Saturday, January 03, 2009

Oystermen Make Good Money

The Eastpointer

Oystermen make good money

By Richard E. Noble
There are certain people who believe, wholeheartedly, that oystermen and seafood workers make a lot of money. You can even ask some oystermen and they will probably tell you about that day back in '06 when they made $300 or even $400 in one day. Of course, they may forget to mention how many people were on the boat. Many oystermen discount their wives' participation. Fruit Pickers and migrants have similar tales of that day of glory when money poured in faster than sweat but those days were few and far between.
In my career of studying people, I have learned that people who are making good money will always tell you how little they earn and what kind of expenses they suffer. Poor people will always brag on how much they have earned and the good choices or purchases they have made. They both lie.
There is an old shrimper's joke that was once very popular locally. A shrimper is asked what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. The shrimper thinks for a moment and then says, "Oh, I suppose that I would just keep right on shrimping until the money ran out."
Oftentimes, when the bay would shut down many oystermen would run around town looking for odd jobs to do for the retired or better-off folks in the neighborhood. It seems that when they were asked how much they would charge for their services they would often be prone to ask for a large remuneration. In consequence many non-seafood types have often said to me, "I know that seafood workers make a lot of money, but $100 just to mow my lawn? They better keep oystering if they want to make that kind of money."
I would suggest that the oysterman didn't ask for $100 to mow your lawn because he was accustomed to making $100 an hour oystering, shrimping or fishing. When he looked at your home and how you were living as compared to his home and how he lived, he probably felt that you had money to burn and that $100 would be peanuts to a "wealthy" person like you.
One morning, while waiting for the fog to lift, the wife and I went to a local eatery to have breakfast. We were attired in our white boots and our unattractive and well-worn work clothes - not an unfamiliar sight in the Eastpoint community way back when.
A man who had been sitting at a table with the owner of the restaurant and his wife came over to our table after he paid his check. Quite to my surprise he went into a rant. "I see that you are an oysterman and I just wanted to come over here and speak my mind. I think you oyster people ought to be ashamed of yourselves - working everyday and making all that good money and then going down and collecting all them food stamps. I think that is a disgrace and I just wanted to let you know."
I was shocked, of course. I was first shocked that an individual from another area could walk up to two strangers and say such a thing. The second thing that shocked me was that it seemed to me that he had gotten his information from the owner of the restaurant and his wife. Why would local business people, who should know better, tell some strangers that type of slander?
I thought at that time that if an individual felt that he had the right to say whatever stupid thing came to his mind that I should be granted and equal right to respond in kind. I mean if we are going to have a "stupid" contest, I'm sure I qualify.
The restaurant owner quickly rushed over to our table and apologized to me and my wife while ushering his buddy to the exit.
I have been all over the U.S working menial, physical jobs that pay no money. The lack of respect for such workers is prevalent everywhere. Where seasonal workers are necessary, the citizens of that area want these marginal workers to be seen and not heard. And when the seasonal crop has been harvested or picked, they want those workers who came to vanish. They want them to pay their own way to get there and live in the bushes while they are there if they must. Some people actually think that migrant farm workers make good money - and of course farmers will actively support that fable.
The poverty that comes hand in hand with minimal wages and low income is considered a personal failing and not a social problem. To be poor is judged a personal disgrace and has nothing to do with the fact that America is full of jobs that barely pay a person enough to buy food never mind provide himself with adequate housing or hospitalization or other "luxuries." And there are more and more of those jobs on the way.
Many will say that the above is not true but don't bother telling that to me - I have been there, done that and seen it with my own eyes. My answer is, get real folks - it could be your job next!

“The Eastpointer” is R.E. Noble most recent publication. It consists of a series of selected columns from the Franklin Chronicle. It is available now at or from the author. Local bookstores or businesses who would like to sell The Eastpointer or other books written by R. E. Noble should contact the author for discount opportunities. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived here in Eastpoint for nearly 30 years.