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Columnist muses that ‘We won the Sanibel Revolution’

By Staff | Aug 7, 2009

We won. How else can you characterize the total capitulation of Lee County on the Sanibel causeway toll increase revolution?

In history books to come the Sanibel Revolution will be analyzed and interpreted in many ways. Some will say that Sanibel won the war because it outsmarted and outmaneuvered the fat cats of Lee County. Others will say that the seeds for the revolution were sown when Lee County forced Sanibel to build a high span bridge against its will.

Yet others will say that the massive uprising of the populace forced Lee County’s hand. Whatever the interpretation will be years from now the hard truth is that once again taxation without representation was indeed tyranny.

There were many heroes in the American Revolution. The Sanibel Revolution had its own modern day heroes. Who can forget the brilliant rhetoric of Patrick Henry Smith that truly woke the populace? As he was being led into Lee County to face trumped-up charges of vagrancy and public loitering he coined a battle cry that will forever be taught in Sanibel schools: “Give me liberty or give me a beer. But a toll increase? I’d rather eat sand.”

And the 20-day fast of Samuel Adams Goldberg during which he ate no blackened fish until he was blue in the face. Or the midnight ride of Paul Revere Giamatti who rode a segway up and down Periwinkle shouting: “What time does Noah’s Ark open? What time does Noah’s Ark open?”

The battle line was drawn at the toll booths where all the toll collectors collectively walked off the job, dove into the bay and sang with the marlins in an act of total defiance. Lee County huffed and puffed and threatened to raise the tolls to $100 a trip but Sanibel would have none of it. We stayed calm and collected even though the threat of closing off our beloved island with higher and higher tolls scared the living heck out of us. Did we waiver? Did we flinch? Were we to be intimidated?

Well, maybe a little bit. Our Continental Congress met secretly a number of times to develop tactics and strategies to beat the Lee County bosses. Some members thought about going to Lee County with hat in hand and capitulate altogether. These individuals were regarded as turncoats and its leader Nathan Hale XII was branded a traitor and was forced to sell his Sanibel home at a profit. He was unceremoniously stripped of his Chamber of Commerce membership and sent to Lehigh Acres.

During the Sanibel revolution martial law was declared by the Sanibel City Council and curfews were put into effect. Early bird specials were now started at 3 p.m. and the streets were cleared by 8 p.m. Ninety percent of Sanibel’s residents didn’t even notice the change.

Dissension was outlawed and a revolutionary militia was formed of the island’s first born. It was not unusual to see small patrols of six to 10-year- old children being trained to throw Frisbees at incoming Lee County officials from behind pepper trees.

One of the most daring moves the Sanibel City Council made was to create its own currency the wooden nickel. Wooden nickels were used to pay the tolls on the causeway and turned over to Lee County with the chant: “don’t take any wooden nickels.”

What truly turned the tide was the daring midnight raid of George Washington Bailey when he led a small battalion across the Sanibel River and captured the Lee County dump. This military strike cut off all the raw materials Lee County needed to continue its deadly night time waste missile deployment. It wasn’t too long after this episode that Lee County cried uncle. When that happened Lee County threw in the towel, claimed that it was only kidding when it threatened to raise the tolls and began to sing the Sanibel national anthem: “A shelling we will go, a shelling we will go”

Mayor Mick Denham ordered that the Sanibel School was to be closed for one day to commemorate this important date in Sanibel history. Unfortunately, his staff forgot to remind him that the school was closed anyway because of summer recess. But the joy of the victory was not to be denied. There was to be no toll increase. Sanibel had won the war. Now no one in the state of Florida could take Sanibel for granted any more. We didn’t roll over. We started the Sanibel Revolution and won. We were now going to grace the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Men’s Health with our daring deed.

Yes, this is a tale we can tell our grandchildren, as soon as we have them. The day Sanibel stood up to Lee County and won the war. I wonder who will direct the movie.

(Stevens writes his humorist column Shell Shocked weekly for the Islander. His column should not be taken as fact but rather as a fun, thought- provoking read.)