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Meet the Commenters: FLJhawk

A closer look at the snake wranglin', gator wrasslin', swamp livin' son of a gun, FLJhawk

Welcome to meet the commenters FLJhawk. Living in the dangerous swamps of Florida it's important to keep your head on a swivel, especially for kids. How adapt is your son at snake killing?

Thanks for asking me to join you. I'm looking forward to getting to know everybody else as well.

In regards to snake-fu, and given that the kiddo is not quite two years old yet, I feel pretty safe in saying that he's still a novice. I'm sure we'll start the big knife training soon and then he'll be well on his way to becoming a true Floridian.

Let's get into your early life. What was it like growing up on a farm? Did you have a big family? I imagine that was something everyone in the family had to help with.

I grew up on a fairly large grain farm in what I consider the northwest part of the state. Our farm was a family enterprise in that my Dad has been working on the farm with his two brothers and my Grandpa since he got out of college.  However, my family actually wasn't really that big, I only had one older sister and until I was old enough to drive equipment, I wasn't really asked to do much work on the farm. Being a grain farm in this day and age, my family just worked hard and upgraded to bigger and better equipment rather than needing a lot of manual labor out of the kids. A ton of the credit for that goes to my Dad, who in addition to being a tireless worker, has a great mind for business and has used these traits to keep things growing.

Unlike a lot of farms, we did not have any livestock so I, and my sister and cousins, had it good. We didn't start work at 5 AM, or have to go out in the middle of the night to pull a calf, or fix a fence. Instead, we'd generally start work around 8 o'clock and go until 5 or 6 with the exception of harvest where we'd start early and work until late in the evening every day until everything was cut. My family raised a number of crops, but the largest share of what we planted was always wheat.

Unfortunately for me, I was allergic to wheat dust. That didn't stop me from working on the farm from when I was about 14 and legally able to drive until when I graduated college, but it sure made harvest miserable. I had to essentially wear a gas mask any time I was working with transferring the wheat from a combine to the truck I was driving or from the truck into the grain bin. Ultimately, I'd always get caught by it at some time or another and would end up hacking and coughing until about a week after harvest was done. Other than that, there was always something going on, whether it was fixing equipment or tilling the land, (something we don't really do anymore) we were always busy doing something.

What are your best memories from your childhood?

I don't have a particular vivid memory of something that just stands out as being exceptionally awesome, but I think that's largely because my whole experience growing up was pretty great. I have been blessed with an awful lot of really good memories from things like going downtown to get an ace-high at the local soda shop, (Yes, I know this sounds incredibly old like something someone in their 60's would say, but we had an old time soda shop where the guy running the place would mix a soda right there from syrups and carbonated water, not to mention shakes which is kind of like what an ace-high is. It was in business until the proprietor died while I was in high school. I've had nothing like it since.) to Dad letting me drive the pick-up out in the country on the way home from school while I was way to young to have a license to drive..

Some of my best memories are from my family vacations. Unlike a lot of people I knew in western KS, my family loved to travel. Every summer, we would take off for at least a week, usually to somewhere cooler and more mountainous. I remember a lot of fun times going to places like Yellowstone and the Rockies in Colorado. But probably one of my favorite trips was a big one to Glacier National park and on up to Banff in Alberta when I'd say I was probably 10-12 years old. Part of the reason I loved going on these trips was seeing the great sights, but probably the larger thing was that on those trips, we finally had Dad to ourselves where he was out of reach to the world for the most part and he didn't spend any of his time on work. That trip was particularly good because it was a longer trip than normal and I was getting old enough to be able to appreciate it.

What made you pick KU for school? Was there any pressure to take over the family farm?

I was a Jayhawk from the day I was born. My Dad grew up on the family farm and then when it came time for him to choose a college, he set the tone for my part of the family for bypassing the other big university in Kansas and travelling a little further for the vastly superior experience that is the University of Kansas.  While at KU, he met my mom whose family lived in Lawrence and ultimately brought her back to the farm. He started the indoctrination right away for both my sister and myself and despite the sheer number of wildcats and peer pressure that surrounded both of us the whole time growing up we both made the correct decision and went to KU. I have been working on my son since he was born and I can tell you that he can identify a Jayhawk with no difficulty, but the trick will be to keep him away from all of the Florida Gators in the area.

I can't say that I was pressured to stay and take over the farm, however, in the days since I've been in Florida, I can't help but think about the idea from time to time. There is just something really good about growing up in a small town where everyone knows you and it feels more like a really big family, and it's rewarding to actually be producing something tangible. I pretty well ruled out farming for the immediate future from the time I chose to go into engineering since I knew that I have dedicated a large portion of my life to being an engineer. But, you never know, someday the urge to get out of the bigger town and head to the less populated areas may be big enough to push me over the edge and send me back.

FLJhawk and lil' FLJhawk after a day in the Florida wilderness

FLJhawk and lil' FLJhawk after a day in the Florida wilderness

How and when did you discover RCT?

Honestly, I don't remember the exact time, but back in the day, I'd say at least 7-8 years ago, I was a fairly regular commenter on the kusports boards. At some point, I remember seeing someone talking about and I went and took a look. For whatever reason, I didn't sign up right then but I'd check in here every now and then when I was wanting to find other news. Those boards seemed to get worse pretty much all the time as the good commenters would leave and other trolls and idiots would show up more frequently until they became virtually unreadable. Finally I just had it and pretty much stopped posting altogether.  I'm not sure what drove me to re-check out RCT, but when I went I found a site that was full of reasonable people and not all of the riffraff that drags down the mainstream sites. I don't think that I can recall anything in particular that made me want to start, and considering that if I look at my profile it appears that I started in early June of 2010 where I don't think anything special was going on, I just wanted to be part of this unique community.

