Fish with the King
As Gulf fishermen are forced to work for the oil company that destroyed their livelihoods, who will train Louisiana’s next generation to fish?
Deckhand David Merrick shows some of the catch after returning from a two-day shrimp haul at Joshua's Marina in Buras, Louisiana
REUTERS / Hans Deryk
Fish With The King
(a sign near the Campo marina)
FJ Campo sits at a table with receipt books on either side of him. He sells fuel and bait to fishermen from his Shell Beach, Louisiana, marina. A fan blows the odor of freshly cut plywood boards he used to expand his bait shop. He waves as a shrimp boat passes on the other side of the dock past tall marsh grasses. Bars of yellow light pour in a bright sheen across the water and heat shimmers the shoreline. The sky is blindingly blue.
FJ recalls trawling for shrimp when he was 12. In those days, everything was done by hand. No mechanical winches like now. He had always wanted to be on the water. Fresh air. No putting up with smart alecks. Have to be self-motivated, though. You got to drag your ass out of bed at 4 a.m. Some people can’t get up at 8 a.m., and if they do they need an alarm clock to do it.
Two quarts oil, FJ, a fisherman shouts.
On the radio, FJ overhears about an oil rig that blew up. Deepwater something. Belongs to BP. Not the first spill. Won’t be the last. Hurricanes and spills. There’s always something.
His day ends at 6 p.m. FJ drives home on the twisting snake-strip of pavement that is the only road in Shell Beach. He smells the damp wood of docked oyster and shrimp boats. He smells the salt-wet air and the odor of fish and fuel. He sees sky-surfing seagulls, hears their calls, and never tires of any of it.
At home, he sinks into a chair and flips on the TV. See what the fuck happened today. Eleven people killed, burned up in that oil rig explosion. That bothers him. Their kids, wives, fathers, mothers will never see them again.
This can’t be good, FJ thinks.
On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, an offshore oil drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana. Currently Deepwater Horizon is not discharging any oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
—Florida Department of Environmental Protection
He was born in 1942 and named Frank Campo Jr., FJ for short. His father was nicknamed Blackie because of his dark Castilian skin color and volatile Latin temper. Both sides of the family moved from Barcelona to New Orleans and then Shell Beach.
Blackie took out fishing parties that included celebrities like trumpet player Al Hirt. When they weren’t fishing, Blackie would sometimes meet Hirt in Las Vegas to watch Muhammad Ali fight. He threw dice in the casinos to pay for his trip.
FJ’s godfather owned a boat with a flat-head motor. One day the motor wouldn’t start, and he got all pissed off. FJ, still a boy, watched him take a hatchet and break off the distributor. Swung again and took out the carburetor. Again. Took out the plugs. Walked to a hardware store and bought new plugs, distributor, and carburetor. FJ tagged along. Back on the boat, his godfather rebuilt the engine and got that bad boy going.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>