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Monday, November 7, 2011

No. 81 "I woulda sent ya some money," or "Where have all the scallops gone?"

When the off-shore sea scallops all but disappeared after having been over harvested for most the decade of the sixties, some fishermen followed their trail down to the east coast of Florida. New and even larger beds of the large calico scallops were found there at almost the very time that the local ones were depleted.

Going that far away, even to make a living, defied the widely held assumption that a Harkers Island fishermen refused to work anywhere that he could no sleep in his own bed every evening. Their brothers from Lennoxville and up Core Sound might spend days or even weeks away from home, but it was assumed that an Island fisherman would cut loose his net or trawl in order to get home before midnight.

But the lure of the large paychecks being reported by those who were working the new found beds off Florida proved too much an enticement for some, especially after the boom times of the previous decade had made them accustomed to the bigger incomes. Eventually more than a dozen boats with crews and captains from the Island were gathered in the Florida harbors. Most of them eventually came back, some very early due to homesickness, and some after they learned that the more money was being eaten up by the added cost of living away from home. And some because the free-wheeling lifestyle they lived away from their homes and family eventually stole most of their money even before they could use it.

But there was one Island fisherman who grew so comfortable in his new environment that he eventually decided that he would stay there forever. A major problem for him was that he had left behind a wife and family that was still counting on him for support. And unlike him, they were none so willing to pull up stakes and head south for forever.

As that relationship deteriorated, the fishermen began to make excuses; first for not coming home and later for not sending the money that had been expected. Still he could not bring himself to confront the issue of his life decision directly. Instead he gave ever more bizarre reasons for his behavior.

Finally, he attempted to bring the matter to a close by sending a letter that would explain everything and allow him to turn his attention entirely to the new life he had chosen. After telling his wife that it was his intention to stay in Florida forever, and never come back to the Island, he closed his letter with a final exclamation.

“I woulda sent you some money, but I'd already closed up the envelope. And, don't write me no more 'cause I am dead!”

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