Bayler Daniels "Trouble in the Glades" (Chapter 1 part 3)
When Bayler arrived home, he drove around the back, into the shed, and unhooked the boat. He put some fresh saltwater into the live tanks on the truck and hooked the aerators up to the battery supply. He put in the crabs he caught today along with the large blue crabs he needed for the crab house in Ochopee and putting them in the back half of the tank on the right side. Then he took the Jumbo crabs he needed and put them in the front half of the tank. He repeated the same process for the crabs going to the seafood restaurant in Immokalee. After he finished with the crabs, he put the mullet he’d caught the night before into the truck shipping cooler and iced them down. Bayler closed the cooler, washed his hands and went to the house followed by Shellie.
Netty was inside folding clothes, while Jonah and Ruthie were studying their lessons at the table.
“I’m home.” Bayler said as he entered the kitchen.
“Hey dad, how’d it go?” asked Jonah.
“Went fine Son, how’s your lesson’s going?”
“Ok I guess. You need my help?”
“No Son, not yet,” as he walked over and gave Netty a kiss.
“Da-ad!” Ruthie said with disgust “Do you have to do that in front of us?”
“One day you’ll understand,” Netty replied, “and you’ll probably think different!”
“Yeah, I bet not,” said Jonah with a snicker and Ruthie laughed along with him.
“Gonna head on over to Sweetwater and drop off the mullet at Charlie’s, and then head back to the Crab Shack in Ochopee. So if you would please, call an’ let ‘em know we have their crabs. I got those crabs for the Oyster Reef up in Immokalee too.”
“I’ll make the call; don’t forget to stop into the Five & Dime for me. I have some things there Mavis has set aside for me,” Netty reminded him. “And don’t forget those Masson Jar lids and seals.”
“I’ll get them dear and be back ‘fore you know it” said Bayler as he gave her another kiss and said goodbye. He walked out to the truck and headed off towards Sweetwater with Shellie in his usual place. The truck drove a bit different with all the extra water on board for the crabs, but he was used to that.
“Pretty morning Shellie,” he wiped the sweat from his brow, “but it’s got a good heat on.” Shellie turned to look at him, then put his head out the window in the breeze. Bayler’s mind was pondering all that needed to be done by day’s end. He thought about the Snakeheads, and about how they might have shown up in the Glades. He thought about the crabs and the deliveries, and he still had to check his lines and the traps this evening. His thoughts occupied his mind, time passed quickly and he made it into Sweetwater a bit sooner than expected.
Charlie was busy checking in the morning’s shipments he had received. He had begun sorting, weighing and packaging the fresh product, so they could be placed on display in the storefront. Bayler backed his truck up to the loading docks. Then he put the brake on and got out, followed by Shellie.
“Good morning Bayler, and good morning to you Shellie,” Charlie said when he saw them walk up. “Boy I am glad to see you”
“Good morning Charlie, how’s things today?”
“Crazy, Bayler, just plumb crazy!” Charlie said shaking his head. “My counter girl ain’t showed up yet, and my food prep man had an accident on the way in, so I’m tryin’ to do everything, and getting nothin’ done fast!”
“Well Charlie,” answered Bayler “I can’t do no counter work, and I don’t know nothing ‘bout food prep, so….”
“No Bayler, didn’t expect that of you.” laughed Charlie, “But I needed those mullets you had comin’ for me, cause I’m running'’ low on all my fillets.”
“That, I can help with,” and with that, Bayler turned and headed towards the back of the truck. “Brung ya twenty-five whole mullet gutted an rinsed, ‘bout three to five pounds apiece,” Bayler said. He grabbed one of the shipping containers with the mullets in ice from his truck, “an, I brung ya some more sheep’s head too.”
Bayler, you’re a life saver and a man of your word, too,” Charlie said, as he took the first container from him and put it up on the table. Bayler went back for the second container and set it next to the first, then went back for the fillets “Let me get ‘em weighed up, and I settle with ya quick as I can.” Charlie remarked as he began removing the mullet from the container and placing them on the scales. The Mullet weighed in at one hundred and eight pounds and the sheep’s head another forty pounds. “This’ll get me through the weekend; I believe that makes two hundred seventy six dollars, I owe you.”
