Just off of Highway 101 where it runs along Hood Canal there was a small restaurant with a home in back and attached store in front. They were owned and operated by Floyd and Elsie Chapman and the sign in front read “ELSIE’S PLEASANT HARBOR.” Hood Canal is a narrow shimmering fjord 50 miles long, reaching depths up to 600 feet, though the average is 177. The clear, blue, water is filled with abundant life and on its shores are plentiful clams and oysters. Pleasant Harbor is a quiet natural cove on the canal and that is where Floyd moored his shrimp boat.
On a sleepy day in 1963 Floyd was outside in his blue overhauls and captain’s hat, working the fire under a large kettle where the day’s catch of shrimp was to be cooked. He’d been up since early that morning when he had gone to drop the traps in the canal.
He dumped the buckets full of shrimp into the boiling water and when they turned white in their orange shells he put them in prepared cardboard boxes where they’d be stored on ice and ready for sale in the store.
The Seattle Times had taken an interest in the man and his shrimp boat and a reporter and photographer were on the scene. I was also there watching. Every summer we grand kids got to stay a week with grandma and grandpa at Pleasant Harbor. Those sunny days were filled with dusty hikes through woods to the canal below where we played on the beach and swam in the icy cold water. We dropped homemade lines off the state dock down the barnacle covered pilings where the perch were feeding and when they took the bait we yanked hard and pulled them up. If we got up in time we went out with grandpa on the boat early in the morning to set the traps or later that day to collect them filled with shrimp and the occasional hitchhiking crab or squid.
After they had taken several pictures of grandpa the reporter covering the story asked me if I liked shrimp.
“No,” I replied definitely.
“Would you eat one for a dime?” he asked.
“Yes!” I nodded eagerly.
So he set me up just so and after he took the picture I downed that shrimp he had put in my outstretched hand. A deal was a deal.
I ran to buy candy with my dime.
Later that summer when the article appeared in the paper, there I was in my striped shirt and pearl necklace, holding that shrimp ready to drop it into my mouth. (my eyes are saying, ‘oh no…. here it comes…’)
And the caption read, “Granddaughter, Susan, age 8, gobbles down a shrimp with obvious delight.”
Obvious delight. A real shrimp story, that one.