Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Clams and a gull

 It would have been the summer of '66 or thereabouts. Once the century clicked over my memory for years got a little fuzzy. Strange how that is and I still occasionally have to remind myself it is 20 and not 19. Why just the other day I realized the new school was forty five years old. Where did all that time go ? It is something we all ask ourselves and the answer is never an easy one. Some years are more memorable than others. But back to 1966. I lived down to three mile as we said in those days and there weren't many neighbors. At least there weren't any boys my age close by. Oh, Barry Collum lived down on Soak Hide just a short distance away but we didn't hang out that much. No particular reason that I can think of, different interests is all. I had decided to go clamming. Yes I thought I would just go scratch up a mess and treat the rest of the family.
 I didn't own a clam rake back then but knew where I could borrow one. Aunt Francis lived just up the street and had several. She wasn't really my aunt but that is what we called her. That is what was used in place of maam or Mrs. where I grew up. If they were a friend of the family they were aunts or uncles as the case may be. I don't recall anyone having a gender issue back then so it was a fairly straightforward thing you know. Anyway, Aunt Francis loaned me her rake. Now her rake was a real old one. It was cast iron and had no attached basket to catch them clams in. You had to rake them up and flip that rake over to catch the clams on the tongs. Barring that, you just reached down and picked them up off the bottom by hand. That will get to your back mighty quick. So having a rake, I picked up a bushel basket, they were always lying around. Burlap bags were always around too. It is what happens when you live in a fishing and farming community. I found a short length of line, it wasn't rope, cowboys use rope, to make the basket fast. What I needed now was an inner tube. Off to Olympic Heights service station to get one. That gas station was run by George Rosen and Ed George at the time. Both fine men and sympathetic to a boy needing an inner tube. All I had to do was ask. I was given an old one that came out of a car tire. Yup, it was before tubeless tires really caught on. I inflated that thing and discovered it had a hole. No problem though, Mr. Rosen let me use his tube patching kit and I had it ready in no time.
 I had all my gear collected and was ready to go. Hands creek was the best place I knew to get some clams. Hands creek was full of cherrystones, chowder clams could be found over to Sammis beach. It was those cherries I was after though, to eat on the half shell. I liked them steamed too but not today, today was going to be clams on the half shell. Figured on getting a mess of them ! It was quite a good walk to get to hands creek from the garage so I kinda hung around a bit, looking forlorn. Didn't take long before somebody stopped in to get gas and was headin' down that way. I got a ride ! It was fine, nothing to worry about, I didn't know this guy but he knew Uncle George so that was good enough, I mean, what could happen ? So, I got down to hands creek and the tide was going out. That's a good thing and I got right to it. Turns out the clams were nosing and you could feel them with your toes. That sure makes for some easy clamming, let me tell you. Just feel them, put the rake down and give a few pulls, and up they come. Now, I had that basket inside the inner tube to float it. It was tied to my waist by that line so as not to drift off. That's how you do that in case you didn't know. Walking along feeling those clams and putting them in the basket. It gives a boy a chance to think about things. In 1966 I would have been 13 and don't really remember what I was thinking about. May have been that red headed girl on the bus. I don't remember her name anymore but remember that red hair. Exotic like I would say. She wasn't paying any attention to me that much was certain. I did like to watch the gulls circling around and the sailboats coming and going. There is some that would say lying on the beach getting a tan is about the most relaxing thing there is. I would disagree, walking along with your clam rake, scratching up a mess of clams is the best therapy for the soul I can think of. A therapy I haven't enjoyed in many years. And the truth of it is, even if I went it wouldn't be the same. That is all in memory now.
 Well, I did get a mess of clams that day, near a bushel. The sun was down in the west a bit. I used to try to tell time by looking at the sun, like they do in the movies. I found that I wasn't very good at that at all. I knew it was time to head home. Now the problem is, how to get that bushel of clams home. A bushel of clams ain't no joke, those rascals are heavy. There were some folks there with little kids. Hands creek was also a great place to go swimming with little ones because the water wasn't too deep. You would have to get a good ways off shore to have it much more than three feet. They just had regular cars though, I needed someone with a truck, or at least willing to put that basket in the trunk. Wasn't much I could do but wait. I do remember a man coming down to check the bay. It was a common practice with the local folks, go check the ocean, make sure it is still there and then ride down and check the bay. I traded him a couple dozen clams for a ride home. It worked out great.
 Hard to believe all that was so long ago. I can still taste the salt in the air and hear those gulls screeching and squawking. I can feel the rake in my hands and the gentle tug of the basket as I walk. Such a peaceful thing, clamming. I expect it is something like those folks doing Yoga must feel, almost mystical. If I had told my father that thought he would still be laughing, and he passed away 27 years ago. It was an innocent time back then, where did it go ? You know I have a gull as my profile picture. I have been asked about that a couple times. Here's the reason. My father was a hard working man, always busy doing something. A no nonsense kind of man, like the majority of them old folks were. When I didn't meet up to his standards of productivity so to speak, he would say this. Boy, you're just like a gull. Don't do nothing but eat, shit and squawk ! Excuse the language but that is what he said. So, that gull seems fitting for a social media account as I don't get much accomplished in using it. There is an old fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull that I particularly enjoyed. I remembered this passage most of all.  “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” The book came out in 1970 and was required reading. I still have a copy on my bookshelf to this day. So, yeah that gull means a few things to me.