Largo residents are very familiar with trying to avoid orange construction barrels around town. But imagine having to avoid a herd of cattle?
Obstacles are apparently nothing new on Largo roadways.
Largo native Jay B. Starkey, Jr., 76, shared at a special Pinellas County Historical Society Centennial dinner his memories of growing up on his family’s 650 acres farm around what is now Starkey Road. Before fence laws, cattle roamed free in Largo and around Florida, he said.
“It didn’t matter how much land you had. It was how much cattle. They loved to sleep on the road at night. It made travel around Florida interesting ... Cows roamed everywhere around Pinellas,” Starkey said.
Starkey shared how his father, Jay B. Starkey, provided for the family. Just like today, earning enough money to support a family then sometimes meant working more than one job. His dad worked for the post office and later for the county as the tax collector, in addition to doing ranch-related work.
On the ranch the family grew various crops and started raising cattle, but the most successful endeavor was feeding hogs. Winters were busy with tourists in St. Petersburg, and waste food was collected by the truck loads, Starkey said.
The feeding operation "did have a certain odor to it," Starkey said.
Starkey enjoyed growing up in Largo. The 1953 Largo High School graduate raised animals through the 4-H club, played saxophone and ran track.
There was “always something to make you laugh about or make you shake your head about,” he said.
While the Starkey name may be familiar in Largo because of the road, the Starkey name is well known in Pasco County, also. A majority of the family’s Pasco ranch land is now in the J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey.
Starkey and his wife, Marsha, raised their four children in Pasco. The couple now has nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.