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Clammers shell out money for a fishing expedition

September 02, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

First of all, a big congratulations to the Klan for beating the over/under on its Sharpsburg rally this past weekend. I was figuring they would get six people to march in their parade and they got 10.

And guys, please, don't be put off by how goofy you appeared in the front page photo in the Sunday paper. Just because it looks like something straight out of a Mel Brooks movie doesn't mean you should take your eyes off the ring.

Personally, I was sorry to have missed it, since, believe you me, I have a lot of things that I hate and I was hoping for some room on the agenda.

I think my ideas would have helped you fellows out, too. If you hate "Jewish bankers who run the world," I'm thinking that's just a little esoteric for some people. But if you would only expand your hatred to include Jewish bankers who run the world AND people who scratch off their lottery tickets on the counter of the convenience store, I'm thinking you cast a wider net.

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Speaking of casting nets, the reason I couldn't represent with the K-dogs was that I happened to be on the island of Chincoteague in Virginia relentlessly hunting down the feared and treacherous clam.

I was dubious of the project from the beginning, but the Captain Ahab in High Heels is a product of the tidewater regions, and she proclaimed that it was going to be such a beautiful weekend that we ought to go "clamming." I believed that if it were such a wonderful weekend it would be a shame to ruin it for the clams, but I was outvoted by a score of 1-1.

We sauntered up to the boat rental shack, a colorful establishment named Captain Bob's. Everyone on Chincoteague is named Bob. Or Bill. Even the women. All the businesses are called "Captain Bob's" or "Barnacle Bill's or "Barnacle Bob's" or "Captain Bill's." It's just that kind of town. It simplifies things in the sense that you can walk anywhere in town and announce yourself as "a friend of Bob's" and they take you in like family.

But trouble struck after we rented the boat and then queried about the availability of "clam rakes." We were told that clamming wasn't allowed on their boats, so we had to go with Plan B, which was fishing for a species known as "croaker."

No part of me wanted to land something called a croaker, and thanks to my poor fishing skills I wasn't disappointed (I prefer freshwater fishing, where a fish is a fish, and you don't run into all this optional equipment that you find on the saltwater varieties, like vocal cords or an extra eye on one side or eight-inch teeth).

The reason that Bob doesn't want you clamming in his skiffs is that the waters around the island are shallow and he doesn't want you running aground while prowling around the clam beds. He needn't have worried, because we were quite able to hit the sand bars even when we weren't trying.

This caused some classic husband and wife tension as we argued over who was responsible for these groundings, the person driving the boat or the navigatrix who was supplying directions.

In her defense, all Andrea had to work with was this cartoonish map that came with the boat that more resembled a protozoa under a microscope than it did any serious navigational tool. She'd say "Go there!" and I'd point the machine thither, and in about 20 seconds the engine would sputter and up would churn big globs of sand and mud.

I was sort of happy to notice once that a few random shards of clam shells came up in the stew, so to say that we were entirely shut out in the clam-killing business would be inaccurate. Meanwhile, as I frantically tried to disengage the engine and reverse the boat with the oar, Andrea would be up front studying the map and musing philosophically, "Oh, I get it, this must be what they mean by 'dangerous shoals.'"

We did manage to land a sea creature, although even this wasn't entirely intended. I had a nasty backlash that took a few minutes to untangle, and while I was using up valuable profanity on something as trivial as fishing line, the bait (we were told it was "scented squid," as if there were any other kind) was all the while resting on the bottom.

When I hauled it in, the bait appeared to be wiggling. And sure enough, it had laid in the sand for so long, a blue crab found time to wander over and latch on. It was a victory, but only the second biggest victory of the day. The first was that we got our full deposit back on the boat.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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