Michael Loderstedt returns to his hometown with a film camera and notebook to create a memoir of life growing up on a barrier island. The following is an excerpt from the accompanying book to this exhibition, The Yellowhammer’s Cross. On the island, if you weren’t fishing you were probably sick or worse.
The Divining Rod
The sun was starting to peak up over the ocean’s horizon, the big spawning mullets are thick in spots, their silhouettes visible in the glass-clear waves. We’re not having much luck with the trout, they’re a fickle fish, sometimes you could see them schooling but they wouldn’t take a lure. Grandpop’s an impatient fisherman, so we’re riding up and down the beach, me with binoculars looking for flocks of feeding birds, a sure sign of fish.
We spot some bonito slashing at a school of mullet trapped against the surface of the water. Grandpop stops the Scout, jumps out grabbing his bigger surf rod with a six-inch Hopkins lure and makes a dash towards the action. Grandpop looks funny running in his waders, flat-footed sort of like a rodeo clown in big shoes. He’d told me his flat feet kept him out of World War II, but he wanted to go fight. I follow after him to the surf with my rod too.
“Gus, try to cast in front of the fish,” he yells out above the waves. I watch him cast the heavy spoon what seems like a mile out into the ocean. The bonito are crashing through the surface in long lines like torpedoes, jumping mullet fanning out in front of them. They’re a fast and powerful gamefish, my heart is racing as we run up and down the beach chasing after them. Soon I hear the familiar screech of the reel’s drag as my grandpa’s hooked one. His rod’s bent in a big C, he’s back on his heels in the surf leaning into this fish.
Then, a pop as the line breaks, the rod snaps back straight and Larry lets out “Goddamn it, he got away,” and he starts back to the buggy.
“It’s okay, Grandpop,” I tell him. “You can’t eat ‘em anyway.” I knew most fisherman let false albacore go, or used them for bait for much bigger fish.
“They fight like hell, though,” he reminds me.
“I know, you’ll get the next one.”
We’re back driving along the beach, the sun’s higher now and just like turning off a switch, fish have stopped biting and the gulls and terns are sitting on the sand.
15515 Waterloo Rd.