I am a child of the South, specifically the coastal South. To me that means childhood trips at night into the piney woods to little docks on tidal creeks – to lower a Drop Net (crocheted by my mother around a hoop my father fashioned from old copper tubing), full of clothespins and salt herring from the Red & White or Piggly Wiggly, to let it rest beneath a few feet of water on the smelly marsh mud. It’s pulling on a piece of wet cord to bring that net back up, not knowing until the last bit of the bottom of the net clears that water if you have handfuls of twitching, sharp-nosed and tailed shrimp or an empty haul.
It’s tying a rotten chicken neck to a piece of dirty nylon twine and tossing it in those same creeks and learning patience. It’s holding that twine just tight enough to feel that slight tug that means a Blue Crab has found it. It’s a the slow retrieval of that line with one hand while you loop the slack other end of the line around a scavenged stick of wood. It’s using an old broom handle with a notch cut in the end to lift the string up straight from the bottom while your parent slips a dip net quietly into the brine to net the monster catch from behind. It’s the day you first manage to do all that singlehandedly, using the net to both lift the string and catch the crab.
It’s the salt spray over the bow of an aluminum Jon-Boat, as you sit holding an empty 30-gallon trashcan from bed to bed until it’s full of enough oysters to stay in the boat by itself.
It’s shrimp trawlers gliding by as you dangle your bare legs over the hot crumbling concrete of an old causeway, hoping the bait at the other end of your toy fishing rod will entice a bite. And stopping to brush the concrete “crumbs” from where they stick to the back of your legs and shorts while a small Spot flips at the end of your reeled-in line before you throw it back.
I learned patience, persistence, resourcefulness and appreciation as a child of the coastal South. Seems like many of our favorite foods here are always an exercise in all of those skills or virtues. Don’t get me started on boiled peanuts or picking crab.