An illustrated memoir of coastal Georgia in 1964, as seen though the eyes of a pre-teen.
This nonfiction book by author Margaret Watson Toussaint, who writes fiction as Maggie Toussaint, is illustrated with charming pen and ink illustrations drawn by Martha Toussaint.
Margaret is a shrimp fisherman's daughter who grew up during the heyday of the shrimp fishing era. Sit back and enjoy a glimpse into yesteryear.
Turn your clock back to a simpler time, when having fun didn't cost a thing.
Remember when you climbed a tree so high that you swayed in the breeze? Or the thrill you felt when a crab nibbled your line?
These stories of summer in coastal Georgia take you back to the 1960s. Experience the music of rain on a tin roof, the closeness of a family picinic, and the fury of a hurricane.
Available in print only
Praise for Remembering:
“I just love your book! It made me want to be a child again– especially climbing on roofs, jumping in the water with your clothes on, and all the fun with Trigger. What a wonderful place to be in for the summer.” – Ginny Beeton
“It’s a real trip down memory lane and one to pick up and enjoy
for a short while and reflect.” – Dorothy Gwaltney
“A wonderful, gentle narrative so full of love.” – Anne Weatherholt
“Your childhood must have been fantastic. It took me back to my own. Memories are wonderful, and I’m so happy you were able to put yours in writing for others to enjoy.” – Wynne Roney
“When my daughters come to visit, I will leave Remembering on their night table by the bed.” – Mae
Read an excerpt from Remembering:
As the noisy bus bounced down the road, I felt as if I would explode any minute. The last day of fourth grade meant one thing to me: freedom. No more homework, no more school clothes, and no more shoes. I was looking forward to doing nothing all summer.
I skipped off the bus and raced home. My shoes came off as I made a jelly sandwich. School clothes off, cut-off shorts on. The house was quiet, except for Zela Mae ironing in the next room, listening to her “stories” on TV.
I went out on the screened porch and plopped down in a rocker. In the distance, I heard the creaking of the winch from the shrimp docks as the boats unloaded the day’s catch. The tall Spartina marsh grass in front of my house swayed in the breeze. It beckoned me to come outside. The door banged behind me as I headed down Bunny Hop Road toward Valona’s docks at the bluff.
An ice truck crept by on the bumpy dirt road. The top of the truck scraped against the canopy of oak branches laden with Spanish moss. I didn’t see anyone working in their yards along my route, but I waved when I saw the Durants sitting on their front porch.
Rounding the bend at the bluff, I could see the snaking pattern of Shellbluff Creek and miles of lush green marsh. Over the years, the ebb and flow of the tidal creek had deeply gouged the land, so that I stood a good ten feet above the high water mark. Boulders had been dumped along the riverbank to slow the undercutting of the road along the bluff.
Beyond the marsh, I saw Sapelo Island, a hazy blue-green clump of trees, connected to the mainland by a thin telephone wire.
A nearby shriek brought my focus back to the creek before me. Some noisy gulls were scavenging everything that had been washed overboard from the docked shrimp boats. Two dolphins swam by. I counted silently until they reappeared much further up the creek. Although dolphins were fishermen’s friends, some fishermen, including my Uncle Bobo, thought it was bad luck if you said the word “dolphin” or “porpoise” while on a shrimp boat. I liked the sleek beauty of dolphins. Secretly, I hoped that one day a dolphin might dance by on its tail like the trained dolphins on TV.
The shrimp docks weren’t fancy looking. A tangle of nets and trawl doors marked the entrance to the narrow, tin-roofed frame building. Broken-down-looking cars were parked every which-way around the building. On either end of the water-side of the structure, black creosoted poles anchored the dock to the
muddy creek bottom. Our dock was smaller than the one down the creek, with only nine to twelve boats docked here regularly.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the dimness inside the shrimp house. The women heading the shrimp greeted me as I made my way through the open boxes of ice-covered shrimp toward my mama. When I was little, I wanted to be a shrimp header because it seemed to be a lot of fun. The headers earned money for each bucket of shrimp heads, and they could spend that cash on snacks or sodas sold at the dock. One day I was allowed to help them, and I learned shrimp heading was hard work. The sharp edges of the shells poked holes in my fingers, which burned the next time I put my hand down in the shrimp brine.
