Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/558

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

consideration is rare north of Cape Cod and extends as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. In summer it is found among the eel-grass, where it breeds, and in the autumn comes into the shallow waters to feed. It moves by swimming in a dancing manner by suddenly closing its shells and ejecting the water and then taking in more. This is a beautiful sight in an aquarium, where they dance about like castanets played by an invisible hand. They are often seen in great schools, moving along, and when the tide is with them they sometimes go half a mile before dropping to the bottom. The scallop can see quite well, being furnished with a row of thirty or more beautiful blue eyes in the outer edge of the mantle of each side, the eyes increasing in number with the growth of the animal. This mantle is the "rim" of the fisherman, and, with the gills and a very flabby stomach, is about all of the scallop, except the great adductor muscle before mentioned. This muscle leaves no mark in the shells, such as is seen in the shells of the oyster and quahaug or hard clam. The shells of the scallop are unequal, the lower one being more convex and lighter in color than the other, and in opening them the dark side is held uppermost by a right-handed man, because it brings the "meat," which is not in the center, in the proper place for speedy work; a left-handed person, of course, requires the deep white side up. The openers, or "shuckers" as they would be called in Baltimore and the South, stand in a row in front of the benches, and drop the shells through a hole into a barrel, toss the meats in a square box holding two quarts, and the rims into another place, and they become very expert at this in time. Men and women open from fifteen to eighteen gallons a day, and children often open three or four gallons after school. Formerly the price paid for this work was twenty-five cents per gallon for all, but of late years the price has dropped with the market price of the meats to sixteen cents for large and twenty-five for small ones. In November, 1894, the shippers only got sixty-five cents a gallon from the market men and many stopped fishing, and the season of 1895 was no better, the fishermen attributing the failure to dredging late in the spring when the seed of the year was marketed in order to get high prices. They open two quarts to the bushel of shells and vary in size from eighty to three hundred and twenty to the quart; a gallon will weigh about eight pounds. Fifteen years ago fifty thousand bushels of shells were sold to oyster planters for catching spat, at two and a half cents per bushel; now the shells sell at six cents per bushel, and in some shops the rims are left with the shells. The shell of the scallop is excellent for catching oyster spat, because it is so fragile that it goes to pieces before the oysters begin to crowd and deform each other, as is the case where many set on a hard shell like that of the oyster.