Yo’ Jus’n Cain’ Get No Good Conch Frittahs Nor’ a Marathon

Stars were beginning to fade in the Western sky as the first gleams of the new day began to beat back the darkness. A fin broke the surface off the port bow up near the shallows on the edge of the narrow channel. Slow, graceful, like a bride striding towards the altar.

“Jimbo”, the old man said, “like I tol’ yo’ father lahst week, Ya jus’n cain’ get no good conch frittahs Nor’ a Marathon. Dun’ tried last seas’n wen’a we went up ‘hat way in ya ole man’s boat. Dun’ burn up a good tanka gas learn’n ‘hat, too. “

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33 Responses to Yo’ Jus’n Cain’ Get No Good Conch Frittahs Nor’ a Marathon

  1. walrus says:

    Delightful Fred! Brings back some of my own memories.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    That was wonderful, I was truly transported to your little world. It was a joy to read and the timing is impeccable. There is much darkness about these days and it is no small thing to be able to describe fishing, friendship and a coming dawn in such beautiful terms. If you are not published you oughta be. Thanks for sharing a part of your soul, Fred.

    • Fred says:

      Barbara Ann,

      Thanks. I almost called that #9 marker the ‘chanel #5 marker’, wondering if anyone would notice; but then thought that might be a bit too much. Could probably write a piece off that though. You know a man can get in a heap’o trouble with chanel #5. Fun trouble though.

  3. Pat Lang says:

    Fred

    Very nice. What would you call the dialect or accent of the old Black man? It sounds a bit like a family of Black farmers I knew when I was younger. They had about 200 acres and had farmed it since it was willed to them by a White man who had owned the ancestors of the family. They made wonderful hams and grew lovely vegetables that they sold at a stand on the state road. Used to fish with them on their property.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Fred
      I particularly liked the thought that Jimbo was going to ask the girls father for his blessing.

      • Fred says:

        Pat,

        That’s the Old Domion upbringing. Old Florida, whats left of it, has the same ethic.

        On the dialect I should have asked your advice. Part Northern Neck, where I spent my summers as a young boy. The old man’s mostly the man that tought me about blue crabs. He worked in a crab house next to Mr. Boyce’s marina in Coles point. I thought he was ancient, though he was probably all of 40, which is ancient when you’re only 7 or 8. It has all passed into memory now.

        The rest is mostly what I remember of Frankie Mae, who was a dear friend of the family for many years. She was raised in Jacksonville and Palatka back in the ’40s and ’50s. You can still find that deep Southern drawl in Baker County, just outside Jacksonville today. She lived deep in the Everglades, close to Ochopee, for many years after. My father befriended her when the park service bought up the land that is now the Big Cypress National Preserve. Her brothers lived in the upper keys.

        I wasn’t quite sure how to put the drawl in there. It was a cross between “chat” and ” ‘hat” where the “T” is drawn out, those sometimes left out. Decided to go with what I had as I thought the readers might not understand my meaning. Hopefully I kept them all in character.

  4. TTG says:

    Fred,

    That was fantastic. You’re a talented story writer. This one should be in print, perhaps in some Florida magazine. I was also impressed by your handling of the dialect. Not familiar with that one at all. I did have several neighbors here from the Chesapeake islands. They had an Elizabethan lilt to their speech that was musical.

  5. Linda says:

    Thank you This was delightful

  6. JK/AR says:

    Thanks Fred, felt transported back some.

  7. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Thanks, Fred. I paused in midchore binge to read this wonderfully crafted story. Drawing upon deeply-lived memories as you did keeps you attuned to the ongoing richness of life outspread before you every day, filled with new memories not only for you, but also for those with whom you share those times. You, in turn, will live on in the memories of those younger souls.

  8. LeaNder says:

    Fred:
    Nor’ a Marathon

    Any of the deep water fish caught around Marathon? More complicated?

    Otherwise appreciated. 😉

    • Fred says:

      LeaNder,

      The Gulf Stream is due East; it’s about 15 minutes to deap water. The flats are West. The fishing varies depending on the season and which part of the keys you are in. The fishing is probably better out of Marathon now as it is less touristy. Key West is another 50 miles South. The maps at the link below might give you a better idea of the waters. The numbers are depth in feet.

      https://www.nauticalchartsonline.com/chart/zoom?chart=11446

      • LeaNder says:

        Your old man’s choice would be conch, though? Because he loves how his wife serves it? But better than not catching one, anything else will do?

        Be well. If I completely misunderstood your old man, spare me the disappointment, will you?

        • TTG says:

          LeaNder,

          Conch are mollusks. They don’t need to be caught, just gathered like mushrooms. Conch fritters are far more than battered and fried pieces of conch as the Colonel’s linked recipe shows. I know shrimp can be substituted in the fritter recipe. Not the same, but quite similar.

          • Pat Lang says:

            TTG
            I don’t think she knew what conch, conch fritters are or where or what Marathon is. So, I he’ped her.

