This story actually happened to me and my good friend, Lawrence Toney.Lawrence was involved in several areas where oysters beds were found. Most of the oysters were bought by me for sale in the Canadian market and restaurant trade.
Over the years, I have heard many stories around the campfire and listening to Elders tell how they fished so many boxes of oysters. Some of the stories relayed to me were incredible but, by the number of boxes fished by Mi’kmaq fishermen, they made a lot of sense.
Most days you’d probably got half or less of the day’s catch before you located a good oyster bed, discovered by chance when somebody would throw in his rake and find oysters. Then, of course, they’d start fishing and would find more oysters and news would spread that “so and so” found oyster beds. The next day you’d find half of a dozen boats in the area.
That’s the logistics on how oysters beds were located. Now getting back to our story about what happened to Lawrence Toney and me in Malagawatch…
This story took place in the mid 90s. It was late in the oyster season and Lawrence was the last to leave the camp where we resided. It was a beautiful morning and not a ripple in the water. The sun was just coming up and you knew it was going to be a beautiful day. I got up and started breakfast for us. Bacon and eggs with toast and freshly brewed tea was on the menu. At the same time, I kept telling Lawrence, “We have to go…we’re wasting precious time.” Lawrence took his time and lit his famous cigarette. I just wolfed down my breakfast and out the door I went. Before getting too far, I hollered to Lawrence that if he was looking for me we would meet at the glass house (which is another story!)
I got into my boat and off I went. As soon as I got out of Malagawatch Pond I decided to do some exploring myself, but at the same time didn’t want to leave Lawrence behind. Just below where Florence Young has her cabin there is a little bit of a cove. I parked my boat and at the same time kept an eye out for my friend Lawrence. I threw my oyster rake in the water and started to drag it along the bottom and it felt good, as if some oysters were in the rake.
As I lifted my rake, I knew that something was in it. When I looked into the rake, there were eight beautiful oysters, all market size and choice grade. At the same time, I saw Lawrence pulling out of the pond. Realizing that he had his hood up and his eyes focused in one direction (which was to the glass house) it would be impossible for him to see me. I just dropped my rake in the water and started chasing him to give him the good news. As I got closer to him I realized he didn’t hear my boat or see me approaching the back side of his boat. I noticed he had a cigarette in his mouth. I gradually eased up from behind and was about a foot from his vessel. I spoke to him softly and said, “Well now Lawrence,” and I regret to this day doing what I did, because I scared him so much he almost lost control of his boat! The words he threw at me can’t be repeated. I think he swallowed his cigarette! We got control of our boats and sat there laughing. I kept saying how sorry I was and finally he looked into my boat and noticed that I didn’t have my rake and said, “What happened to your rake? You forget it at the camp or what?” Well, we laughed about it some more before I told him my good news. Lawrence’s comment was,, “This better be good, you’re losing valuable time for me.” I answered, “Valuable time…I spent all morning waiting for you to get up!” We just laughed and headed in the direction where I left my oyster rake.
We both threw our anchors into the water and started raking. Lawrence got excited when he lifted his rake and found one dozen perfect oysters in it and my rake was just as full.
At the end of the day we each had eight boxes of choice oysters. That was a great day in the River Denys oyster season.
Well, I tell you, we were there for one solid week and we relaxed each night looking forward to the next day’s fishing events. After looking back and realizing what a small area it was, it’s incredible that in that whole week we fished over 70 boxes of oysters in that one little spot. Our oyster buyer was happy that week!
To this day, I think about Lawrence and our day of fishing in the Lakes. Sadly missed by all and thinking about you.