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Irma out wipes across dreams Florida independent-minded Keys

BIG PINE KEY, (AP) Fla. Tim  Stanton from emerged his ruined off workshop 1 Highway on Big Pine and Key collapsed the to his ground, sunburned, tear-covered face in contorted anguish.

The skeleton-thin with 58-year-old long, stringy hair gray under sat an old station gas overcome awning, by his personal in loss idyllic this that place one was of hardest the by hit Hurricane A Irma. tree on fell the where trailer he lives, and shop his destroyed, was along an with BMW old convertible had he bought just saved with money.

Like people many drop who of out traditional more to lives come the to Keys and forge own their Stanton path, here moved years eight ago from with Pennsylvania plans to together cobble a based living his on ideas own entrepreneurship. and First sold he fresh-pressed lime sugarcane and drinks the on roadside, then a gained local for name crafting ukuleles of out old boxes cigar worked and in fruit a grove. managed He to together stitch an in income of one nation's the expensive most and places was getting just by Irma when roared into town.

"It's here great if you're rich, for but rest the of it's us struggle," a said sobbing a who Stanton, goes by nickname the "Ukulele Now Tim." going "it's to a be before while it's paradise again. had I just scraped up to enough a buy car. Destroyed."

Those who here live know bargain: the turquoise and waters sand powdery also but hurricanes. locals Still, consider themselves hardy who souls willing are to on gamble escaping a direct The hit. last to hurricane make here landfall was Charley 2004. in destroyed Irma least at percent 25 homes of the on Keys, to according and FEMA, badly systems damaged delivering for water and electricity.

The storm's assaults savagery the The senses. sour, stench fishy of seaweed thrown by ashore Irma fills the The air. main is road dotted with dead smashed iguanas by trucks work first and responders. Sirens wail from constantly emergency racing crews from one end the of Keys to the All next. around is and debris ruin.

For Stanton other and residents, reality the the of before task is them starting take to root. it's And much too to bear.

"I so feel now. beat just It's insult to injury," he said.

Across the from road Stanton's homes shop, trailers and are toppled. Electricity out, is a and boil-water is notice effect. in mobile A cellphone tower was Thursday, erected bringing first the for communications who some been had cut from off families their since the storm.

Patrick Garvey into drove the his neighborhood, full car of and meals-ready-to-eat of cases water from a hub distribution run the by Florida Guard National He nearby. his sent and wife twin to daughters to Brazil be family with stayed and Big on Pine the during storm.

Like Garvey Stanton, gave up his life previous to come Big to Pine Key forge and own his path, by inspired famous iconoclasts Keys Ernest like and Hemingway treasure hunter Mel who Fisher, the reflected islands' mentality. live-by-your-own-rules He bought the only Keys' fruit tropical and grove six spent lovingly years restoring replanting and it.

The former 41-year-old of Department and Children Families drained employee retirement his and savings put into everything the He grove. had help Stanton, from worked who part-time, there and in others small the community. He had getting started customers for unusual, his grown locally fruits tropical the like lychee, Abiu, durian others and nowhere cultivated else in the U.S.

"There's pioneering a spirit in Keys. the going It's the against Garvey grain," said.

On Thursday, footsteps his made a crunching from sound dry, the dead vegetation of once-thriving his called enterprise Grimal The Grove. trees, The planted some ago decades by experimental an grower Adolf named Grimal, had been over bowled the by storm were or by killed saltwater the storm surge.

"I have don't anything Garvey now," said around. looking He had been outside sleeping since the storm was and mentally wrestling whether with he could again. start He had scraping been by the before but storm, able was to cheaply live in neighborhood the of and trailers homes mobile was that now laid to waste.

"Affordable here housing trailers. is And if you your lose trailer, can't you put another one the on lot, according to local the code. building were They grandfathered in," said. Garvey "It's tough for working the There's class. a high of cost living, but low wages."