supposed to be a first Annual Sandy Neck Bottom-Fishing Derby but it never got
off the ground, if you can put it that way. The reason why we never had the
first one was because the preliminary planning stage got way out of
The four of us
were sitting around on one of those long July afternoons you have on the Cape
when the sun never seems to move and somebody said, "You know what? Instead
of just sitting here, we ought to have a fishing contest." There was no
response. On Sandy Neck nobody moves very much, and when they do it is not very
Sandy Neck is a
peninsula that comes out on the bay side of the Cape just before you get to
Barnstable. There is no electricity, you have to pump your own water and there
are only three telephones. The only time any of the men who vacation out there
will move is when they run out of cigarettes, beer or liquor. The wives go to
town once a week to shop, but the men mostly sit around and look at the bay or
read the Boston papers, if you can believe anyone would do that.
Well, that's what
we were doing, sitting around looking at the bay and reading the Boston papers
when I suggested a fishing contest. I have to admit it was my idea, but now
nobody else remembers whose idea it was and that is probably a good thing. A
whole mythology has grown up around the contest we finally had and considering
what happened to me in the end, I wouldn't want anyone to know that I was
The reason I
suggested the contest in the first place was because I had always considered
myself a pretty fair handliner. I was born and brought up on the coast of Maine
and I was catching pollack and cunners and cod when I was five. My grandfather
used to hold on to my hand to show me when to jerk the line, because knowing
how deep to have the bait and when to jerk the line are the secrets. I have to
admit that I was sure I could take just about anybody in bottom fishing and my
suggestion was really a sort of hustle: I'd get them all out there with some
money at stake and I'd clean up. There are pool hustlers and bridge hustlers
and even arm-wrestling hustlers, but I considered myself pretty unique being a
bottom-fishing hustler. The more I thought about it, the better it looked.
Quick-finger George, the master of the handline. I started to get a legendary
feeling about myself. So I brought it up again.
that's what we ought to do."
bottom-fishing contest, with cash prizes." And Don said, "What we
really ought to have is a pitcher of martinis," and everybody stopped
looking at the bay and agreed. On Sandy Neck you can't get any agreement on
welfare or foreign policy or the space program, but mention a pitcher of
martinis and everybody is on the same side.
I didn't press my
idea because I was working out the master plan in my head and I figured I would
spring it after everybody had a few. You know, I'd just ease it into the
conversation when the time was right.
The pitcher was
three-quarters gone when I casually said, "Any of you ever do any bottom
fishing?" Bert said, "Sure, plenty of it. There's nothing to bottom