“That’d be fine Charlie, I appreciate it”
“Thank you Bayler and I’m sorry I didn’t have a crab for Shellie today, but can I give him a biscuit?”
“He’s had plenty of crab, biscuit be more than fine. I’m sure he wouldn’t care either way, long as you noticed him” replied Bayler
“We’ll you take care and I’ll see ya Monday afternoon, and you be good Shellie” said Charlie as he laughed, and went back to his sorting.
“Ok, I’ll see ya then,” Bailer said as he headed back to his truck.
Bayler arrived at the Crab Shack in Ochopee, thirty-five minutes later. He walked to the entrance and approached a pair of Red Oak doors with full sized images of snowy egrets, facing each other, standing in a stream, on etched glass. He entered the restaurant and glanced around the dining area, it was still a good hour before they opened, but he hoped to find a glass of water or sweet tea. The Crab Shack is much like the name implies. It is open inside, with a beverage bar made from old wooden ship hatches against the back wall, to the left of the self-serve salad bar. The chrome and red vinyl chairs seemed to fit the atmosphere, and went well with the black and white tiled floor and black Formica covered tables. Bayler made his way through the tables to the back.
“Mornin’ Bayler” said Tim, as he pulled a towel out of the front of his apron, wiped his hands and held one out to Bayler.
Bayler held his hand out and said, “Mornin’ Tim” shaking his hand.
“D’you bring me some nice Blue Crabs”
“Yep, I think you’ll be happy with them,” answered Bayler “You asked for twenty large and twelve jumbo’s right?”
“Yes, I sure did, I’m glad to see you!” said Tim as he continued. “Been real busy lately and ‘specially on the weekends, ran out of Crabs last night probably lost a good three hundred or more dollars in sales.
“You should have called me, you know I’d run some out to you, I ain’t that far away.”
Yeah, I know, Bayler but lord knows you start your day early enough and I didn’t run out till eight last night, so I just a soon let it go.”
“Well, I have these for you now, so if you’ll meet me around back with your transfer tank, I‘ll open up the live tank and we’ll get em out.”
“Sounds great I’ll bring it right out”.
Bayler went out to the truck and jumped on the back. He opened the live tank on the right side and pulled out a metal transfer basket from a storage box on the front of the bed. Tim came out the back door with his transfer tank half-filled with salt-water.
“Where you want it?” he said as he wheeled it out to the truck.
“Over here on the right side will be good, I’ll hand you the basket once I fill it, and you can set them in”. Bayler placed about three dozen crabs into the basket, lifted it out of the live well and handed it to Tim.
“Man! These are great lookin crabs Bayler,” said Tim as he put the basket into the transfer tank. “I should have asked for more. Are these the Jumbo’s?”
“You want em to be?” laughed Bayler as he took the empty basket from Tim. “Who else you been getting crabs from?”
“I am sorry Bayler; I got talked into takin’ some off of the La Torette brothers last week down in Everglades City. Their large evidently weren’t”
"Well,” said Bayler, as he placed another three dozen in the basket “I wondered why I didn’t get an order from you last week. He’s good people though, and I ain’t ever said anything against anyone trying to do business, so ain’t no ‘apologies’ to be made, besides you probably got a good deal or you wouldn’t have taken them.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but they sure weren’t as nice as these,” he said examining the ones Bayler brought.
“Well, I wouldn’t burn any bridges, maybe one day I won’t have any crabs and he will.”
“True” said he “but I’ll always come to you first from now on.”
“I appreciate that Tim, and you know if I have them, I’ll be more than happy to bring them to you.”
They finished unloading the crabs, and Tim brought the money out to pay Bayler.
“Twenty large at twelve dollars a dozen and twelve jumbo at fifteen a dozen, that makes four hundred twenty total,” Tim said as he counted out the cash.
“Bout the way I had it figured too,” Bayler said as he took the money.
“I’ll call you next week and let you know how many for next Thursday, if that’s ok?” Tim asked.
