Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Reeling in the Summer: Do Some Work, Get Some Food

 

My dad loved to go fishing. We’d get home from church on Sunday, have dinner (farm dinner—midday), followed by a little nap for him and mother. Then, it was time to fish. We lived in the Rocky Mountains where there were several abundant trout streams within a short drive, and he’d take his hip-boots (which were used for irrigating the other six days of the week) and his pole and reel, and his flies, and sometimes worms, and go off to find his bliss. We ate rainbow trout for breakfast every Monday morning in the summers.

He loved fishing. Once, when he was out in the alfalfa fields, changing out the canvas dams that spread the irrigation water from the ditch across the fields, a trout flopped out onto the hayfield, so he scooped it up and stuck it in his pocket, and later brought it into the kitchen for my mom to cook! He thought it was pretty hilarious that, even when he was working, he could manage to catch a fish!

My dad wearing the tall rubber boots in this photo with my little brother.

But, really, it was his relaxation, and his chance to just do something calm that brought him pleasure. He didn’t tie his own flies, and often, we kids were the ones who’d dig up some worms for him. He just enjoyed standing there in the woods, with the water gurgling past him, as he calmly experienced an in-the-moment event that had no great ramifications. It wasn’t going to be life or death, bankruptcy, or financial ruin if he didn’t get his quota of trout that day. So much of the rest of his life’s work on our farm included potential for those serious results.

He taught my older sister how to fish, and he’d willingly take any kid along with him on those Sunday afternoon outings to the creek or river. I went once. That’s all it took for me! No, seriously…bring me your dead fish, and I’ll happily make you dinner. Just don’t make me catch it! First, it was a spectacularly boring occupation. Of course, I was probably about eight or nine years old, and a rather active person. Standing quietly in or near a stream while you waited patiently for an unseen creature to be attracted to that little bit of food, then reeling it in for the catch was not really a big skill of mine. Then…I discovered that after you haul in the writhing fish, you have to kill it! It doesn’t just die when you take from the water. You have to smack its head on a rock! Well, no thanks. I don’t mind taking out the guts and chopping off the dead heads…but I don’t know why I couldn’t kill it. And I certainly had no hesitation in savoring their tasty meat the next morning.

Years later, I was married with five kids and we got to live in Southern California just a few blocks from the beach. (Hurray for my husband’s job!) I’d ride my bike down the to pier early in the morning for the exercise, and just to enjoy the ocean. On the pier were a little group of grandfathers whose purpose was to catch the evening meal each day. They would drop their lines off the pier into the ocean and sit there on a camp stool and spend a few hours filling up the plastic bucket that was sitting next to their tackle box. Some were Filipino grandpas, some were Spanish-speaking abuelos, but each of them was tasked with the job of coming home with that bucket filled up. A few miles away, on a different pier, there were some fancy restaurants that also featured delicious fish dinners, and all you had to do was pay them the big bucks. These fellows at the pier just put in the time and did the work and fed their families.

This is that pier I used to bicycle to every morning…many years ago. It’s still a popular spot for fishermen catching their dinner.

That’s when I realized my dad, in trying to show me how to fish, had actually taught me about an important concept: Free Food for Poor People. We ate tasty rainbow trout every week, as much as we wanted, for the price of his fishing license…maybe five dollars back then. After high school, I earned money for college by working in a resort town near Yellowstone Park at a nice restaurant, and I served many tourists rainbow trout for which they paid some serious money.

A few years later, my husband’s job transferred us to the East Coast on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I went to some party/dinner for his work and discovered the amazing culinary delight of Maryland blue crab cakes! Well, I certainly wanted to savor that food again, so I went to the grocery store to buy some crab meat. Wow. That little pint of tastiness cost far more than I was willing to pay. I mean, it was seriously expensive! So, I asked around and discovered that for $10 I could buy a wire crab trap and some stinky fish for bait and catch all the blue crab I could handle. So, I did!

That’s how I found out why that pint of crab meat was priced so high. Yes, Maryland blue crab is simply delicious eaten right out of the steamer and covered with Old Bay seasoning, or turned into crab cakes, or made into soup or stew. But to get that amazing meat, one must do an amazing amount of work. You’re not paying for the crab—you’re paying for the labor of getting the meat out of the crab! And you have to deal with those mean little critters. There’s a very good reason why a cranky nasty human is referred to as “crabby.” At least the people don’t grab your fingers with their sharp pincers.

These are the bounty of the Bay…so yummy…so much work!

So, all summer, I crabbed in the little creek behind our house. I learned how to separate the Jimmies from the Sooks. I learned how to measure their shells and toss back those that needed to grow a little. I steamed and picked and tucked away pints and pints of crab meat in my freezer. Then, all winter, we ate crab cakes, and stew and soups, and I was very pleased with myself for figuring out yet another source of Free Food for Poor People.

My dad would have been so proud!

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 11 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Arahant Member

    Cow Girl: Free Food for Poor People.

