On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Discovering Chincoteague Bay- An Update
February 2012 ...The future excites us and stirs our thoughts about what the next adventures will bring. While many of the older Chronicles of a Footloose Forester were about memories captured from a distant past, this one is just as fresh as the pot of cooked mussels and oysters we harvested from Chincoteague Bay a few days ago. Most people don’t go wading for mussels in February, but we never tried to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to spending our time. So, the steamed mussels that Thu cooked up were taste-tested before we decided what we would do with them. The Ribbed Mussel, as one species among 17 edible mussel varieties, might not be found in seafood stores, but it will henceforth be a part of our eclectic diet. They are not for everybody, however. On the other hand, we have golden oysters here.
Chincoteague Bay and vicinity, along the northern border of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, has delighted us with other things that swim, fly and bounce along in front of our eyes. A few of them are shown in the photo above. Quite new to us are the prospects for catching croakers, eels, and crabs from the tidal pond across the road from our house; of seeing entire flocks of Canada geese sharing that same pond with Mallard ducks and a resident Great Blue Heron. Once in a while, we even spot an American Eagle that sits on the branch of a dead pine tree that overlooks the pond. Yesterday, that family of water and land birds included a diving duck that may have been a bufflehead. He or she will be in our binoculars, you can count on that.
On our side of the road, we regularly see black-capped chickadees, grosbeaks, cardinals, and bluebirds. Imagine, bluebirds in January and February! Then there are the occasional sightings of a grey fox that may live in the undeveloped plots of land adjacent to us. Five deer that certainly make that forest patch their home spend some time each day on our lawn. They don’t always travel together, but sometimes they join with the herd of seven other deer that live on the other side of the pond. It is quite a treat to see them at play on the front lawn; although they are too fond of many of our flowers, especially roses. As spring comes ever closer, we anticipate gathering oysters, mussels, and clams from a kayak; or by simply wading out from Cockle Point, less than a mile from our house. Our new freezer is surely going to be full.
Thanks to Google Earth, we scout out likely places to wade out into Chincoteague Bay during low tide. And a monthly tide table helps us to plan the days when low tide corresponds with mid-day hours so that the clamming expeditions can also take advantage of sunny conditions.
Chapter II--July 2012
An impetuous addition and impromptu update to this chronicle was begun about 30 minutes after another of our clamming expeditions. The occasion was the 4th Of July, 2012 and Thu’s brother Giang had a couple of days off from his Sushi chef job in Northern Virginia. Before the unlikely tale of Giang unfolds, the Footloose Forester will insert a photo of the trophies taken from Chincoteague Bay on that glorious 4th of July day. Shown below are a few of the large chowder clams for which Chesapeake Bay is noted. With low tide at 2:28 PM on a gloriously sunny day, the conditions were perfect for our hunting party to harvest 72 clams in less than two hours. Exactly six dozen clams was a mere coincidence but Thu needed to prove to Giang that we did better than he thought.
Thu is a bit overdressed with her black pearl from the Pacific outshining her new bathing suit, in the photo above; but the star of the photo is the Hawaiian Sling, a 3-pronged spear used to locate buried clams in the shallow wading grounds less than a mile from home. Bare feet as the default tool is a time-honored way to locate clams buried in the shallow water, but is second to the spear as a way to feel the buried clams.
Giang is something of a gypsy: he has plied his chef’s skills in Florida, Louisiana, Utah, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia, that we know of. But his story begins some 30 years ago when he came to live with us in Pennsylvania. At that time he was a refugee from the Viet Nam War and we sponsored him so that he could end his years of semi-confinement in refugee camps in SE Asia.
The first refugee camp was a place in Thailand that he pronounced as Kan-e-Deng, although he said he really didn’t know how to spell it. For more than a year, his residence at Kan-e-Deng was inside an abandoned water storage barrel. It was hot and restrictive, but better than being exposed to the monsoon rains. He fashioned the barrel on his own but later on two old men joined him at his makeshift home inside the large refugee camp where other people with means or influence did not fare so poorly. Later on, Giang was transferred to other camps. After processing in Bangkok and Singapore, his last stop before being sponsored was at the Galang I refugee camp in Indonesia.
Never one to sit still, when he came to the USA, he earned his GED at Connelly High School in the Pittsburgh area. He stayed with us for about two years before moving on. Only recently has he returned to enjoy clamming and crabbing with us at our new digs in Virginia. He knows that this story is intended for Facebook and has given his approval of the first draft.