Yeah that will be fine, I should have a good plenty by then if things keep up the way they are.” said Bayler. He turned and headed back to the truck where Shellie waited patiently. Bayler turned the truck around and headed in to the Five and Dime.
Buck was busy helping a man with electrical supplies, while Mavis was helping a customer at the front of the store. Bayler entered the store and waved at Mavis. “Hello Bayler,” Mavis called, as she spied him walking in.
“Morning Ma’am, how’s things today?”
“Pretty good I suppose, about the same as yesterday.”
“Yeah, I reckon so, I’ll wait for you” he said as he looked at some sale items in a tray by the front.
“Will that be all today dear?” Mavis said to the woman customer as she totaled up her sale.
“Thank you, I think that’s all,” the woman responded as she handed Mavis her money.
“Ok then, here’s your change and you have a wonderful day. Bye now.” She smiled as the woman picked up her purchases and headed out. Mavis then turned to him, “Ok Bayler, How can I help you?” She said as she came around the counter.
“I want to pay some more on the sewing machine, if that’s all right.”
“Sure Bayler, that’s no problem at all. But, you know you could wait if you needed too.”
“You and Buck are right kind and I appreciate it, really I do, but you also know me.”
“We sure do, wish all our customers were just like you,” Mavis replied with a big smile.
“Thank you Ma’am, that’s nice of you to say, I believe I’ll put another hundred twenty five on the machine.”
“Whatever you want to do,” she replied with her usual smile.
Bayler laid down the money, said his goodbyes and headed out the door.
When Bayler arrived home, Netty had dinner on the table. Dinner was simple today. She had fried some hamburger, a pot of Turnip Greens with fatback, Corn and a big pitcher of Sweet-Tea. Ruthie made some fresh cornbread again, and Netty had sliced tomatoes, pickled cucumber slices, in White Vinegar on the table.
“Wow” said Bayler as he walked into the kitchen “Dinner smells great.”
“I hope you like it dear” as she gave him a kiss.
“I don’t ever remember complainin’ ‘bout you’re cookin’.”
“Did you wash your hands yet?” She asked as she gave Bayler an inquisitive look.
“I just walked in the door woman!” said Bayler heading for the sink.
“You have to set a good example for the kids. You don’t know how much they look up to you, even with ‘your’ manners,” She responded. “I know you work hard and that’s a great example for them too, but I need you to think about the little things you do that will affect them when they get out on their own.”
“I know Netty; I just wasn’t thinkin.” He washed his hands and dried them on the towel hanging beside the sink, then walked over to the table and took his seat.
“Let’s go kids….dinner’s ready!” Netty called to them. Jonah and Ruthie came into the kitchen and took their seats at the table. “Did you both wash your hands?”
“Yes Ma’am,” the two responded. Netty took her seat, Jonah said the blessing and they began passing the food. Dinner was delicious, and everyone ate probably more than they should have, but when the foods’ that good, the arms get weak and makes it hard to push away from the table. The problem with Netty’s cooking was, that it has become epidemic in the Daniels household.
Bayler excused himself from the table and prepared to head to Immokalee, to deliver the crabs to the Oyster Reef. He Kissed Netty bye and headed out the door carrying a mason jar filled with Sweet-Tea. Neither he nor Netty caught what he had done, and he didn’t think about it until he was half way to Immokalee. ’ Oh no! She’s not gonna be happy with me’’ He thought to himself as he looked at the Mason jar, “guess that’s not a good example for the kids either, he smiled.
Bayler made the thirty seven mile trip to Immokalee in record time. He backed up to the restaurant kitchen entrance in back and set the brake. “Stay Shellie.” Bayler said as he climbed out of the truck.
Carl Ledbetter came out the back of the restaurant wearing a black rubber apron and black rubber boots with white pants and a white shirt with Oyster Reef Seafood Restaurant embroidered with his first name on the left side in red. He had a thermometer, a blue and red ink pen and his glasses in the pocket under the embroidery.
Carl was from Maine originally, but moved down to Immokalee in the early seventies with the hope of opening a seafood restaurant. He was a stocky man of five foot nine inches with a close cut hairstyle, and clean-shaven face. He stood straight with a tad portly, andmaintained a strict business attitude and made little idle chit-chat.