    It’s an important lesson. Lobster used to be that up in Maine. It was so cheap and abundant, they would serve it to prisoners. A prisoner being asked about his last meal would demand anything but lobster. 😉

    • #1
    • August 13, 2020, at 1:05 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    It also brings back the old saw: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

    • #2
    • August 13, 2020, at 1:06 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. KentForrester Moderator

    Wonderful story, Cowgirl. Your have a gift for writing as well as for crabbing. I just enjoyed your story thoroughly. 

    My uncle was an avid fisherman and hunter. Our freezer never lacked for venison. He usually did deep sea fishing in the waters out of Long Beach, CA. I went with him a couple of times when I was a kid, but I never really took to it. 

    • #3
    • August 13, 2020, at 2:03 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    We went on one fishing trip at a stream in CO, somewhere in the mountains with friends. I actually put those icky worms on the hooks! I enjoyed it, but I had the toughest time getting fish–they’d no sooner nibble my worm when they’d run away with it! I couldn’t quite jerk the rod fast enough most times to get them hooked. And then fresh trout for dinner! Our friends cleaned the fish, and it was really fun. 

    • #4
    • August 13, 2020, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    My uncle was an avid fisherman and hunter. Our freezer never lacked for venison

    My dad was also very enthusiastic about deer and elk hunting. He bagged one of each every year. Once someone asked me what was the difference between elk and beef in taste…I couldn’t answer! It was all just “food” to me!

    His grandfather had been a trapper in the 1870-1880s in our valley before any of the settlers arrived there to build homes and be farmers. I guess my great-grandfather had homesteaded a ranch, but then sold it for money to go out in the hills and trap again. He didn’t care for farming. Maybe my dad was just born in the wrong century! (Except that my father really did excell at farming…)

    • #5
    • August 13, 2020, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When we fished off the shore of the Gulf Coast, we caught a lot of catfish. Saltwater cats aren’t as large or as tasty as freshwater catfish, so we were trained to throw them back. Later, I learned that poor people keep the saltwater cats and know how to make them more palatable. They can be soaked in milk, as I recall. 

    We never ate shore-caught skipjack for the same reason. So it was surprising to see skipjack tuna canned at the grocery store. They are fun to catch because they pull hard and jump out of the water. 

    As kids, my dad and uncles caught crabs by dipping a bit of old chicken and slowly pulling the stubborn crab within net range. When I was a kid, there were still enough blue crabs for an occasional meal. We used a trap set beside the sandbar. Now only smaller brown crabs are normally seen by the beach. Ghost crabs are plentiful on shore, but few of those are big enough to try eating. 

    If civilization collapsed, I would know where to go for easy food. It’s a beautiful place to live. I would miss the bikini girls, though. 

    • #6
    • August 13, 2020, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    As kids, my dad and uncles caught crabs by dipping a bit of old chicken and slowly pulling the stubborn crab within net range.

    I knew people who’d just get in a boat and drag chicken on a line to get crabs, when we lived in Maryland. I preferred visiting my crab trap twice a day. It seemed easier to just let them come to me. The only crab I’d seen until I lived by the Chesapeake Bay were the giant crab legs from Alaska that you could get in the grocery store. I think I’d had them once or twice in a restaurant. But, I’m hopelessly hooked on the Maryland blues now. That’s a bit of a problem now that I live in the Mojave Desert. But, I go back east to visit friends now and then. And one of my sons lives in Virginia Beach.

    • #7
    • August 13, 2020, at 4:47 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    My uncle was an avid fisherman and hunter. Our freezer never lacked for venison

    My dad was also very enthusiastic about deer and elk hunting. He bagged one of each every year. Once someone asked me what was the difference between elk and beef in taste…I couldn’t answer! It was all just “food” to me!

    His grandfather had been a trapper in the 1870-1880s in our valley before any of the settlers arrived there to build homes and be farmers. I guess my great-grandfather had homesteaded a ranch, but then sold it for money to go out in the hills and trap again. He didn’t care for farming. Maybe my dad was just born in the wrong century! (Except that my father really did excell at farming…)

    I met a fellow in the dorm at University of Washington who was part of an extended family/clan that never bought meat. Ever. They had a commercial grade walk-in freezer in Eastern Washington. They hunted and fished everything they legally could, efficiently harvesting high quality protein.

    This post is part of our August theme: “Reeling in the Summer.” Stop by today and sign up today.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #8
    • August 15, 2020, at 12:19 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I love Maryland blue crab too, but what a pain it is. I’m always starving after going out for crab dinner.

    Terrific post!

    • #9
    • August 15, 2020, at 8:55 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    I love Maryland blue crab too, but what a pain it is. I’m always starving after going out for crab dinner.

    Terrific post!

    Ha ha!! It takes so much work and time, that you really do need another meal!

     

    • #10
    • August 15, 2020, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Kervinlee Member
    KervinleeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Lo, the Fisherman

    Mighty are his preparations,

    He riseth early and goes forth,

    Full of great expectations;

    He returneth late,

    Smelling strongly of drink,

    and the truth is not in him.

    – Anonymous

    • #11
    • August 16, 2020, at 3:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes