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Nettie By the Sea StoriesSet I
By Juliet Grey Kelsey
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Juliet Grey Kelsey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFirst Story SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
"This is Nettie Potter.
I discovered the Potter Family in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. That's where my friend Nettie lives with her mother and brother Jake. Her dad works on a fishing boat and is gone for weeks or sometimes months each trip.
It is a big boat and it takes a lot of fish to fill his boat.
Because of new laws protecting fish populations in the ocean the captain and crew have to go farther out to sea to find fish.
Mr. P. is a really good fisherman and boat mechanic. It's very dangerous work but the Potters are 'making ends meet' the best they can. There's a good living in fishing if you can find the fish. I should know my name's Fisher and I'm a seagull."
"Things have changed since Mr. P. went to sea. The family doesn't go to the beach for family picnics as much. I have been with them on the beach a number of times. Mr. P. tells the best stories while they all cook hot dogs and eat marshmallows. Sometimes if it got dark he would tell a scary story. He and Nettie sometimes take turns telling a story, each making up their own part to the story as they go along.
Mrs. P. or Caroline, Nettie's mom, once said that Nettie and her father have grand and wild imagination for adventure.
Mrs. P's the practical one. She does like to be a trickster on occasion and will play hide and seek with Nettie and her younger brother Jake. I hear she hides so well that Nettie and Jake can never find her. Sometime maybe Nettie will tell you the story of a game of hide and seek that they played on the Cape May/Lewis Ferry coming home from a trip.
Nettie's dad told her a lot of Indian stories about seashells and wampum. I watched them collect wampum together and trade back and forth, just like the Indians did.
Yep, seashells come to life for Nettie. After high tide most everyday she goes to the beach and collects her special shells. She likes broken shells that have been perfectly smoothed by the sea. She puts the unbroken ones back on the beach. She said it's the broken ones that have the stories to tell; the perfect ones haven't had much happen to them to tell about."
A window opens to Nettie's bedroom. Fisher looks to that direction.
"I hear Nettie opening her window; she's looking to see what the day is like and get a big breath of sea air. As Nettie's favorite Seagull she looks for me first thing every morning."
"Fisher, oh Fisher where are you? There you are Fisher. Are you out here making some new friends? Hello everybody. It's always good to meet some new friends. Isn't this a perfect morning for shell hunting?"
Nettie takes a deep breath, listens for a moment. She can hear the birds singing in the Mimosa trees. She exhales.
"Do you hear those early birds? They've been getting all the worms Fisher." Fisher shakes his head.
"Oh that's right; you like fish; you're the Fisher of the surf. Sounds like an Indian name. That reminds me, I have something to show you that I found in the surf the other day. Wait here, I'll go get them, they're in my beach box."
Nettie carefully opens the creaky weathered wooden door and closes it just as gently as if not to disturb anyone.
Fisher continues to tell all he knows.
"Nettie is quite a girl. She is always so considerate about closing the door. If you noticed, she doesn't slam it. She knows it scares her bird friends. One loud noise we scatter fast.
"I know all about the shells Nettie collects. I'm sure I know more about shells than any seagull I know. I happen to be a lifetime member of the Aerial Society. I am always working on something that has to do with local birds and beach behavior. Mostly seagulls, but every now and then I go to a different neighborhood and meet all kinds of birds."
The door creaks open once again.
"Oh ... here she comes."
Nettie softly closes the door behind her. She is holding a wooden box with a sliding lid. This is her beach box. It holds special shells and sand from Wrightsville Beach. In case it's raining, she often gets out her beach box and gardens in the sand with her shells.
She slides the box top back showing her sand box.
"Here I am; look at these shells I found yesterday, I call them Sea Witches.
I was told that they are all that's left of old Sea Witches that once lived in the sea; nothing remains but their finger nails; long and pointy. I can't help collecting them because they I think they are so interesting.
In this cloth I have a few Golden Sea Doubloons. I got them last year after a good nor-eastern.
A doubloon is a two-sided gold coin used as money by the Spaniards many years ago. There are stories of those ships carrying gold doubloons that sank during bad storms; or a pirate battle that left the ship and doubloons on the bottom of the ocean rolling in the currents. The sides are so worn down over a few hundred years that they are thin and very brittle. So be very careful when storing them.
Sometimes the Pirates would bury trunks of treasure in secret places along inlets and rivers on the eastern seaboard. Black Beard was a notorious Pirate of these waters and has lots of stories. Sometimes, I make treasure maps for Jake and his friends so they can dig for buried treasure.
One time a little farther north of Mercers Pier, I have found what I call black pearls. They look like shiny golden doubloons but they are black; very special and very rare."
Nettie unfolds a towel she had on her arm.
"Look here; some of my shells come with a natural hole in them making them perfect for shell strings. I wear them on either my ankle, wrist or sometimes as a necklace.
Last year I made so many shell strings and ankle charms that I decided to have a yard sale and sell them. Mom put a sign out that said 'SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS'. Everyone that stopped by said, 'down by the sea shore.' We laughed about it every time.
