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On To Texas

I stuck around miami for about 2 weeks. I took the right front seat out of the renault and was able to sleep comfortably laying down in it. I parked it at my friend Gordon's house in the parking lot of the boarding house. The mean miami police never hassled me there. Even though it was in Miami's skid row, I never got hassled. After spending a couple of weeks watching 35 cents movies in which three feature films were involved, I was getting antsy. I could not find work and I was quickly running out of money. I called my uncle john, who lived in brownsville, texas and asked him for a job on his shrimp boat.

He was a shrimp boat captain and had been shrimping since 1946.
He was a WWII army vetern who had fought in the pacific islands against the japanese. He was about 33 years old then. It was 1961 and I had just turned 19. He sent me some traveling money and told me to come to Brownsville. He would hire me on his boat as a "header". Usually at that time a shrimp boat had a crew of three, the captain, the rigman, and the header. The captain and the rig man worked for shares. The captain usually took 60% and the rigman 40%, after expenses, which mainly included groceries and cigarettes. The cigs were cheap. We only paid one dollar per carton because they were considered "sea stores" therefore there were no taxes on them. You were not allowed to take them off the boat, though because they did not have a tax stamp on the packages.
Headers were paid three dollars a "box" of shrimp. A box of shrimp weighed 100 pounds. A header's job is to help the rigman head the shrimp. Actually it should be called behead the shrimp because that's what we did. We snapped the heads off them after we caught them. It was the header's job to wash dishes, clean up the boat, and all the dirty jobs. I even used to hold wheel watches while we were "dragging" [towing our trawl nets]. We dragged two nets at the same time. The nets were attached to two "doors" [wooden devices that looked like doors with a steel skid on the bottom] The doors would spread the nets open to receive the catch from the bottom.

My brother was working on my uncle's trawler when I got to Brownsville. My brother was one year older than me but he had been shrimping since he was 16 after he had gotten kicked out of the army and spent a few months in "Boy's Industrial School". He had always been in trouble since he was old enough to walk and talk but I still loved him. I really felt sorry for him. I was to find out many years later that he had a biological brain problem since getting run over by a car when he was five years old. He had been doing drugs since he was a young boy. He would raid medicine cabinets for dope all the time. At that time just abolut everybody had a prescription for amphetimines used for dieting. A lot of the veterans from the war got hooked on them while in the service. They used to hand them out like they were candy in the fifties.

I soon found out that my uncle john was a sadist. For example one time he told me to pick up a funny looking eel. I picked it up and got the shock of my life. It was an electric eel. Another time he told me to eat a tiny pepper that was growing in the front yard of my apartment. It was pure fire. I have never eaten anything that hot in my life even though I had been eating hot peppers ever since I was 6 years old. He never came back on deck to help my brother and me head shrimp. He would just sit in the wheel house waiting for us to get done, then he would make either my brother or me to hold a wheel watch while he hit the bunk. He used to really piss me off when he went after small shrimp instead of large shrimp. Money wise you could make more money catching small shrimp instead of large shrimp. The small shrimp were a pain in the ass to head. Sometimes my fingers would be bleeding from heading them. The worst part of it was that I only got three dollars a box for three times the work. I think he did it on purpose to make me suffer.


During on trip in july when it was really hot we worked around the clock 24/7. Usually in texas waters the boats would anchor during the daylight hours because the texas "brown" shrimp came out only at night. This year was different, though. They were so plentiful that they didn't disappear during the day llike they usually did. The water was muddy also because of a previous hurricane that blew through the area that we were fishing. This trip we worked 12 days and 12 nights for two weeks. The good thing is that I made more money, even at three dollars a box, than I had ever made in my life. Whoopie, here I come, Boy's Town, Mexico where every woman in the town was a prostitute. The going price then for a lovemaking session was only Three dollars a pop[no pun intended]! Or, it's kind of funny, but for three dollars per box.
 
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