A couple of dummy pages from my work-in-progress Digest.
This is the back story:
One hot Sunday morning in July of 2000 I received a call from Nena Calvert, asking if I wanted to go out with her husband Doug and their daughter Heather, and son Josh to photograph them pulling ‘a couple of bags’ of clams. Nena and I had been the founding officers of the local PTO some fifteen years earlier, and I knew that her father, years before my time in town, had pushed for and unsuccessfully tried to establish oyster farming in the area. Since then Nena and Doug had tirelessly worked to establish clam farming in the area, and they had been the first ones to engineer a successful clam hatchery on Florida’s West Coast. Their efforts were instrumental in assuring the community’s survival after the Florida net-ban passed, by making it possible for the out of work commercial fisherman to transition to clam farming.
I grabbed my camera bag and joined them on the town’s outside boat ramp, where they had launched. Their clam lease was south-east of the key, unlike most other leases which were to the north-west of town, towards the mouth of the Suwannee River. Although it had been five years since the net-ban, and the beginning of clam farming in the area, a lot of the clam farmers had not been financially able to transition to boats and equipment specifically designed to make the harvesting of clams less physically demanding and more streamlined.
This meant that each bag, with its clams, mud, and water in it, weighing right around 100 lbs, usually required two people to lift fully out of the water and heave over the gunwale into the boat, and once in the boat be redistributed to assure a balanced load.
When they finished pulling the ‘couple of bags’, which by my estimate were actually twenty bags, weighing around 2000 lbs, Heather pulled up anchor, and Doug backed the boat trailer down the ramp, pulling boat and clams onto the trailer, and up the ramp. I was watching the operation from the side of the ramp and noticed that the fiberglass hull of the boat was doing some serious flexing and groaning under the load of clams. I had only been standing in the water, photographing, while they did the backbreaking work, yet the heat and humidity of the summer morning had gotten to me, and I was tired. I jumped into the bed of the little pick-up with Heather, and road back to their house. Once there, they still had to off-load the clams and process them, more strenuous work, probably taking the rest of the afternoon, while I headed back to the air-conditioned comfort of our house and a cool shower.