Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/15

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5
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE OYSTER.

greatly improved in quality. Early in the fall the work of taking up the crop begins. This is done by what is called tonging. An instrument is used called oyster-tongs. Something of an idea of it may be got by supposing two garden-rakes with very long handles, with the tooth-side of each rake facing each other; let the handles be secured by a loose rivet about two or three feet from the teeth, so that by operating the extreme ends of the handles the whole contrivance shall act as a pair of tongs. Working over the side of his boat, the oysterman and his comrade thus take up the first of the harvest. After tonging,

PSM V06 D015 Artificial oyster bank in lake fusaro.jpg
Fig. 3.—Artificial Oyster-Bank in Lake Fusaro.

the bed is again gone over, but this time with the dredge (Fig. 5). In this process a vessel with sails must be used (Fig. 6). The great iron bag or dredge is cast into the water and dragged along the bottom. Then (and terrible hard work this is) it is drawn up, and its contents are emptied on deck. Whether tonging or dredging, oystering requires broad-chested men, with sturdy hands and arms. The oysters are next taken a little way up a fresh-water creek or stream, into which they are thrown "to get a drink." The process sweetens and cleanses them. One day, often even one tide, is enough for this purpose. As the water is not deep, the mollusks are taken up with large forks. The workmen stand in the stream, wearing very high rubber boots. When late in the fall, this is intensely cold work. Before being thrown into the fresh water, a sorting process is gone through. There are dead oysters, and winkles, and conchs, and stones, and many useless matters, to be separated. All this is thrown upon the banks of the stream. After being taken out of the stream, before they can be sent to the great city, comes the process called "culling," that is, assorting into the sizes known in the trade. The smallest are called