Hard Labor Reminders of Scallop Shells. Photography & Text by Keith R Wahl

May 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The working journey of the scallop shell

Scallop Shell on the Sand

Scallop Shell on the Sand 20230402 850_7673Scallop Shell on the SandScallop shell resting on East Matunuck State Beach

We would start out from Warwick Cove early on a weekend morning. The course was south along the West Passage of Narragansett Bay. We would cross the line of demarcation off Beavertail and pass into Rhode Island Sound. At Point Judith Light, we would ease off to the west and through the gap of Point Judith Harbor of Refuge. We would then go through the breech way at Galilee and Jerusalem and into Point Judith Pond. The rest of the day we would spend between Great Island and Harbor Island.

The catch we were seeking was scallops. Not the big ocean scallops. No, it was bay scallops. The kind of scallops that once occupied these shells on East Matunuck Beach near Jerusalem. Small, sweet, tender, delectable bay scallops.

Scallop Shell Inverted on the Sand

Scallop Shell Inverted on the Sand 20230402 850_7687Scallop Shell Inverted on the SandScallop shell resting on East Matunuck State Beach

We earned each tender morsel. Our day was one of dropping a scallop dredge, making a pass, and pulling up hundreds of pounds of muck and stuff. Then we would dump the dredge on a culling board and empty it, sorting through the muck to find our prize. We would measure the scallops against the size ring to check it for legal sizing. The undersized ones went back over the side. Finally, we would dip a chain bucket in the water to wash the detritus over the side. Then we would do it all again. And again.

Scallop Shell on the Wet Sand

Scallop Shell on the Wet Sand 20230402 850_7676Scallop Shell on the Wet SandScallop shell resting on East Matunuck State Beach

By the time we reached the end of the day and returned to Warwick Cove, we had quite a haul. We still had to shuck our catch, but that was task for the way home. Bring the boat into the dock, tie it up, clean everything, pull the catch ashore, and back home; school for me the next day.

These shells on the beach are more than beachcombing finds. They are memories from my teenage working years. And they are reminders of my working roots and where the callouses on my hands came from.


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© Keith R Wahl, Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keith R Wahl and Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery with appropriate and specific direction to the original. 

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