Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The church key incident

 Yesterday as I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline a picture caught my eye. It was a tiny blowfish. Smallest I think I've ever seen. Now some folks called them bottlefish and others still puffers. Whatever name you prefer, to us from East Hampton, they are all the same fish. I call then bottlefish. I haven't had the pleasure of eating them in quite some time. Decades to be truthful about it. I would guess sometime in the 1960's is about right. I have never forgotten just how good they taste or how rough their skin is. You see, you skin a bottlrfish, they don't have scales. The underside of those fish are like sandpaper. The " grit " is large enough if you grab it tightly it doesn't hurt much but let it slip through your fingers and ow ! It'll rip your skin off. We used pliers most of the time. Once they were skinned out and gutted Mom would boil them. After that they were made into the most delicious salad you have ever eaten. I swear it tasted like Lobster to us. I heard that some folks called them the Lobster of the sea , instead of chicken. Whatever you want to call it, it was, in the local vernacular " some fittin' Bub. " Of course a " bean sandwich " which I saw later on in the day comes near to it. Haven't had one of those in a good while either.
 I called Mom for Thanksgiving and  told her what I had seen. She just laughed about it and asked me if I remembered the time one of those fish had eaten the church key. Laughing along with her, I answered of course I do. This is one of those stories that has been in the family for years and gets retold every time bottlefish are mentioned. First perhaps a little explanation is needed. You know what a bottlefish is, but do you know what a church key is ? In this context a church key is a can opener for beer cans. This story goes back to the days before flip top cans. The pull top we know today didn't appear until 1965. The story is that I was fishing with Dad. We had gone out in our row boat and was catching bottlefish. Oh, we got into a mess of them. We were throwing them into a bucket and they would naturally blow up. The reason some call them blow fish. Well, they take up a lot of room  in that bucket when doing so. The easiest thing to do is to pop them. Us kids loved to do that although I guess it is kinda cruel. Anyway, I took Dads' church key, all beer and soda drinkers carried one and jabbed at those fish. The skin is rather tough and not easy to poke a hole through. Well, as I did that the fish just naturally jumped around. I thought it was gonna bite me ! I drew my hand back real quick and the church key went flying overboard. I knew I was in trouble. I stayed quiet about it until Dad asked for the church key. Thinking fast I told him I tried to poke that fish and the fish ate it ! If you have ever seen a bottlefish you know their mouths are quite small and they have bucked teeth. Dad wasn't buying that story for an instant. I had to confess to what really happened. Needless to say the fishing trip was over !
 It was after that I started carrying a pocket knife. That was not going to happen to me again. After Dad got over being mad about not being able to open his next beer he told everyone that story. Oh, he had a good laugh at my expense that much is sure. I learned a valuable lesson. Always take a knife with you when fishing and don't ever,ever lose the church key ! It is a lesson I'm afraid the kids today will never learn. You don't need a church key anymore and drinking beer on the boat is frowned upon, illegal even in some places. Yes and it isn't smart to carry a pocket knife anymore either. I do but get a pass because I'm an old man. If I were a kid it would be totally different. Times change. I'm betting that bottlefish salad would taste just as good as in the past. ( sigh ) I'll never know for sure though. I don't think I'll ever get those fish again and I know Mom wouldn't be there to make that salad. It will remain a memory, a memory with a story.