DADE CITY, Fla. — Wendell Speer remembers swimming and canoeing on the Withlacoochee River as a kid. He still visits the water to watch it gently flow and read his words displayed just yards away.
“I’m out here as much as I can be,” the 64-year-old poet said.
The Dade City native spent many years of his life under the shady canopy through the Withlacoochee River Park. It was only natural that his love for the outdoors and his love for writing converged into hundreds of heartfelt stanzas.
“Maybe 200-300 (poems),” he said from the dock, overlooking a river scene dotted by cypress knees and moss-strewn oaks. “I grew up out here so, just being so familiar with it, knowing it well, it’s a friend.”
The youngest of six kids, Speer was born in Dade City. His family moved to Tifton, Georgia, where he lived until fourth grade. They moved back to Dade City before heading to Boca Raton for college. He took an opportunity to “hitchhike” around Europe in his junior year. He enjoyed it so much he eventually moved to Poland in 1988 and spent 21 years there before moving back to Dade City “for good” in 2002.
“I’ve been around the world,” he said. “(This is) one of the finest places in the world to me.”
That’s why he writes about it. He has work posted in the library across from City Hall. It’s been on display for almost a year.
“People are curious as to why that’s up there,” said the library’s Angelo Liranzo. “People stop to read it.”
The library is a place Wendell started going as a 10-year-old. Down the street, his poem about the iconic Book Shack is on display in the front window. He’s written a poem titled “Dade City” that he hopes is named the official poem of the city.
“I have traveled many lands but Dade City is my home and here my heart will stay long after I am gone,” he recited.
“It really captures the essence of a small town,” he said.
You can read “Withlacoochee River!” at four locations along the river banks. He hopes it will go on display in other spots, too.
“It kind of flows like a river,” he said of the stanzas. “People will say who read it that it really captures the spirit, the soul of this place”.”
It’s just one of his many special works of poetry by a man who truly loves his hometown.
Speer has also written four children’s books. You can find them on Amazon. He’s handed out hundreds to children for free all over Tampa Bay. You can read his poetry about Dade City on his Facebook page.
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