Thursday, August 18, 2011

Some Summer Squirbs

Note: A squirb is, if you’ll recall, a combination of a squib and a blurb, according to Mrs. Sloan’s Revised Standard Dictionary.
Is that a Shrimp Costume or am I just standing here with my fingers crossed?
You can have the bright lights of New York City, the history and culture of London and the style and sophistication of Paris. And, I no longer envy those who have visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro or the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.
You see, I've been to the Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival.
Sneads Ferry is an unincorporated fishing village located on the New River near its inlet into the sea, not far from our North Topsail Island digs. Its historic claim to fame has to do with the fact that it was--beginning in 1728--the site of an important ferry crossing that connected the vital Post Road (the road used to carry the mail) from Suffolk, Virginia to Charleston, South Carolina. The reason for the name "Snead" is kind of elusive, as some accounts identify Robert Snead as the owner/operator of the north shore ferry, while others state he was an attorney best known for shooting a political opponent and beating the rap after he was convicted of murder, with a pardon signed by the governor. A former slave with the rather misleading name of Caroline Pearson was the last ferryman to hand-propel the ferry, which was discontinued when a bridge was built in 1939. Celebrating a yearly shrimp festival is more than appropriate, as the village annually catches over 385 tons of shrimp, 25 tons of flounder, and approximately 493 tons of other seafood like clams, scallops, oysters, mullet, spot, grouper, soft shell and hard shell crabs, sea bass, and more.
We had been seeing the posters and billboards since our return to the area and figured we ought to go and see what there was to see (and eat what there was to eat.) We were a running a little late, so we had to kind of hustle to catch the beginning of the annual parade, which was our main goal for the day. As we approached the parade route, we could hear some absolutely splendid-sounding march music in the distance.
She: That's quite a high school band.
Me: No kidding. I wonder where they're from?
In fact it was no high school band at all, but the President's Own, a detachment of the United States Marine Corps band, doing what they do best. We were quickly reminded that Camp Lejeune, home of over 40,000 Marines and their families, is right across the aforementioned bridge. The parade continued with a beauteous, bountiful bevy of shrimp queens and princesses, along with "Mr. Shrimp," a teenaged guy who may well rue the day he accepted the title if he ever leaves home and shares that bit of personal information with others.
"You were captain of the hockey team? So what? I was Mr. Shrimp."
There were troops of Shriner clowns and squadrons of other Shriners buzzing around in little trucks and cars. There were military vehicles, fire trucks, cop cars and a full compliment of smiling, candy-tossing politicians and celebrities, like the aptly named Rookie Davis, a local high school baseball phenom who was recently drafted by the New York Yankees.
There was shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp.
And finally, just as I had almost given up hope, there was a guy strutting proudly down the street in a giant shrimp costume.
Life is good.
Thome is my homie.
Jim Thome did it.
The East Peoria native hit his 600th home run Monday night, reaching that amazing career milestone in the second fewest at-bats ever, behind only Babe Ruth. It would seem to make him a virtual shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, which is a good thing. A very good thing.
You see, besides being a prodigious hitter who slugged his way through the steroid era without taking performance-enhancing drugs himself, Thome seems, by all accounts, to be a truly good guy.
He’s won the Clemente Award. He’s won the Gehrig Award. He has been voted the nicest guy in baseball.
And while a pleasing personality shouldn't have to be a requirement for entry into the hall, it's nice when it works out that way.
Well done, number 25.
Home, home on the beach.
There was an extra-special sighting on Topsail Beach last week. It was, in my opinion, better than whales, better than dolphins and even better than turtles, if that can be believed.
It was Sloans.
Son and daughter-in-law Colin and Geri, along with our granddaughter Setira, made the jaunt from their home near Fargo, North Dakota, a drive of some 1600 miles, but light years apart in terms of weather and scenery.
It was Setira's first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean, a wondrous thing for a water-loving 13-year-old. Add the real-life turtle hatching she and her grandma witnessed, and it was near-nirvana for both of them. It was the first time, too, that we had the majority of the family--kids and grandkids alike--under the same roof since Christmas.
We cooked and ate and laughed and talked and played and spent time enjoying the sheer nearness of each other.
The grandma-lady and I know that the distances involved make it a tough thing for us all to get together very often. We know it's not easy in a world filled with busy lives and four dollar gasoline. So, we appreciate the fact that, one more time, it happened.
A family.
More than priceless.

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