Gurry

I have never been overly fond of lobster.

Everyone has their limits. For me, filling the bait bags was it. Lobsters are not fussy eaters, so the stuff in the bait bag does not have to be high-class vittles.
I was not squeamish. You don’t last in an operating room if you can’t put a bung in your roiling guts during a septic case when the odor is powerful. But the job of filling bait bags was disgusting.
The long gloves I was issued for the job reeked on their own and seemed to make the odor persist on my hands and arms long after I had washed with the Fels Naptha soap.

The Cap’n who had secured this “plum” job maintained that I had too delicate a disposition. He made this statement while tucking into his second lobster over Sunday dinner. Lobster that I had obtained at a reduced price for the family. Let’s see… my wife, Grace, Cora, The Capn’, brother-in-law Franklin, nephew Douglas, and Franklin’s wife, Maryanne. Counting in myself and a couple of spares, that was nine prime lobsters – not the sort you’d get from the supermarket. The Capn’ hauling over one of the spares smiled at me and said, “Wes, this is the best job you’ve had!”
I looked down at my hands which I’d swear still smelled of gurry (liquified fish guts). But then, I asked myself. ” are these the hands of a famous anthropologist? Will I dine out on my tales of filling bait bags in coastal Maine?”Somehow I do not think so.
” Spinney says he’ll put me on at this boat yard four days a week.”

Silence at the table. Then Cora asked, “you’d rather paint and varnish than become a lobsterman?” The Cap’n opined,” more like scrape barnacles and put on bottom paint!” Everyone else at the table had the sense to stay out of this. The goal was to convince Wes that life on the coast was superior to fieldwork as an anthropologist in Spain or the Philippines. And incredibly more authentic than teaching bored undergraduates and engaging in bitter academic feuds. Of course, I now know they were correct, but back then, it was a matter of self-determination. I had a hunger for the life they were putting down and had a right to choose my path.

If it turned out that anthropology didn’t work, there were worse things than being a carver or working in a boatyard…like sitting in the lobsterman’s shanty all winter knitting netting for the lobster pots or discussing the cost of the oak stock needed to repair or make the pots. Of course, now I know that not all lobstermen were like the one I worked with, but then I was working with what I experienced. I worked at the boatyard, and the bottom paint is pretty awful. In fall I returned to school.

Many years later, the anthropology jobs played out, and interestingly I wound up back at a boatyard for a while scraping, painting, and varnishing. I took up the carving tools again and remastered the art of carving an eagle.

I am still not too fond of lobster, and I swear I smell gurry when I pick one up.

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