This month's guest lobster blogger (loblogger?) is Monique Coombs, an author and blogger for Lobsters On The Fly. Often the image of the lobsterman as a single, solitary guy hard at work doesn't take into account that many women are either lobster fishermen themselves (never lobsterwomen--never!), as well as sternmen. Often the wives, sisters, and mommas do their part to keep the industry going--kind of like Rosie The Riveters...with varnish and knitting needles.
By Monique Coombs
This time of year, in a corner of our living room, there is a stack of heads (not human) and a bucket of string. We're all thankful that the weather is warming up here in Maine but cursing the mud and rain. I am also cursing the heads and string that are strewn about my living room. Every spring, lobstermen go through their traps and replace their trap heads, sell some and repair others. My husband puts together everything that he can himself because it is cheaper. It is cheaper because I do some of the work and I am free labor.
He cuts the heads into the sizes he needs and then cuts out holes for the hoops. Then, we work together to insert the hoop into the head, which will later be what the lobster travels through in order to get into the trap... and not get out! The strings are laced around the outside of the head with a large knitting needle.
It's tedious work, but a very important part of the trap. By helping him do this, I give him more time to bend traps, move more traps around and continue fishing (even though it sucks right now). Every year, my husband says we'll just do as many heads as he needs at a time and we won't have to sit and do them all. But, our "done" pile is empty and our "to do" pile is growing. I have to wonder if the folks at Discovery Channel run their Deadliest Catch marathon at this time of year, knowing that it coincides with everyone's head-knitting and hooping marathon.
Fishermens' wives have been helping their husbands in this way forever and will continue to do so until fishermen make enough money to hire someone, which they probably won't anyway because they all like things done their own way. Or, traps are suddenly made differently, which probably won't happen either because... did I mention, fishermen like things done their own way?
Right now, we have a little 10-month-old boy crawling around. He has only gotten stuck a couple of times. It would piss us off if he wasn't so damn cute and looked so freakin' funny stuck in a pile of heads.
Next time I drop in on this stitch and bitch, girls, let's have a discussion on the best ways to mask the stench of fish. If it weren't for me would my husband ever not smell like bait???
Columns about the sub-culture of lobstering that K. Stephens has collaborated on with Maine lobstermen and guest bloggers.