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Vin Mannix: Home of the free, because of the brave

Snapshots from a summer holiday weekend:

A father and son checking out the rebuilt boat ramp one morning at the Braden River and State Road 64 East.

A bumpersticker on the rear window of a Marine veteran’s pickup: “Home Of The Free . . . Because Of The Brave.”

A woman in line at a gas station coming close to going off like a firecracker over having to pay more than $6 for a pack of smokes. Or was it $7?

A football magazine on the drugstore newstand with Dolphin linebacker Joey Porter on the cover, a cool reminder NFL training camps will open in another few weeks.

Stopping for lunch for the very first time at The Broken Egg in Lakewood Ranch, a Dick Vitale favorite — and guess who’s there?

A phone call with July 4th greetings from nephew Kevin Haddon, an Army Special Forces sergeant winding down a long deployment overseas to return to the U.S.

Seeing the latest James Lee Burke crime novel, “Swan Peak,” in paperback at last at the bookstore, and buying it for a perfect vacation read.

A wheelchair-bound fellow motoring along 14th Street, his rig decorated with small American flags.

A handbill from a neighborhood kid, looking to make a few extra bucks cutting lawns while school’s out, even though my front yard is all stone.

A postcard from Surf City, N.J., a timeless favorite vacation destination down the Jersey shore for the Mannix tribe. My youngest sister’s brood is there now; the rest of the gang invades next weekend.

A long line of bumper-to-bumper traffic creeping west along Cortez Road for the annual Beachhouse fireworks show. It is such slow going, when we reach the old Post Office, we park, walk to Annie’s Bait & Tackle, watch the fireworks from there, then beat feet before we get stuck in traffic going the opposite direction.

The Shake Pit awning, festooned in red-white-and-blue streamers, and its marquee saluting a birthday and a future Marine. And two little twin boys staring in awe at the large Uncle Sam doll in the Shake Pit window.

The Trinity United Methodist sign on Manatee Avenue West: “Let Freedom Ring.”

Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix,is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.