Franke: A Summer Vacations

June 2, 2021

by Mark Franke

I was not a road warrior during my career but I traveled enough on business to look forward to never seeing the inside of a hotel lobby or airport concourse again. My retirement goal was to sit under “my vine and fig tree,” to use Biblical language. Voluntary travel ranked right behind a 20-year sentence in a Siberian salt mine on my bucket list.

Not so my wife. She spent her career as an elementary school teacher and principal. Her experience with “business travel” was to accompany a field trip of excitable children to a local museum. She couldn’t wait to travel for pleasure.

Situation: Impasse. Resolution: Wife wins.

We have done a fair amount of travel in the past seven or so years since her retirement, slowed down only by Covid. We’ve gone to summer camp with our grandchildren, visited friends who have incomprehensibly moved away from God’s country here in northeast Indiana, and even twice traveled to Europe. This past week was spent at our son-in-law’s parents’ house on the North Carolina Outer Banks. They live right on the Atlantic Ocean so you can guess the appeal for both grandchildren and grandma.

The beach doesn’t appeal to me, although I enjoy the serenity of listening to the surf break on the sand behind (I mean, in front of) the house. It provides an excellent backdrop for reading, my favorite hobby, and even writing, such as I am doing right now. 

I am one to make a virtue out of necessity so I ensure each trip involves excursions to whatever historical sites are nearby. We stopped at Harper’s Ferry, a mostly rebuilt old town but at an appropriate point on the drive for a break. It was OK and at least our National Park Service senior citizen pass got us in for free. 

Once in Nags Head we took the children to the local historical museum across the sound on Roanoke Island. Of course this sparked my interest in the lost colony so I immediately logged into my county library and downloaded a history of the search for those lost settlers. I’m reading it now.

What is most etched in my memory of this trip is watching the local fishermen bring in their catch. It’s all by net. They placed the nets just offshore sometime overnight. About mid-morning they returned. The locals knew when this was happening and somehow even the tourists heard of it. 

This is how it works: The young men in this crew of multi-generational fishermen would pull up the anchors holding the nets in place. Then a pickup truck would attach to that section of net by rope and pull it on to the beach. I didn’t count how many times the truck driver did this but there had to be at least one-half mile of connected nets.

Other crew members would begin extracting the catch from the edges of the nets where they were entangled. This is not as easy as it sounds. One fisherwoman offered to teach the technique to anyone interested and they could keep some of the fish. No one volunteered.

Responding to a tourist’s question, one of the fishermen said these mackerels would be sold to China. After listening to her indignation at this, a local resident informed her that the money they make from the sale would be spent right here in the Outer Banks. I didn’t expect to hear a primer in David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage on the beach at Nags Head, but there you go.

The real work occurred at the end of this half-mile run of net. They trapped a school of stingrays, a non-edible fish which had to be thrown back. There were at least a hundred of these unfortunate critters, which the fishermen had to pick up by hand and toss back into the surf. This is a heavy species, so it was hard work. Most, but not all, made it. It was educational and somewhat sad to see how several of these fish couldn’t figure out how to swim through the surf back out to the ocean. 

Net fishing is not something to be seen where I live. I can’t imagine this working in the creek that runs behind my house. And I prefer not to know what might be caught in those stagnant waters.

However, I was reminded of the Gospel account of the disciples fishing and bringing in a bulging net. The nets I saw were a long way from bulging but there was plenty of physical labor to be had. A commercial fisherman’s life is not a second career option for me. I’ll leave that to Peter, Andrew, James and John.

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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