His little one hundred and fifty seat oasis was just what he had in mind when he moved down here. The exterior displayed remnants of shipwrecked boats, staged for aesthetic viewing and large thirty-inch porthole windows on either side as you entered. Carl thought long and hard in the restaurants' design and had created a fantastic eatery that people traveled for miles to enjoy.
Bayler greeted Carl with a firm handshake, “How you doing Carl, got that order for you out in the live tanks.”
“Sound’s good,” Carl said “let’s take a look” They walked out of the kitchen area and over to Bayler’s truck. Carl jumped up on the back with him as Bayler opened the live tank. “These are perfect, just what I asked for, I’ll have my kitchen help unload them while you and I go into the office and settle up”
“Well I appreciate that, but I’ll get em’ off the truck if you don’t mind. Shellie doesn’t like strangers on the truck if I’m not around.
Carl looked a Bayler then at Shellie, “I see, very well then,” he said with an understanding smile as he looked at Shellie sticking his head out the side window of the truck. “When you’re done come on in and we can settle up ok?”
“That’d be fine” Bayler said and he began loading the crabs into a transfer basket while the kitchen help brought out the mobile display tanks. Once they were unloaded, Bayler closed up the truck tanks and jumped off. “Be right back boy” he said to Shellie, and headed on into the restaurant where Carl was waiting.
“Fifteen dozen large and ten dozen jumbo, said Carl as he read the check list his assistants brought in, “looks like I owe you three hundred thirty dollars, check ok?”
“Yeah, that’d be fine.” Bayler said as he sat down.
“I appreciate you bringing them up today. I had just realized how low I was when I called your secretary.”
Bayler smiled “She’s not my secretary, she’s my wife.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I meant no disrespect, my kitchen managers been handling this for so long and she was out yesterday.”
“None taken, she does better than anyone I could have hired, she takes the orders, does the books and everything.”
“That’s great; I hope I’ll see you again next week.”
“Sounds good,” Bayer said “see ya then.” He folded the check and placed it in his pocket, said his goodbyes, and drove back to Copeland. It had been a busy day, he still had to get back out and check his traps and trot lines. Today was Friday and he had promised Netty, that they would go out tonight for a nice meal away from home.
Netty was on the phone talking to the IGA in Immokalee, when Bayler arrived home. He took the pair of coveralls from the morning off the top of the washer in the utility room, then came into the kitchen, and sat down.
“Ok, I’ll talk with you again soon” she said as she hung up the phone. She turned to him, “Hey Baby.” Then she gave him a kiss. “Things are getting busy at the IGA because of the tourists starting to come down, and they asked me to give them a hand.”
“Well, whatever you think, you’re the one who needs to be decidin’ that. You want to go back to work there?”
“Yes… no… I don’t know, I told them I’d think about it and call them back tomorrow.”
“Did they say when they’d want you?” he said as he pulled on his coveralls over his clothes.
“They would probably need me more from three o’clock through nine in the evening.”
“Did they say what days?” Bayler asked.
“Yes, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for starts, and they would pay me eleven dollars an hour.”
“Well it don’t sound like it’s gonna interfere with your church things and the kids are old enough to care of themselves. Kind of takes Friday out of the picture for us though.”
“We aren’t hurting for money right now. But if you don’t want me to do it, I can just tell them no,” she said.
“I ain’t ever told you what to do; you do whatever you thinks best.”
“I’ll think about it tonight, I guess I can let them know I the morning.”
“I reckon I’d better get on out and check the traps. Where’s Jonah?” Bayler asked.
“He’s out with String and Beetle, down at the abandoned railroad tracks by the old station.”
“I was figuring on taking him fishin’ with me this afternoon.”
“I’m sure he will be disappointed when he finds out he missed you. What time will you be home?”
“I reckon ‘bout six-thirty or so, if I get out of here and get everything done,” Bayler said as he walked out to the back porch and sat down to pull on his boots. He stood up and put on his belt, seated the knife and pliers and headed out the back door. Netty followed him out to the shed, with Shellie right at their heels.
“Well, give me a kiss and I’ll see you when you get back; hurry every chance you get.”
