National Geographic : 1949 Jun
E. 'TrecMiller "It's Grand to Come Home in the Evenin' with a Boatful of Fine Fat Fish!" These men pitch their catch ashore with single-tined forks which they call "pews." Pronging cod is good exercise for the back, they say, when urging reluctant sons to stop play and get to work. Billie tied his boat to the foot of the first step. With a single-pronged fork called a "pew," he flipped the cod up to the lower platform. Matt pitched them on up to the stage. Joe sent for his wife and another woman. At a table in the stage one of the women split the fish open from gills to vent and cut around the heads. Her companion took the cod, ripped out the entrails, and dropped the precious livers into a tub. Against the table edge she snapped off the heads. Joe removed the spines with two deft cuts. In wheelless two-man barrows they carried the fish to a shed. There Joe's wife laid them away, spreading salt thickly between layers. As weather and curing space allowed, they would wash the fish, take them to the drying flakes (racks of boards or boughs), and spread them out in the sun and breeze to "make" (page 786). Back at Emma Nosworthy's I washed the fish slime from my hands and the caked sea salt from my face. It had been a good day. At Joe's house we had tea to celebrate my baptism on the fishing grounds. Legs crossed and rough hands folded on knees, the men yarned between gulps of the strong brew. Newfoundlanders dearly love a story. They spin tales in language as full of flavor as their smoked salmon. They speak of "bilin' the kittle" over a fire of "blasty boughs." Both phrases ring as familiar to the island folk as "double play" to a Yankee. Blasty boughs are dried branches of fir or spruce trees. If the needles have crisped to a bright red-brown, they burn with a gay snapping, like the explosion of tiny firecrackers (page 806). Culling Fish a Special Skill After returning to St. John's, I met NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photographer Bob Sisson and drove with him to Carbonear, on Concep tion Bay. In the W. & J. Moores salt fish plant Graham Moores took us through store rooms starting to fill with cured cod. We riffled through piles of salt cod graded for size and quality. Some purchasers like big fish; others prefer the little ones. Culling fish is a special skill. Like grading tobacco, it demands ability to judge color, texture, and size at a glance. A good culler sorts in a day 200 quintals-several thousand fish, since a quintal is the equivalent of 112 pounds.