Monday, February 19, 2007

The Seafood Worker Mythology

“An Eastpoint Legend”

By Richard E. Noble

I consider a mythology a belief or superstition that is passed down from generation to generation. Some mythologies have been around for centuries and centuries. I am not an expert on mythologies but they seem to be a mixture of fact, fantasy, mystery and mysticism.
When I arrived in the little fishing village on the Florida Panhandle that has now been my home for over a quarter of a century, I was immediately made aware of the “Seafood Worker’s Mythology”. The basic myth was that there were evil forces working toward the inevitable destruction of the seafood worker and his way of life. These forces were classical in their nature. They were not the forces of God or Mother Nature but the forces of the Devil and they took on numerous forms.
This little fishing village that I settled into was a simple community of hard working people. I met no one who had made their “fortune” in this village the “easy” way; they all came about their “fortunes” the old fashioned way - they earned it. Everyone had whatever it was that they had because they had worked for it. And nobody was ashamed of “working” for it. Working hard was a respected value. It was not a sign of an inferior calling or a deprived intellect. Physical labor was a normal part of everyday life.
Though everyone in this little village worked hard most nevertheless were very poor. They didn’t know that they were poor and they didn’t think of themselves as poor. They didn’t act the way that many accuse poor people of acting. They acted like working people and they all thought of themselves as “middle class”. If anyone accused them of being poor, they would flat deny it. They would point out the richness of their style of life; they would point to the bounty of the Bay that they were blessed to live on; they would point to the smiles on the faces of their children and the beauty of the sun both coming and going over the water. They would brag on their bounty and their ability to harvest that bounty. They would tell you that the chosen disciples of Jesus earned their living following the exact same traditions. And time after time it was said to me, “Just remember when them city folks have nothing to eat and are picking through some dumpster, we can go right out there into that bay and gather us up some fish, oysters or crabs. We might not have much but we won’t starve.”
My Dad had a similar story, but since we lived in that big city he didn’t say that we had fish, oysters and crabs - he said that we had each other. When I ponder those two philosophies, I hate to admit it but there were times when the fish, oysters and crabs would have been a much more satisfying and sustaining alternative. Hugs and kisses may be fine but a free bounty from the sea can be truly divine.
But the truth was that this village was one of the poorest counties in the state of Florida - not only in Florida but in the entire United States. This fact is documented. But neither my wife nor I found that to be a disadvantage. We had been born into their class and had spent much of our marriage together traveling around the U.S. working with all types and varieties of this class. Strangely enough we considered that it was this class of people that truly represented the moral values and integrity that had made America the Country that it has become. We may have been wrong, as many people have since told me and as I have read in many modern history books, but that is what we believed.
One of the demons of the Devil that came with the Seafood Worker Myth was like the myth of the never ending white man that plagued the darkness of the American Indian. The Seafood Workers had their “white man”. Their white man didn’t come with railroads and rifles; he came with money and condominiums. The word “condominium” ranks next to “communism” in this neighborhood. People spit it out when they say it. It is an expletive. It is not only a symbol of the other world; it is a symbol of the underworld. It represents lies and deception; corruption and greed. The people who live in, build and buy condominiums are soulless creatures whose ancestors were born in Hades and whose only purpose for being is the destruction of “good”. These people eat up the natural world and it supporters, then puke it all up into pollution, decadence, paved roads, freeways, parking meters, traffic signals, shopping malls, gourmet foods and gated communities. The fishermen and the poor are pushed into the swamps like the Seminoles and pretty soon they all just disappear.
And they are coming, I was told. You can see the signs of them everywhere. Look at St. George Island; look at Apalachicola; look at the restaurants, the new homes, the real estate offices on every corner. Look at the decaying oyster houses; look at the new neighbors; look at the traffic downtown; look at the crowds at the post office; look at the new traffic light in Apalachicola. The white man from the far off land of money and condominiums is here! And he is going to eat us up and spit us out. First he is going to kill our buffalo; our bay, estuary and river; then he is going to build his forts; condos, skinny minis, gated communities and new home developments. Then he is going to figure out ways to get rid of us - just like he did in Miami, Pensacola, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Walton Beach and all over America. They already have us surrounded. And what are we going to do about it?
We are going to do what all of us Indians have always done; we are going to go on a war path; we are going to hoot and holler; we’re going to get all red in the face and then we are going to disappear - just like the Indians.
We are going to be forced off our land by hook or by crook, by code and inspection, by rules and regulations, by taxes and canceled or escalated insurance rates; by inflation and deflation; by inclination and speculation and no amount of incantation or rejuvenation is going to make one iota of difference; and then we are going to just disappear. We’re going to sell out or be run off or if we have nothing we’re just going to pack up our bit of nothing and cart it behind our horses or wagons, or in our pickup trucks and head for...?
That’s the Seafood Worker’s Mythology for those of you out there who are asking yourselves - what the heck are these ignorant savages thinking about? Why don’t they wake up and join the 21st. century? When are they ever going to get a clue?
They don’t need a cue. They have the answers as they have been revealed to them in the divine mythology and the handed down truths of their ancestors. They know what the future has in store because it has been revealed - through the past; through their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents; and through the spiritualism and mythology of their ancestral heritage.
They are a primitive breed.

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