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There was 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 control.
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 fast.
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 responsible.
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.
"You know, that's what we ought to do."
And somebody said, "What?"
"Have a 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 fishing."