By Richard E. Noble "Well, I'll tell y'all," declared the elderly lady ringing up our groceries at the local store. "I was born and raised here in Eastpoint and I've seen a lot of hard times but no matter how hard it got, I never got so bad off that I had to shuck a darn oyster. And I'm mighty proud to say that!" I didn't know how to take that remark since I had just told the lady that my wife and I would be starting our first day of oyster shucking in the morning. The bay had been closed after a hurricane and we needed some way to get by. How bad a job could shucking oysters be? Well, let me tell you, it was pretty bad. My wife and I both shucked them oysters as fast as we could and I don't think we earned $25 between the two of us on that first day. An old woman standing next to us had shucked 15 gallons by herself. She complained that the oysters weren't fat. She said she usually did better than only 15 gallons. I remember thinking, resentfully, if she is so good at shucking and makes so much money, why doesn't she have any teeth. Halfway through the morning we were both suffering from a severe case of "chicken back." Chicken back is a condition we discovered snipping gizzards and livers in a chicken factory in Arkansas. It is caused by holding your arms and hands up in front of your chest for several hours at a time. We determined that this was an ancient Chinese torture, like thumb screws and getting stretched on "the Rack" or water-boarding. Oyster shucking involved this very same torture technique. Once that knot tied the ligaments between your shoulder blades in a great big painful ball, there was no getting rid of it. You could twist and shake and jiggle yourself up and down but it would still be there. Imagine someone sticking the tip of a knife into your back one millimeter at a time - all day long! So half the morning and all that afternoon we suffered through the Chicken Back. Then our legs and feet began to ache and cramp. We noticed that all the other shuckers were standing on a wooden stool rather than on the hard concrete floor. We found ourselves two wooden stools pretty darn quick. It helped a lot. We were trying to shuck the oysters the old fashioned way - with a hammer and a block. You would bust the bill end of the oyster on a slim metal wedge that rose up from the steel block and then you would dig your knife into the crack in the oyster and pry it apart. It takes more than that to shuck a "pretty" looking oyster but since I doubt that any of you who are reading this will ever be applying for such a position, I'll skip the details. A pretty oyster is an oyster that isn't all hacked up and butchered. It should be whole - with no puncture wounds releasing all the juices. Once you get the technique of shucking a pretty oyster, then you have to develop speed. When you get good, it appears to the observer that the shucker is popping that oyster from between those two shells with one fluid motion. It takes a whole lot of oysters in the shell to make one gallon of the shell-less kind. When the oysters are fat (during spawning seasons) you might get one gallon per each bag of approximately 300 oysters. When the oysters are "poor and salty" it could take many, many more. In any case, if you are expecting to make any money don't plan on going home early. After the first day we didn't have much more money than we did the day before we started - but now we had a plan. The first part of the plan was to get ourselves electric shucking machines. The basic machine was simple enough and the first one was actually invented by a couple of fellows from Apalach. We went over to this guy's home - as I remember his name was Segree. He and his partner once had an oyster house in Apalach and they supposedly put the first shucking machine together. This old man who was now growing hydroponic tomatoes in his greenhouse, had a number of these shucking machines. We bought two of them for $150 each. I still have one that I use to shuck my oysters when I buy them downtown and we gave the other one to a friend who was going into the shucking business a few years back. The shucking machine doesn't actually shuck the oyster for you, it simply breaks the bill and replaces the block and hammer. Once you get accustomed to operating the machine, it improves your speed appreciably. I think the most that I ever shucked in one day was 15 gallons. But after awhile both Carol and I were able to shuck between 10 and 15 gallons a day each. I think the most we ever got paid was $4.50 per gallon. Both Carol and I have discovered from our careers at hard labor and physical work that when you earn your money by the sweat of your brow, it actually becomes heavier in weight. Sometimes it becomes so heavy one can hardly get it from his/her pocket. It is true! It might have something to do with gravity, the speed of might or air pressure. But I know that it is true.
Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble and for sale on Amazon.com. Richard is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org
Books by Richard Edward Noble. Click on covers below for more info and purchasing instructions.
Classic Tragic Novel
Don't Laugh - This Could Have Been Your Life
Funny stories and some strange characters.
Monkey Dishes and Cocktail Fawks
My Harrowing days in the restaurant business. Great Read.
It's a Long Story
Long Short Fiction - Great stories!
Bloggin' Be My Life
"Bloggin' be My Life" contains a selection of some of my more popular Hobo Philosopher blogs.If you enjoy reading this blog, you should love Bloggin' Be My Life.
