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August 25, 2004

Another Fish Story

fishing boat

As a younger man he fished the fertile grounds around the island in the Lady Kate. He fished alone, not from any lack of sociability, but out of economic necessity. The boat was not big enough to justify paying a hand, nor could he afford to split his catch with anyone. Later, the pressures of feeding the family and making the mortgage payments got to be too much even to support a modest lifestyle. He was forced to give up fishing for a living, which he did with great reluctance. In the early days however, he went down to the sea for his living as generations of proud men had done before.

It was hard work for a man alone, but he was fit, and after a full day's work he would offload the catch himself. (Clams, striped bass, bluefish, cod, or halibut). During certain seasons the clamming was good and could be done from the boat with a surf pump instead of hand raking on the beach. Once, after a particularly long and successful day fishing for clams, he had come in almost spent and offloaded his catch using the winch. Dog tired but thirsty, he stopped at the local waterfront tavern for a beer. If you sat at the right place at the bar you could see the harbor, which was why it was the gathering place for all the local fishermen. There isn't a fisherman worth his salt who doesn't start worrying about his boat as soon as he leaves it to go ashore.

At the bar the talk inevitably turned to the day's fishing and the size of the catch. When his turn came, he was forced to admit that he had been too tired to keep track of the number of baskets he had offloaded. Almost before he stopped speaking one of the regulars a few stools down piped up, "hundred and five bushels." There was a moment of silence before everyone in the tavern burst into laughter, including Jake, the usually taciturn bartender. There were no secrets on the island, and they all knew that.

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