The dull brown shell of a hard clam may not rival that of a sunset-colored conch, but to the people of Cedar Key, the bivalve is just as beautiful.
To understand why, it helps to visit this tiny fishing village. Be prepared to take your time. Like a sailor fleeing landlocked life, you travel west toward the Gulf of Mexico until you run out of road. Gradually, the pine flatlands lining State Road 24 yield to marshes and mud flats punctuated by oyster beds. As a salty scent fills the moist air, the mainland fades from memory. If you look into the sky at night, the seafaring sensation continues, so close and clear are the stars.
Situated on one of 13 offshore islands in the