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Bowling stinks? Blame city that sinks


© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 25, 2001

Friday afternoon, I bowled a 98 at Mariner Lanes, in the heart of Spring Hole -- er, Hill.

Usually, I can blame a poor bowling score on a tired arm, uncomfortable shoes, or, in a pinch, my complete lack of competence in the game.

But now -- thank you, Mother Nature! -- I have a new scapegoat.

"Is this floor slanty?" I asked a man bowling on the lane next to mine, shuffle-stepping to the left.

Every time I guttered -- and I guttered often -- I guttered left.

I got one strike, but in order to do so, I had to stand at the far right side of my lane so it could veer left and slam home in the middle. Scout's honor. (Don't let my brief stint in the Cub Scouts cast any doubt on the veracity of that claim.)

"Are there Karst formations under this building?" I asked Edie Jo Norman, owner of the bowling alley. Karst formations are subterranean cavities that riddle the earth around Sink Hill -- er, Spring Hill.

"No," she replied. Not even a moment's hesitation.

"You're sure?" I asked.

"We're pretty high up," Norman said. "Not sure if that makes a difference. But we haven't seen anything like that around here."

Maybe. But I still think I would have bowled at least a 105 if the floor wasn't slanty.

* * *

Vince Vanni won't crack.

No matter how I try, he won't confirm the existence of a Weeki Wachee Springs Catastrophic Drainage Contingency Marketing Plan.

The plan -- assuming it exists -- creates alternative uses for Weeki Wachee Springs if the spring goes dry due to, say, a sinkhole popping open and draining all the water out, leaving a bunch of mermaids flopping around in a pit.

"Gee, I don't know," said Vanni, the park spokesman. "That's about as far out as you could really get. I don't know what kind of contingency plans are in place for that sort of thing."

He also doesn't have the map to the secret UFO base, Area 51.

Or so he says.

* * *

The sky may not be falling in Spring Hill -- or Spring Hole, or Sink Hill -- but the ground most certainly is. Long-term pumping of groundwater, coupled with an extended drought, with a heavy dose of sudden torrential rain thrown in for good measure, all provided just the right mix for widespread sinkholes in the past two weeks.

It's like Hernando County yanked the lever of heaven's one-armed bandit, came up three cherries, and the casino fell out from under it.

And I'm wandering around town acting like Wile E. Coyote, in that moment between stepping off the cliff and plunging, when he gets that boggled look and pinwheels his feet.

* * *

So far, Spring Hill hasn't been declared a federal disaster area by the president. As you may be aware, President Bush has been off in Europe on a whirlwind foreign policy tour.

But we intercepted the following AOL Instant Messenger memo to the governor's office:

* * *

TO: Jeb!

FROM: Bubba "The Prez!" Dubya

Just had lunch with Queen Elizabeth. She wears funny hats. I jumped up and down, wavin' my hands in the faces of the palace guards, tryin' to get 'em to blink or flinch. Nothin'. I kicked 'em in the shins. Nothin'. I had Laura pick me up, and I bopped 'em in the nose. Nothin'. Them boys are good. By the way, heard about them holes swallowin' that little town in Florida. What were y'all thinkin', buildin' in an area with a road called the Sunk Coast Parkway?

- Wes Platt is the assistant editor of the Hernando Times. He can be reached at (352) 754-6113. Send letters c/o Hernando Times, 161 E Jefferson St., Brooksville, FL 34601. Send faxes to (352) 754-6133. Join our interactive discussions online at

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