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Retired Couple's Everglades Home Is Great Example of Getting Away From It All

January 11, 1987|Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It's not easy to drop in on Floyd and Priscilla Heyer. You can't walk or drive to their home, and even in a boat, you would probably miss the place unless you had visited them before.

The Heyers don't shun visitors. Living in the Everglades is simply their way of enjoying a quiet retirement away from telephones.

"We have all the conveniences except for a dishwasher and telephone," said Priscilla Heyer, as their small open boat left Everglades Holiday Park and headed west along a canal inhabited by alligators.

"For 32 years, Floyd was on call day and night. We don't need a phone now, and we don't want one," she added emphatically.

"I can't think of anything I've missed," said Floyd of the six months he and his wife have spent on their island, which measures about 300-by-150 feet.

Two miles west of the campgrounds, Floyd looks for his television antenna and flagpole that rise above the grass that grows 10 feet high along the canal bank.

A Watery Driveway

He steers the boat into an almost hidden break in the saw grass and idles north along a twisting, narrow waterway.

"This is my driveway," he says with a grin.

Suddenly, around a sharp turn, there is a small wooden dock. Several feet behind it, obscured by large holly trees, are two frame buildings separated by a paved courtyard--their home. "Welcome to Twin Towers" is painted on one of the buildings.

"This was built about 10 years ago for some of the campground employees," Floyd said. The place has a makeshift appearance, was built without blueprints, and had been abandoned for several years when the Heyers moved in.

The peak-roofed building on the right has a rustic living room, two bathrooms, a kitchen and sitting room. The second contains two bedrooms, a walk-in closet and another bathroom.

There is no hot water, and the Heyers use a small gasoline-powered generator to charge automobile batteries, which provide lighting.

Generator Runs TV

"We use the generator directly for the television, VCR and ceiling fan," Floyd said. The refrigerator and stove operate on gas.

One bedroom with windows close to the water level is protected by heavy mesh wire.

"That's to keep alligators from getting into the bedroom," Priscilla Heyer explained.

She has no qualms about living here in 4,000 square miles of water wilderness.

"It's a challenge," she concedes, "but I have no fears. I feel free out here."

Sharing the island with the Heyers are three cats, a dog and a semi-friendly, three-foot-long alligator.

Their life, they explain, is now free of the social and work commitments they juggled while Floyd was civilian head of vehicle management for the U.S. Air Force. They retired from Robins Air Force Base, Ga., in 1981, and spent the next five years on a lake near Milledgeville, Ga.

They came to Florida so that Priscilla could manage a gift shop at Everglades Holiday Park that belongs to her brother, Mitchell Bridges.

One inconvenience to island living, she says, is carrying groceries by boat. Another is having to go to the mainland to do the laundry.

These are offset, however, by a low cost of living.

"It used to cost us $2,000 a month to live on the lake," she said. "Now, we don't spend $500 a month."

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