Mama was all the way at the other end of the building. Her job was to record how much shrimp came off each boat, credit the proper account, and keep the headers paid. She looked tired, but she welcomed me with a smile. “How was the last day of school?” she asked.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
“What did you get on your report card?” Mama asked.
“A’s and B’s,” I replied as I munched on a handful of crushed ice.
“You can stay down here but keep out of the way,” she said.
I walked out on the dock and sat down on the rough planks, dangling my feet over the edge. The Miss Obie was unloading now. Daddy’s boat, the Three Cees, was next. Daddy owned three boats but only captained one. My favorite, of course, was the Mar-Gin because she was named for me, Margaret, and my sister, Ginny. The Three Cees was the newest, named for my siblings, Cathy, Carol, and Cliff. Daddy’s
other boat, the Adventurer, was named for him.
The scene in front of me gleamed like an artist’s palette of oil paints. The white hulls and pilot houses of the shrimp boats were neatly trimmed in black. Various shades of brown occurred in the nets, doors, and ropes on the boats. The blue-green water contrasted nicely with the vibrant green salt marsh and the crisp blue sky. The setting sun glowed like molten gold, and all around me red and black weathered faces were stamped with years of working in the sun.
Strikers, the hired hands on the boats, sorted the last drag of the day on deck while the boats unloaded. It fascinated me to see how fast they could sort through the shrimp, fish, sea weed, conchs, crabs, and other bycatch they harvested from the sea. Some of the caught fish were kept for supper, but most everything else went back overboard in record time to the waiting gulls. Experience had taught the shrimpers how to pick up sea life without getting poked or pinched.
My cousin, Hunter Forsyth, was clearing the deck of the Miss Obie. He picked up a small board that he’d used to corner a crab, and the crab came up, too. He held the board over the side of the boat and shook it, but the crab hung on stubbornly. Hunter grabbed the back fins and pried the crab loose. The crab made a splash as it fell into the creek. Later in the season, shrimpers would keep the crabs they caught, but right now, there weren’t enough of them in a drag to make any money.
From where I sat, I could see the big hook of the winch hauling up wire baskets of shrimp out of the boat’s hold. The shrimp were packed on ice on the boat. At the dock, they would be separated from the ice, graded, weighed, headed, and repacked for shipment and sale.
Snatches of the shrimpers’ VHF radio conversations, laced with static, drifted to my ears … “I got six boxes of 26-30’s today from Doboy Sound, over.” … “No luck dragging off Sapelo today, over.” … “Come in, Roseberry, over.” … “Boats were so thick around Blackbeard it was like being jammed up on I-95, over.” The line of communication was vital to reach help in the event of trouble, but in times of plenty, a good deal of truth-stretching occurred in some conversations.
This had been a good day for the shrimpers. The shrimp were running. A good catch and a good price at the dock brought smiles to the deeply-lined faces. Now that school was out, many boats would have teenaged boys striking on them. Everyone I knew depended on the sea for a living.
When I first walked down to the bluff this afternoon, the tide was flooding, or coming in. Now the tide had turned and drifts of decaying marsh rack floated out Shellbluff Creek to the sea. I remembered a story my cousin Marion Townsend liked to tell. She’d been swimming in the creek and glanced over at a pile of
floating marsh wrack. A cottonmouth water moccasin stared back at her. Marion jumped out of the water in a flash.
Smells of salt air, fish, diesel fuel, machinery, creosote, and sweaty men filled the air. I took a deep, satisfied breath.
On the hill behind me, women greeted their men after a day’s work. Every now and then a car would crank up and leave. Tomorrow would begin at five a.m. for the shrimpers. As the sun sank lower in the sky, I felt chilled by the evening breeze. Summer vacation had begun, hallelujah.
Buy your print copy now at Amazon