close the year 2023 just remember…

    “Life is a carnival–it’s in the book
    Life is a carnival–take another look” – The Band

  • Harvard’s Claudine Gay plagiarized her way to the top of the DEI heap … funny, so did Joe Biden.

      • TDS at its finest in this one… LOL The Don thanks you for letting him live rent free in that space between your ears.

        • 75 years ago patriotic Americans went to France to throw out the Nazis. Let’s keep it that way. Next year all you have to do is go to the polls and NOT vote for Donald Trump.

        • Why are you being disloyal to DeSantis? Ron offers us a sharper minded, younger and more energetic version of MAGA.

          • Why are you assuming that I don’t like DeSantis? I love our Governor! Do you or are you just a liberal snowflake that can’t get over the fact that your chosen Clown in Office is ridiculous and led us down a road of economic destruction and dependency? Maybe you’d prefer to go back down the Russia, Russia, Russia path? Oh wait, that was Hillary… LMAO

  • Skunk Apes and newly minted city managers falling off bikes? You REALLY should take a break from the heavy stories of our day and take it easy this close to Christmas…I think Mr. Ross would have fit in quite nicely into our little island community, but he used his “mulligan” way to too soon in his tenure. He wasn’t here long enough to earn a nickname or mount a koozie cup on his handlebars. Sad, really. Guess we’re left with our beloved Party Marty, for our bicycle antics. I say, save the city $51K and let him to come back and show us his worth. How’s that for a Christmas miracle?
    As for the Ivy League Schools and their institutional hatred for our Jewish friends. Harvard President Gay and her ilk are the ones that should be run out of town on the rails. Such an epic failure of both leadership and credulity. Merry Christmas, all.

    • “Such an epic failure of both leadership and credulity.” Talking more about Trump than any scholar here. Trump could never plagiarize because he doesn’t have the attention span to read anything. He just says whatever is on his mind and makes stuff up. And his followers (same as ya’ll who are glues to Fox News or Tucker Carlson) just nod your heads in agreement.

        • Yes and he certainly doesn’t inspire the way Obama did. But at least he doesn’t sound like Adolf Hitler.

          Agreed that all parties could use more diversity, equity and inclusion – to include younger candidates.

          Nominate Haley or Christie and our country will make progress regardless of which way it goes. Trump gets the nomination and it’ll be a shit show regardless of which way it goes.

          • President Trump thanks you for letting him live rent fee in the empty space between your ears… lol Inspire? Can you even interpret his comments? He’s a blathering idiot and whether you want to admit it or not, a racist crook, who sells his Country out to the highest bidder. Quid pro quo anyone? If you put as much focus on your choice of leader as you do on the one you hate, you’d have a whole new perspective on who is dedicated to the people of this Country and who is in it for themselves. Oh, AND thanks for letting us know exactly who are the worst candidates in the GOP… as if we didn’t already know.

      • When Kim II Sung came to power, he wanted North Koreans to worship him as a god, and not the one true God. So, he killed many Christian leaders, sent others to political prison camps, or banished them. He did all he could to kill the followers of Jesus Christ. No wonder Hitler quoting, Putin loving, insurrectionist Trump got along so well with Kim Jong Un!

  • Young people entering college were informed that their parents views were old fashioned! The real truth was the socialist BS the professors etc told thiese young kids! I didn’t catch on until I got much older! I was surprised that no one tried to stop this! Gone on for years!

    • In one semester these liberal/conservative professors can undo 18 or more years of parent(s) indoctrination. Either kids are smart enough to think for themselves or they’re of such weak minds they wind up drinking Kool-Aid in Jonestown. To hear the blame assigned to college professors, it’s a wonder DeSantis managed to escape those bastions of liberalism named Harvard and Yale.

      • Soooo… you think parents “indoctrinate” their children? Do you mean like teach them the difference between right and wrong, that they shouldn’t touch a hot stove, eat tide pods, steal, murder, hurt others, treat others with respect and defend themselves when necessary? Or is it the whole being a good American, defend the Constitution, serve your Country, believe in things that are greater than themselves thing? BTW, how many “conservative” professors do you know of at Ivy League schools?

        • You might as well rename your house as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Hope you didn’t have kids.

        • Amen, Fred! I agree on all counts – everything you say is valid, and certainly backed by FACTS. Most Liberals I speak with come at you like a parrot, spewing stuff they have only “heard, with no actual facts, or with things that are totally irrelevant – like Trump’s tweets, his personality, etc. He has done more GOOD for this country, and abroad, than any President in my lifetime. And he never took a salary while in office, or allowed himself to be tied to all sorts of donors! He loves this country, and he proves it every day. If Libs loved America, they wouldn’t want to destroy our Borders, make us depend on Communists for our oil supply, and essentially, take away all we stand for, Constitutionally, and morally.

        • You claim to value a person that will “…defend the Constitution, serve your Country, believe in things that are greater than themselves…” and yet you support Donald Trump?

          • Ummm, hey snowflake(s), where in that comment did I mention President Trump? But just for arguments sake, who do you support?

          • As I understand it, Trump never failed to support the Constitution because any provisions conflicting with his actions had been deemed suspended. He also had a Constitutional duty to contest the election that included ALL of the various things that do not need to be repeated.

    • Uh huh, probably on the DO NOT CALL list… LOL Meanwhile Clinton, ducks and runs as his name is starred and repeated dozens of times…

      • Donald Trump tried to distance himself from Jeffrey Epstein, but 7 flights on Epstein’s plane, 70 photos with him, and calling him a “Terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women… many of them are on the younger side” is telling.

        It’s telling, GOP, that this is YOUR guy.

        • And all that was before he threw him out of Mar a Largo and denounced him, right? Meanwhile your Dem heroes visited Pedo Island multiple times… I suppose you should throw Michael Jackson, David Copperfield, Bruce Willis, Kate Blanchat and dozens of others that had ANY contact with the man under the same bus? Take your own advice and get out of the “gutter”.

  • Have you ever heard the term “sore winners”? I think that sums up the liberal/democrat mentality. You get what you want and instead of celebrating your “victory” you do everything you can to demean others and whine about the inequity of your win. What is the term I’m looking for here? Oh yes, Oxymoron and what an appropriate ending to that word. To all you miserable liberals out there, Happy New Year! Why don’t you take this opportunity to make a resolution to be a just a little happier this year and just a little less miserable?

      • Wow, I’m glad you said that to Fred and not to me… LOL I mean you liberal posers can’t keep track of who you’re insulting these days.

      • Every time a liberal gets triggered, it seems their language ends up in the gutter and they have to revert to using vulgarity.

  • Regarding the Ty Ross incident, the alcohol service licensee that clearly over served this man needs to be reminded that ownership of a liquor license is not an unconditional privilege. In this case, it appears as though the licensee likely failed to honor and abide by a duty owed to both Mr. Ross and, more importantly, the public. Anyone disagree?


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