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No Rose Garden the short side. The women still held their heads high and played the martyrs with their virtuous dreary routine of cleaning and baking, never so much as going to the movies for fear of missing a call from the boat. But they were on their men, harping about longer vacations, trips to the old country, more time together. The boats are paid for, we’ve got all the money we need, relax a bit! The old habit was hard to break. Like bulldogs, the men hung on long after the quarry had given in. As skipper, Sal could make $50,000, as much as $75,000 in a good year ~ not bad even for college guys in the 1980s ~ and he could throttle back a bit, take more time off from the outset, train someone to fill in for him. Even $50,000 was no good if you couldn’t enjoy it. Hardly worth it even then, according to his wife, Maggie. He looked at his watch. Twenty minutes to haul-back. Sal and Tony had gone out for a beer one February night in Boston after the boat had come in late. They had to stay to unload first thing in the morning, so they took advantage of a night out. They hit a couple places, then stumbled into a music bar where folksinger Dave Van Ronk was playing. Tony ran into a friend who knew a friend of Van Ronk’s who said the folksinger would be stoked to meet a couple of by-then

half-loaded professional fishermen. So Sal and Tony went backstage. Van Ronk had asked them a mess of questions about the boat, the routine, and sung them a few verses from half a dozen sea chanteys. No, they told him, nobody on the boat sings when he works, or even when he isn’t working. They hadn’t heard most of the songs. When they were sufficiently amused, Van Ronk had asked, “Well, what the hell is codfish worth a pound?” They had laughed, but he was serious. “Twenty bucks? Thirty? A hundred?” He was practically yelling at them in his whiskey-rough voice, thrusting his bearded chin at them. It had sobered them up. Van Ronk had poked a finger at them like a mad evangelist. “Because I would want that much if it were me out there in the damn winter, that’s for sure,” and the singer had laughed himself into a coughing fit. In his bunk, Sal was smiling in half-sleep at the memory of Van Ronk berating them over the price of codfish when the haul-back horn shattered the hypnotic drumming of the diesel. The haul-back horn was the worst sound the men knew. Worse than fire horns or police sirens. It was the dive klaxon on submarines, the bellow of a drill instructor, alley cats inf licting serious damage on one another at midnight. It made the kind of terrible noise needed to arouse men


Profile for Tidewater Times

Tidewater Times December 2018  

Tidewater Times December 2018