          • Fred says:

            TTG,

            “I know shrimp can be substituted in the fritter recipe.”

            I ‘knows’ a gentleman in the Northern Neck who woulda died of laughter if you said you could use green beans in corn fritters,” they kinda da same, bein’ thesa both vegitables.” Just josh’n. Never heard of shrimp fritters before, though there are plenty of substitutes out there. BTW good, real, Key Lime Pie, made with real Key Limes, is hard to come by.

          • TTG says:

            Yeah Fred, I guess that would make them shrimp fritters rather than faux conch fritters. Shrimp we have plenty of, but conch is a lot harder to come by. BTW, where do you guys get conch for those fritters? I thought Florida put a ban on harvesting some species from the wild.

            We had a short lived seafood place locally that made a fantastic Key Lime pie. It was was an experimental restaurant from the Ruby Tuesdays chain called Marlin & Rays. Nothing fancy, but good food with a great bar and great prices. Their Key Lime pie used regular pie crust rather than graham cracker and had a lime infused whipped cream topping that really enhanced the pie filling. Probably weren’t authentic, but they were damned good. They started selling whole pies, they were so popular. Unfortunately Ruby Tuesday’s dropped the concept in less than a year. Too bad. Our place was doing gang buster business.

          • Fred says:

            TTG,

            We didn’t worry about that way back when, but I know they are regulated now. We used to clean up the shells and sell them to the tourists for a few bucks. That’s all become rather commercialized now. If what’s on the menu are actually conch they are probably from the Bahamas or elsewhere in the Caribbean. I’m waiting to see who puts Lionfish on the menu up around here. They’re an invasive species doing a lot of damage to the marine habitat. Open season and no limit for those. Good eating from what I hear.

          • Leith says:

            Still legal to take conch in North Carolina, 10/day with no size limit. But that’s Horse Conch, a different species from what they have further south.

          • LeaNder says:

            Conch are mollusks.

            Thanks, TTG, that I understood. The recipes were easy to find. But it’s kinda hard to figure out if any type of sea snails exist over here on any menu. Understand? …

            And from the little Fred lets us know, it’s hard to figure out the story’s larger context beyond Jimbo, Jimbo’s father, the old man and the sea.

            But thanks for the hint with the shrimps. 😉

          • Barbara Ann says:

            Fred

            So ‘catchin’ yur conch is one thing, but what I really wants to know is how you gets ‘im out the shell once you’ve caught ‘im. Do you lash the thing down, leave some bait nearby and knock it on the head when it tries to sneak out?

          • Fred says:

            Barbara Ann,

            I learned a trick from Tom Sawyer. Tell ever’body how much fun it is to clean’m. Thank my English teacher every time, too.

        • Pat Lang says:

          LeAnder

          The level of your misunderstanding and ignorance of American culture is impressive.

      • Artemesia says:

        So glad you mentioned hush puppies!
        I’ve been trying to remember the shoes Pat Boone advertised — “We can make ’em cheaper but we can’t make ’em dumber.”

        Your short story colorfully captured another important piece of the past. Thanks for keeping alive something so important.

  9. Leith says:

    Great story Fred! We used to get conch up in coastal Carolina. Never had them as fritters, but my neighbor used to cook up a dynamite conk chowder. It was neither cream-based nor tomato based, just had a murky broth. When asked he would never disclose his recipe, just chuckle and say the best seasoning was a bit of sand.

    • TTG says:

      The conch in Virginia waters are some type of whelk. There are a few watermen out of Tangier Island who catch them commercially using baited and set traps similar to crab pots. I had no idea they were caught that way. I’ve seen several comments that these whelk taste like ass. The Tangier Island waterman sell their whelk catch to Asia.

      • Leith says:

        The Horse Conch in NC are carnivores and will eat whelk as well as crab and clams. I would bet that much of the catch also goes to Asia. They are tasty but just the white meat, don’t eat the foot. They need tenderizing.

  10. TTG says:

    “And from the little Fred lets us know, it’s hard to figure out the story’s larger context”

    LeaNder, Fred skillfully provided us a glimpse into an American way of life. There’s no need to dig for deeper context. Just appreciate the story and enjoy the view.

  11. Artemesia says:

    “We used to clean up the [conch] shells and sell them to the tourists for a few bucks.”
    My Dad was a Machinist’s Mate on a landing craft carrier when he was injured off the coast of Palermo in Sept. 1943. (As near as I can figure, he was landing soldiers in Gen. Mark Clark’s march through Italy, ironic since my grandparents left Italy to keep their sons out of Mussolini’s army.)
    By Jan. 1944 he was transferred to a hospital in Key West, where his medical discharge papers were signed.
    I still have the Conch shell w/ lite inside & little plate, “Key West FL” that he bought for his Sweetheart, my Mom, whom he married some months later.

  12. Jose says:

    Fred, some Bahamians-Bahamian-Americans in Miami will disagree about “Nor a Marathon.”

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