What kind of an engineer are you? What do you do in a typical day?

I'm a civil engineering consultant in the private sector. I actually went to school to be a mechanical engineer, but when I graduated there was a huge housing boom going on down here and my current company made me great offer to move to Florida and become a civil engineer. In my job, I primarily work on the design and layout of new subdivisions, commercial sites, schools, and roadways. Following the layout, I work on the technical side of the site development to design the utility systems and storm water management systems on the site. A lot of my day involves drawing plans in CAD, reviewing plans drawn by draftsmen, coordination of construction and inspection of contractor's work on the projects which I designed. Overall though, I'd say 85% of my job is working on the computer and 15% is getting out of the office for various site construction issues.

Going from a Kansas farm to the Florida coast is quite the jump. How did you end up in Florida and was it hard to adjust?

It's really a pretty simple story, I moved here because I got my position with my current employer right after I graduated from KU.  One of my best friends at KU was a civil engineer through all of college and was graduating from KU in the December before I graduated in May. He had taken a job at my current company in late December, and when we made the Tangerine Bowl that year, we both came down and watched the game. At the time, I couldn't imagine moving to Florida, but then in the spring I found that jobs were fairly difficult to obtain in the mechanical field right after school. Employers wanted their new hires to already have experience, and you couldn't get experience without being hired. On the other hand, due to the construction boom, the civil guys down here were looking for pretty much any engineers who were willing to learn the specifics of civil engineering and land development. I thought it sounded like a fun time to move to a beach town for a while, and have never left.

I think the adjustment for me was a lot easier here than it would've been in a lot of places in Florida. First, I already had one of my best friends living here, so I wasn't completely alone and had built up a number of new friends by the time he left for San Diego a year later. Another thing that made it easier is that Vero is small by Florida standards. The worst part for me is the long trip home to see my family whenever we try to make it back. It wouldn't be so bad, but my hometown is about halfway between KC and Denver making the trip a 2.5 to 3 hour flight with a 5 hour drive at the end.

What has been your biggest success and biggest regret so far in your life?

I haven't won any Nobel prizes or anything, but I have managed to be successful enough comfortably in a beach town where I have a great family and life that I wouldn't trade for anything. My biggest regret is that I didn't say screw-it to making money right out of college and instead could have chosen to travel and live out of a backpack for a while. Granted, had I done that I never would have met my wife or had the life that I do now, so since every move you make leads you to where you are, I guess I'll say that I don't have any really big important regrets.

Let's say I come visit you in Florida. What would we do and where would you take me?

Well, I gotta start with the obvious in that the beach is always a good time. We've got several good places to go right on the water with varying degrees of expense but one nice thing about Vero's beach that you don't get in a lot of places in Florida is a pretty much complete lack of high rise buildings along the beach. Vero is generally an anti-development town with a lot of wealthy people on the island and we actually have a county building ceiling of 35 feet meaning that you can't build a building any taller than that. No exceptions are made on new construction and only a few buildings of that height were constructed prior to the ceiling being placed throughout the county. After that we'd probably go on an airboat ride in the swamps west of town. There is a ton of conservation land out there and plenty of guys with airboats who are willing to take you out to see wild gators, snakes, ospreys and other various wildlife followed by getting a beer at the Orchid Island brewery which is currently the only craft brewery within the city.

A lot of what goes on in Vero is heavily dependent on the season. During the winter months there is some type of festival in the general vicinity pretty much every weekend. Most of them involve a lot of good food and oftentimes good beers. We also have about 10 golf courses in a county with about 100,000 people, so if golf is your game, it's pretty easy to find a great place to play. And while I don't do it regularly, there are a ton of people that are huge on the fishing both in the Indian River Lagoon and offshore in the Atlantic.

Other than the local activities, Vero really isn't right next to anything, but is within an hour and a half drive of most of the major Florida attractions like Disney, Universal, Legoland. And if you happened to time it right you could possibly see a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center which is just up the coast from us. It's pretty cool to go there for a launch, but, on a clear day you can see them without even leaving home.

Anything else not mentioned that would be interest or we don't know about you.

I have at least some level of aspirations in regards to commercially brewing beer but am still in the very preliminary stages with one of my friends. We're still working on trial and error recipes trying to find something unique. Probably never going to happen especially given that I think there are probably already too many small breweries out there to continue to allow for profitability of new ventures unless we stumble upon something truly fantastic.

Lightning round

Age: 34

Height: 5-11
Where do you live Vero Beach
Facial hair: No, but I can grow a serviceable beard in a little more than a week if I should need one.
Any pets: None
What kind of car do you drive? Both a Saab 9-5 and a Ford Lightning
Corrective lenses: Really powerful contacts
Hair style: Short
Favorite movie: I really don't watch films over and over anymore, but I've seen Dumb and Dumber more times than I can count. 
Favorite tv show: Archer, Always Sunny, Bob's Burgers
Favorite beer So hard to pick just one... I'll say Florida Cracker Wit from Cigar City although there are plenty of beers brewed by Belgian Monks that contend.
Favorite band: Honestly, I don't have a go-to. I like a lot of things. 
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite non KU team: Chiefs 

All time favorite KU player Kirk Hinrich

First concert: Rusted Root at the Granada 

First w-2 job: Mover at Starving Artists Moving

Best athlete seen play live: I'm going to say Tom Brady over Derek Jeter.