Victoria's Light

I worked as a shell fisherman after graduating from college.  It was hard work.  I cobbled together a quohaug boat with a 25 HP engine and the required gear.  Early on, the pain from heavy lifts, again and again, and and the cold and wet aluminum bull-rake stiffened and blistered the hands.  I did not give up.  Over time as strength was built and the hands calloused and I learned the technique for whipping the pole to scrape the bottom, things got easier (relatively speaking).  One sets the anchor perpendicular to a side of the boat, and uses the currents to gradually drift back, easing the anchor line several feet at a time As the boat drifts and with the current’s help, the telescoped bull rake is whipped with small powered strokes to scrape the bottom.  The scraping sound echoed through the hollowed aluminum tube, and over time I learned the difference between the feel, through the pole, of a rock and a littleneck.  When full, the mud-laden rake is lifted hand over hand  After dumping the contents into the sifting board sifting the catch is picked and the waste is scraped overboard and the process continues until the day is done.   The rake is lengthened and shortened as the water’s depth changes. I enjoyed the freedom of this job and the solitude, but like all things involving the ocean challenging moments presented often.  On one of the last days of doing this job, my boat was full to the top with shellfish from hitting a mother lode of clams on Ohio Ledge.   When I pulled up to the dock of Gilbert’s Seafood to sell my catch, my father was standing there.  He held my acceptance letter to Villanova University Law School.  A new chapter of my life was ready to begin.

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