“I will,” said Bayler as he opened the door to the truck and let Shellie jump in. He kissed her goodbye and climbed in, started it up and waved as he pulled out of the shed, then headed down to the road towards the landing.
The marsh was calm and peaceful when Bayler and Shellie launched the boat and started across the bay. A small flock of scarlet ibis skimmed across the top of the water on the edges of the shore, searching for food in the shallows. A pair of great white egrets walked along the marsh, by the edge of the tall grass and mangroves, feeding on small fish and crustaceans.
‘It sure has been a beautiful day,’ Bayler thought. ‘God must have enjoyed every minute making all this.’ He began working on the northeast traps and crayfish pots. Bayler started over to the Sandy Point area to try for more mullet and to test the net he had repaired.
He pulled the boat up on the sand bar, threw the anchor out six-feet on the bar and secured the rope. He walked slowly, looking in the shallow water for any obstructions or possible snags. He then gathered the net up and prepared to let it go as he had done the day before. Bayler watched the shallow water looking for signs of fish. As he walked out to the edge of the bar, he glimpsed movement of a large school and threw out the net.
Then he pulled the net into shallow water, picked it up by the weights, and put it into his boat. When the net opened, it contained 11 mullet of decent size, and a nice sized flounder. He put the mullet on ice, picked up the flounder, and took a good look at it. Could be a nice meal for the family tomorrow night, he thought to himself. He threw the net a few more times and picked up another twenty-five mullet. He placed them on ice and headed in.
When he returned home, he walked in the porch, hung up his belt, and got out of his boots and coveralls.
“Am I back early enough for you Dear?” he said in the direction of the kitchen, as he untied his boots.
“I’m not “Dear,” Ruthie giggled, “She’s in the shower and we’ve had ours; you better hurry!”
“I hoped you saved me some hot water,” Bayler quipped.
“If you don’t hurry up Dad, you’ll be in plenty of hot water,” she grinned.
“Well Miss Comedian, how about you put this fish in something and put it in the refrigerator, while I get ready to go.” He smiled.
“I guess I should have seen that coming!” said Ruthie.
He just smiled at her and went back to the bedroom to shower and get cleaned up. Netty passed Bayler as she came out, kissed him and walked over to the dog’s dish. “You hungry Shellie” she said as she scooped some dry food, then added left over fried fish and rice into the bowl.
Shellie barked his approval as he watched her every move.
“Here you go boy; such a good dog,” as she petted him on the back. Then, she picked up the water dish, rinsed it out and filled it up, and set it down next to the food dish. “Now you take care of things while we’re gone.” Shellie looked at Netty, as if he understood, before he gobbled up his meal.
The family was all waiting patiently as Bayler came out. “Ya’ll ready to go?” he asked, and they all stood up. “Then let’s get-a-goin.”
The family took Netty’s SUV and headed to town. Bayler would have enjoyed treating the family to a movie, but the closest movie would have gotten them home too late. So, after dinner he stopped by the movie rental store near the restaurant and let Netty and the kids pick out a couple of movies. He would bring them back on Monday when he brought over some more crabs and fillets. It was a nice end to a busy week.
When they returned home Bayler went to his chair, turned on the lamp stand, and began his hourly devotion. The kids went into their bedrooms and changed into their PJs and Netty went into the kitchen.
Netty made some popcorn on the stove and took it and four small plastic bowls into the living room. The kids came out of their bedrooms, Jonah and Ruthie fought a little over who got the seat next to Mom and who got the controls. Netty told the kids to stop arguing, as she filled three of the bowls with popcorn and handed one to each of the kids.
“Don’t get the stuff on the davenport or carpet,” she warned. She picked up her bowl and sat down on the davenport next to Ruthie. Jonah sat in his great grandmother’s cherry wood rocker with the cushion and backrest her grandmother had sewn before she passed away. “Jonah, definitely don’t get any corn or salt on those cushions” she warned.
“Yes Ma’am,” he said as he sat down, and Netty started the movie. After Bayler had finished his devotional, he closed his Bible and went into the family room to sit down and finish the movie with his family. Tomorrow would be another day.
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