A short glimpse of gold

Published August 16, 2006

DOVER — East of Tampa, out past the stretch where State Road 60 narrows from eight lanes to four, sits a field of 7 acres that has never been much to behold.

A strawberry farmer named Eddie Jones tends to this field. Some time ago, he wondered what might happen if he substituted something with color for the standard cover crop he uses to prevent erosion between seasons.

“Eddie likes pretty things,” said his fiancee, Debbie Holt.

Someday came, and in June, Jones mixed 12 bags of sunflower seeds into his ordinary iron clay peas, then spread them upon the land.

The seeds took root and came to be knee-high in a month.

Then, last week, a special thing happened. The sunflowers, now thigh-high, did what sunflowers do: They winked open — hundreds, then thousands.

They lured Kerry L. Vosler, who planted a canvas beside the bouquet and dabbed at it with yellow oils.

“When you see something like this,” she said, “you just can’t pass it up.”

They pulled, by way of Chevy van, Larry Arrington, an amateur photographer who has traveled as far as Utah in search of such majesty.

Even now, they beckon from the bustle all sorts of others — pilgrims, lovers, sisters — who leave SR 60 to stand, to stare.

“Every day,” said Bill Bridges, who lives nearby and has never seen such a thing.

The phone keeps ringing at Jones’ Brandon Farms, where Holt answers. One rubbernecker said she nearly wrecked. Another wondered if she and her sister might take some photos. Others seek only permission to walk through the field.

As seasons go, this too will end. Seven days left, said Holt, before a man on a mower cuts the sunflowers and a man on a tractor discs them into the earth, and this field of 7 acres becomes not much to behold.