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The R Months

Oyster Shell: Outside Oyster Shell: Inside

There is a line from a Jim Croce song that says, "You don't tug on Superman's cape, You don't spit into the wind, You don't pull the mask off the ole Long Ranger, and You don't eat oysters in a month that doesn't have an R in it!" Or at least that is how my father would have song the song.

Oysters are a part of my culture. This was a subject that came up recently when I was talking with a group of friends. They have lived here on the Ms. Gulf Coast since there high school days and consider it home. We were talking about restaurants and seafood and how much they loved all that the Gulf has to offer, except oysters. They just can't eat oysters. They wanted to know if I could. Well, I never knew a time that I didn't eat oysters. Except during the months that did not have an R in the spelling.

It's funny how the things that we learn as little children can stick with you for the rest of your life. In my case, Lady Bird Johnson said, "Don't Be a Litterbug, Every Litter Bit Hurts". Smokey Bear said, "Only You Can Prevent Forrest Fires". My father said, "You don't eat oysters in a month that doesn't have an R". To this day I have a great deal of respect for fire and would never start a fire on a windy day. I can't throw a piece of trash on the ground and can't understand why anyone else would. If I can't find a trash can, I have been know to stuff my pockets with my wrapper if I can't find a garbage can. And when a restaurant says they have a great oyster special, I immediately think what month is it and how do you spell it! Intellectually, I know that times have progressed. We have modern refrigeration and even have oyster farming, but there is always that little voice in my heard saying, "there is no R in this month!"

So my fascination with the oyster continues. It started by way of my father. My parents were young parents and they had what is referred to as "stair-step" children. That means there was barely a year between three of us. By their late 20s they had four children. I teased them that they grew up with us and they included in most of the things that they did. From my mother I learned how to make a pot of gumbo, bake a cake, make a flower arrangement, and not wear white before Easter. From my father I learned how to mix a cocktail without need of a jigger, fly fish, gig and skin a frog, and shuck a sack of oysters (but only during oyster season...and that was any month that had an R).

My father was not a white table-cloth kind of guy. Most of the time he would have us eat at the counter or the bar. The restaurants we went to were kid friendly, which meant we couldn't hurt anything or bother other's who where eating. And sitting at the oyster bar watching them shuck oysters was the best form of entertainment. I could watch the oyster shuckers in their fisherman attire of baggy pants, oyster-stained white aprons, white t-shirts with sleeves rolled up, and big white shrimper boots, and some wore a very worn sailor hat. They talked rough and they enjoyed messing with us kids. They challenged me to eat the oyster right from the shell...each one bigger than the last...laughing between all the adults when I picked up the shell and slurped it down; tempting me to add more and more fresh horseradish and tabasco to my sauce, laughing with respect when I choked and it felt like smoke came from my ears...smiling in my achievement and their praise. They entertained and kept me watching by promising they would find me a pearl from one of the many shucked oysters. They found just enough to keep me coming back to watch every time. Then I would wrap that tiny little pea-sized object in a paper napkin and took it home to treasure.

Oysters are part of my culture. Oysters in a shell are like a box of cracker jacks. Always with anticipation of what's inside. They are so special to me, beautiful both inside and outside. There are those that think the actual oyster is gross, but to me it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and listening to the football game on the radio in the backyard with friends. They are as much a part of my culture as the magnolia and equally as beautiful. So I share with you my latest paintings of the oyster, Oyster Shell: Outside and Oyster Shell: Inside.

So as we start the month of March, enjoy! According to my father, you have this month and April, then you should wait for September, the next R month. But don't worry, shrimp season picks up the slack in June. Enjoy!

Thanks for connecting,


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