It's All About Love
It's All About Love is ... all about love. This is the 2nd book of poetry from The Bard From Chelmsford off Arlington. Every poem in this book comes with a prose introduction. If you enjoy poetry this is a simple choice. Have fun!
A Little Something
Traditional poetry from The Bard From Chelmsford Off Arlington with some poignant prose introductions. If you enjoy any type of poetry, you will enjoy this volume. Thanks.
Talking To Myself
This is my third book of poetry.
Bits and Pieces
The Hobo Philosopher - My first book using the Hobo Philosopher brand. Featuring a variety of writing styles and ideas. Look for the Thoughtful Hobo on the cover.
A Baker's Dozen
The Hobo Philosopher: My Second book of Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and Short Stories. All varieties of short stories - lots of laughs!
Cat Point - and Them Dang Oyster People
Cat Point is the sequel to "The Eastpointer." Both books contain humorous tales about life in a fishing community on the Florida Panhandle. Lots of laughs.
Won 1st Place award for humor in 2007 from Florida Press Association. More wit, wisdom and humor from the yet to be world famous author, R.E. Noble
A Summer with Charlie - Lawrence
Fiction - Salisbury Beach, Lawrence, Mass. Featured in Merrimack Valley Magazine July /Aug. issue 2010
Travel, Humor, Commentary on migrant farm work and illegal immigration still very pertinent today.
"Just Hangin' Out Ma"
Thank God for the Street Corners of Lawrence, Mass. Anecdotes and humorous escapades about growing up in an industrial mill town in the 40s,50s and 60s.
This is the sequel to "Just Hangin' Out, Ma"
That Old Gang of Mine
This is # 3 in my Lawrence Hometown series. The series is about growing up in the 40's, 50's and 60's in an industrial mill town. Sorta like a Huck Finn goes to vist Uncle Ralph, the bus driver, who lives in a big, rundown city. Lots of fun.
Come On-A My House
This is # 4 in my Lawrence Hometown series.The old homested at 32 Chelmsford ST is pictured on the cover..
Down By The Old Mill Stream
# 5 in the Lawrence My Hometown series.
Standing on the Corner is # 6 in the lawrence My Hometown series.
The old Howard Playstead on Lawrence St.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
# 7 in the Lawrence my Hometown series.
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
Classic tragic novel written from child's perspective. Deals with abuse, poverty, unemployment. Pulls no punches.
Noble Notes on Famous Folks
Humorous, satirical notes on everybody from Constantine to Bill Clinton. Inspiration: Willy Cuppy.
America on Strike
History - documented survey of labor strikes in America
Mein Kampf - An Analysis of Book One
Who are the American Nazis - the Liberals or the Conservatives?
MY NAME IS RICHARD EDWARD NOBLE. I AM A FREELANCE WRITER AND I HAVE PUBLISHED 12 BOOKS:"THE EASTPOINTER" - SELECTIONS FROM AWARD WINNING NEWSPAPER COLUMN - "A LITTLE SOMETHING" - POETRY WITH PROSE -"HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER" - A NOVEL ABOUT GROWING UP IN THE NEW ENGLAND MILL TOWN OF LAWRENCE, MASS, "HOBO-ING AMERICA" - A WORKINGMAN'S TOUR OF THE U.S.A. - "A SUMMER WITH CHARLIE" - THE STORY OF A YOUNG SAILOR'S LAST DAYS AT SALISBURY BEACH, "NOBLE NOTES ON FAMOUS FOLKS" - HUMOROUS ANECDOTES ON FAMOUS FOLKS IN HISTORY,
"AMERICA ON STRIKE" HISTORY BOOK - A SURVEY OF LABOR STRIKES IN AMERICA; "A BAKER'S DOZEN" A BOOK OF HUMOROUS SHORT STORIES; "JUST HANGIN' OUT, MA" - GROWING UP IN THE 40'S, 50'S AND 60'S IN LAWRENCE, MY HOMETOWN, "TENEMENT DWELLERS" - SEQUEL TO JUST HANGIN OUT, MA; MEIN KAMPF - ANALYSIS OF BOOK ONE - HISTORY. CAT POINT - AND THEM DANG OYSTER PEOPLE - SEQUEL TO THE EASTPOINTER
All 12 BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND OTHER INTERNET SOURCES OR FROM NOBLE PUBLISHING. ALL 12 OF MY BOOKS ARE NOW ON KINDLE AT BARGAIN PRICES TOO. IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL OFFERS E-MAIL ME. MY EMAIL IS ON MY PROFILE PAGE.