The King of Show-and-Tell

Jul 15, 2014 | 1 comment

Tucker with Oyster Tongs - Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Knutzen

Tucker with Oyster Tongs – Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Knutzen

Our neighbor Tucker is a consummate storyteller. He can spin a yarn along with the best, especially when it comes to tales of the old days on Shoalwater Bay – the days of sailing ships and oystering ‘by hand.’  On Sunday, he outdid himself!

He had signed up to do the “Oysterville Moment” at Vespers. That’s the time during each summer Sunday service that a member of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation thanks everyone for coming, introduces the minister and musicians, and tells a little something about Oysterville’s history. Tucker likes to include a bit of “show-and-tell” when it’s his turn and last Sunday he took the Oysterville Moment to an entirely new level!

His subject was tonging for oysters – a method of harvesting oysters that goes back to the earliest days of Euro-American settlement here and was continued until oyster dredges made that method of gathering oysters in deep water obsolete. Not only did Tucker explain the process; he brought a two pairs of oyster tongs to demonstrate!

Tonging Oysters

Tonging Pacific Oysters

I don’t know how many people in the audience Sunday knew anything at all about tonging, but from their reaction I’d be willing to be bet that even if they had seen a set of tongs at the Interpretive Center on the Nahcotta Dock, they had never seen exactly how they were used. The only things missing were a boat and the bay. Oh, and the oysters!

Tucker began by showing a model or, he said, perhaps a pair of tongs made for a child. They were small and he explained that even though they weren’t “life size,” they were clearly the type used for tonging the little silver-dollar sized Native Oysters. He then put those aside and carefully brought out a set of real-for-sure tongs of the sort he, himself, had used in the seventies in Yaquina Bay where they were still tonging for Pacific Oysters. He pointed out the difference in the way the ‘basket’ was formed to accommodate the much larger shellfish.

I’m sure he mentioned the length of the handles which seemed quite long and unwieldy to us gawkers but that were, according to Tucker, fairly short in comparison to most. Good thing! As it was, he had to take care not to knock them into the old glass lanterns that hang from the ceiling… or into anything else.

Bateau of Native Oysters

Bateau of Native Oysters

It was when he scissored the handles to demonstrate how the tonger would open the basket to grab those oysters that there was a collective gasp from the audience. After his explanation of the tonger standing on the little platform that ran around the boat and lowering those tongs into twelve or fourteen (or more) feet of water and hearing that satisfying ‘crunch’ that told him he was “in the oysters,” Tucker’s demonstration with the tongs made it all come to life.

With all due respect to my mom who initiated the “Oysterville Moment” and who told us some vignette from the past every Sunday for fifteen years, I do believe Tucker’s Tonging Demonstration topped the charts! I’m hoping he’ll do it again sometime, not only for those who missed it last Sunday, but because I think there were lots of us who’d like to hear more Tonging Tales. And see that show-and-tell again!

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Sorry I missed Vespers and Tucker, but certainly glad that he and you are keeping history alive!


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