Local Folks: Al Poindexter

Local Folks: Al Poindexter
Al Poindexter with his guitar.

Al Poindexter doesn’t have to go far to enjoy wildlife in the middle of the city. He simply steps out back of his Colonial Manor home.

Fifteen years ago, during a remodeling project, Poindexter had a bulldozer dig a 10×14-foot pond, 20 inches deep in his backyard. He wanted a peaceful place to sit next to his deck. He installed a waterfall and planted a cypress tree. “There are native Florida plants showing up in there now,” he said.

Just for the fun of having something in the pond other than the tadpoles he knew would show up, Poindexter bought five dozen feeder fish that cost a dime each at a local pet shop. He never fed them; they lived off natural growth in the pond and reproduced. Poindexter enjoyed season by season watching the babies come, grow, and then cycle again. Though all the same species, color variations began to appear in subsequent generations, making them all the more attractive to watch.

Raccoons and possums wander the property at night and drink from the pond. Poindexter sees them from the infrared video camera he has installed. To protect the fish from the nocturnal animals and from the eagles and egrets that visit by day, Poindexter built rock ledges around the perimeter of the pond for the fish to hide under. He also installed large, flat rocks on top of smaller rocks at the bottom of the pond’s center, creating tables to serve the same purpose. Silt has accumulated down there over time, which the fish can swim through to create a cloudy mist that makes them invisible to predators. Poindexter assumes that’s where the fish go when they disappear from his sight for two to three weeks at a time when the weather turns cold.

Two years ago, Poindexter’s daughter gave him two freshwater turtles of the species river cooter. They had been pets of her neighbor who could no longer care for them. He named the larger of the two Amy and the smaller Sheldon, an allusion to characters of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The fish are too numerous to name; more than 75 adults Poindexter estimates.

Al Poindexter’s pond life.
Al Poindexter’s pond life.

When he adopted the turtles, their food came with them. Poindexter made certain to regularly add the food into the pond for them. The fish shared in the feast. It wasn’t long before Poindexter noticed the increase in size of his fish, more than doubling in length from three inches to six or seven. He continues to purchase the same commercially produced food and puts it in the pond even during winter months while the turtles hibernate. The fish continue to thrive on it.

Poindexter’s housecat, a rescue animal named Tabby, also enjoys the pond during the day. “She has a water bowl, but she prefers to drink from the pond,” Poindexter said. She doesn’t care about the fish. She ignores the turtles as they sun themselves on the rock ledges. The birds Tabby likes, but Poindexter keeps a bell on her collar to alert his flying friends.

Hanging in Poindexter’s yard for nesting bluebirds are houses that were handmade by Ken Godwin of San Marco, specifically designed to keep raccoons out. Poindexter keeps an eye on the situation at night via the infrared camera.

After a heavy rain, bullfrogs serenade Poindexter with their croaking. He once witnessed two mating. But caring for critters is not Poindexter’s only pastime. He plays music, too.

His current six-string acoustic guitar was custom made by Gary Hopkins of Old Town, Florida. It was made from the wood of trees that grew within a 30-mile radius of Hopkins’s house. Included are red cedar, black walnut, and the wood of a magnolia tree that had fallen during a Will McLean Music Festival. The position markers on the fretboard are made of abalone shell cut into the shape of sharks’ teeth.

Poindexter also plays a steel resonator guitar and a banjo. He prefers old folk music, including a few songs he’s written himself. Recordings can be found at the local library and on his website, AlPoindexter.com.

Poindexter used to be a band member, but for the past several years, he has played solo. Pre-pandemic, he often performed at Riverside Arts Market on Saturdays. For six years, he ran an open mic night at Three Layers Café in Springfield. The monthly concerts at Beluthahatchee Park, the site of Stetson Kennedy’s former home in Switzerland, Florida, Poindexter hopes to resume once the pandemic passes.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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