Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Passing baton

          I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. It was another 2 weeks later in mid-December that we saw Zak and Rose pulled up in a U-Haul rental truck. We helped them unload their stuffs into the apartment opposite ours. I had covered all angles of my business and Zak has taken the plunge. He handed me a check for the balance. I kissed the check and sealed the deal with a firm hand shake. My business had officially changed hand and baton had been passed on.
U Haul truck was the best way 
to move house
        Two days after they settled down, Zak and Rose requested for some fishing actions. They have found a babysitter to babysit their baby for couple of hours. The next morning I gathered my fishing gears and lead them to my car. Tony had an job appointment so he could not make it, so we also took his rods along. Along the way I pointed out the attractions and some obvious landmarks so that he would recognize the way to Dauphin Island. I showed him the smoke from the chimney and stopped at our favourite bait shop. I explained the baits and which fish ate which bait. Live shrimps and live minnows a hit for speckled trout, flounder and red drum. Sheepshead went crazy on fiddler crab and sand flea. Dead shrimp, squid and cut fish meat are taken by almost all fishes be it trout, Sheepshead, Whiting, flounder, croaker, Ladyfish, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel and stingrays. Zak took down all the notes furiously. “Can we eat dead shrimp baits?” he asked cheekily. I did not bother to answer him. I blurted out a final reminder to him that thrash fish like sea catfish also likes dead shrimp. It is a nuisance fish where one had to be careful not be stung by one. I told him I will show him how to handle them at the pier. I paid for a pound of dead shrimp and a dozen of fiddler crabs and we continued with our journey.
The drive to Dauphin Island
        We stopped by the shrimper boat’s house first. I introduced Zak and Rose to Bobby, the owner. Bobby showed Zak around his store. At the freezer, he pointed out the shrimps, explaining in his southern drawl the grades, the types, the sizes and how to look for the freshness. There were no squids in stock. As we were leaving, I told Bobby that Zak will take over my buying from him. Bobby turned to Zak, handing over his business card and said “as long as you pay cash, I have no problem. Since you are Max’s friend, I will give you the same 20% discount.” With that we shook hands and bade each other goodbye. I drove round the island pointing out to Zak a pier that I seldom went to. Zak drew a sketch map and scribbled some details on his notebook. We finally headed off to the Dauphin Island Pier, passing the clock tower and water tower in the heart of Dauphin Island little town.
          I paid for the entrance fee for the three of us. Sam had been on the pier since early morning. He gave me a high five and I introduced him to Zak and Rose. They shook hand and had some cordial chat. I baited a rod, and showed Rose how to drop the line, how to lift the rod and how to crank the reel before handed it over to her. She started awkwardly but bit by bit she got the hang of it. I baited another rod and did the same before passing to Zak, who broke up his chat with Sam upon seeing me approaching. Lastly I baited my rod and dropped the bait by a pier leg. Rose gave a shout and lifted her rod high over her head, something that I taught her minutes ago. She got a whiting, and her face lighted up.  She grabbed the fish and removed the hook by herself. Not bad, a good start. Then I remembered she must have landed a hand in helping her husband when receiving my fish shipment. She re-baited by herself, but had trouble in flinging out the bait to the sea as her sequence was out of sync. Sam helped her. Zak managed to land a white trout. I caught nothing. Sam, who had already bagged 2 red drums, fought with another one. “This one is for you” he shouted to the direction to Zak. Zak looked at me, puzzled. I explained about the maximum limit per person. 
          After Sam landed the fish, he took a breather. I took the opportunity to tell him that Zak will start to buy fish from him. He replied no problem. Then I told him that I will leave for home country soon, right after graduation, on New Year Day. He looked stunned and it took him a couple of minutes to digest the information. He knew I will finish schooling soon but he thought I will stay on.” Betty will be sad”, he finally said. Our chat was disrupted by Rose's shriek about a fish dangling from her line. “Watch it Rose. That is a stingray. Its tail had spines”, I yelled to her. Rose was about to hold the stingray because she had never knew it was dangerous. All the stingrays I shipped to Zak had their tails cut off! Rose let the sting ray flopped on the pier floor. Sam took out his pocket knife and cut off the tail. He held the severed tail to Rose and Zak. Using a penknife he exposed the twin spines. “This can be nasty if it puncture your skin” he said, before he threw the tail into the sea. Rose exclaimed that she did not know that something she loved to eat can be so dangerous. Good for her. Sam also explained to Rose how to differentiate the male from the female stingray. "Flip it over and look at the pelvic fin. On the pelvic fin, the male has a jutted organ called 'clasper' while the female do not", Sam explained. Even I do not know it then!
Female stingray (left) and male stingray 
with 'clasper' (right)
          Sam caught more fishes, this time white trout and whiting. Zak caught a couple of catfish. He knew not to touch the dorsal fins. He had eaten lot of fresh water catfish in Tennessee, so he knew about the dangerous fins. Finally I got some action too, however it was a juvenile red drum which I released it back to the sea. Good one because it gave me a chance to demonstrate to Zak the do and don’t. At lunch time, we ate sandwiches and drank soda bought from the pier store. There were not many activities in the afternoon, so we decided to pack up and head home when the wind started to blow. Our final score was 1 red drum from Sam for Zak, 1 stingray by Rose, 2 whiting by Zak and Rose, one each, and I, zero. Sam gave me all his trouts and whitings. Before we departed, Sam assured me that he and his buddies will be good suppliers to Zak, and asked me not to worry. He also asked me to drop by his house before I leave the country. He continued fishing while we make our exit.
      “Good fella” said Zak as we walked down the pier. “I like him. I can see a special bonding between you and him” he continued. I told him everything about Sam in the car on the way home. Arriving home we cleaned up. Rose volunteered to cook and she selected the stingray, some trout and couple of whiting. I divided the rest of the fishes to be given away in my neighborhood as well as introduced Zak to them. We met Aunt May and Uncle Rob at their office. They were our apartment manager, a husband and wife team, managing some 120 apartment units. I introduced Zak and gave them some whiting. 
Outside my apartment unit managed 
by Aunt May and Rob
       We visited some other friends and acquaintances' home a few blocks away. Some were home, some were not. I introduced Zak as the new fish giver and he was welcomed with open hands. We gave out our last fish away and came back in time for dinner. Tony was home earlier and I had shower before we proceeded to Zak's house for dinner. Rose had cooked her specialty sting ray in tom yam paste. She coated the whiting fillet in flour and deep fried them. The trout she steamed with bean paste sauce. Last she baked some shrimp pie. The spread of foods were sumptuous and we finished off the meals with extra helping of rice. Now I know why stingray was much sought after. Tony volunteered to wash dishes. I got away again!   

Location: Dauphin Island Public Fishing Pier, 109 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528, USA.
Tel: +1-251-861-3607

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