I made half the money I needed for a new bike. Grandma Janet, my mom's mom, said I worked real hard to earn that bike and for my birthday she paid for the other half. She said she felt the bike would be a good investment."
Nettie puts her shells back in the box.
"Okay, here's the plan. I'll go put my beach box away. Then I'll wake Jake and get him moving. We can all go to the beach and search for shells.
The rule is I have to take a friend with me to the beach, or take Jake my brother. I told mom that you were my friend Fisher but that didn't fly very far. Hahahaha.... fly very far! Wasn't that funny Fisher?
Anyway, I really don't mind taking Jake. He's always so helpful putting shells in my bucket. It's just that he doesn't have an eye for the shells I prefer in my collection. I don't want to hurt his feelings but he wants to know when I take out my collections where the ones that he found. I don't tell him but actually they found their way back to the beach."
Nettie looks around the yard and suddenly she looks excited. "I know ... I'll show Jake how to make a special garden of his own. Then he can have and carry his own bucket. Now that's a good idea! Keep everyone company Fisher, Jake and I will be out in few minutes."
Nettie gently lets the door close behind her once again and Fisher continues his expert narration.
"Did I not tell you she was very serious about shell collections? She told me the other day that her shells were a home for some type of sea creature at one time. Once the little shell dweller has done whatever it was supposed to do in the sea world, it leaves its' shell and moves on. It happens every day in the ocean. Some get eaten by sea serpents or other fish; some live to the end of their life disappearing into the ocean's ecosystem. Their shell homes are left empty and get swept away along the deep rolling ocean bottom.
When Nettie finds the very special ones on the beach that's when they begin their new life. Nettie explained to me how some shells evolve so much in their journey that they become something even more special than just an oyster's shell, clam's shell or conch's shell.
Speaking of oyster and clams, I just made myself very hungry again. You know oysters and clams my favorite dish; if I'm lucky enough to find them. They are usually deep in the water or buried in the sand.
If I find a clam, I have to fly high in the sky and drop it onto the rocks so the shell breaks and my dinner is served. If I can't find any clams or oysters I'll settle for small fish and tourist leftovers."
A window opens on the far end of the front deck of the house.
"Listen; I can hear Nettie through the screen in the window."
Clearly, the house is now awake. Nettie's voice carries through the window.
"JAAAAAAKE! Come on and hurry! We have to be early and beat the crowds.
Mom, will you please put sun screen on Jake; I can put on my own?"
"Sure Nettie; can you stop for milk on the way home, the money is on the counter?"
"Sure Mom! Jake, remind me to get milk on the way home?"
"How long will you kids be at the beach?"
"We'll be back in a couple hours. Depends on how many shells washed up."
"I put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for each of you in the refrigerator.
Take them with you; I know you'll get hungry."
"Mmm, peanut butter and jelly for breakfast, thanks mom."
"Nettie, do you have your watch?"
"Yes mom, I have my watch."
"You two be very careful and wear your hats."
"Ok ... we'll be very careful ... Wait ... almost forgot my shell bag. Ready Jake? Come on let's go. Fisher's waiting."
Jake runs ahead of Nettie and out the door,
"Jake, don't slam the ...," Bang! "... the door." Jake stands on the deck and looking for Fisher.
"Nettie, I don't see Fisher anywhere?"
"He just left Jake. Birds don't much like loud noises Jake that's why it's good to gently close doors. But don't worry he's probably gone ahead to find a little breakfast in the surf.
Here's your peanut butter and jelly. Better eat it before we get to the beach. You know what happens then, a sand crunchy sandwich."
"Yeah, gross. Thanks Nettie. I'm hungry."
"Save what's left for Fisher Jake, he likes the crust."
The Potters live in a home a few blocks from the beach. It's nice because the kids have time to have a quick bite on the way before they get in the sand.
Some days Jake and Nettie pick up trash and debris they see on the way to the beach then dispose of it in a container by the pier. They love to check out the yards and gardens decorated for summer and the sea. Nettie especially likes wind socks.
"Jake, I have a great idea. I'm going to design my own kind of windsock. It's going to be portable so I can take it to the beach and use it to mark our spot; that way you can see where our things are from anywhere on the beach or from the ocean. I'm calling it the "By the Sea Socks" or "Nettie Marks the Spot Socks".
"That's a big idea Nettie. Mom says you got lots of them."
"You know why I get big ideas Jake? It keeps me from being bored. Remember what happens when it's raining and you've played with all your stuff and you don't think there's anything else to do. You get bored. Not me. I always have another idea for something to do.
I see you finished your sandwich. Come on Jake, I hear Fisher in the surf screaming for minnows. I'll race you!"
Nettie races her brother past the rest rooms, along Mercers fishing pier right onto the beach. When she collects shells on the beach it's always nice to find shade under the pier when the sun gets too hot.
"Yeah! Jake, we're early enough that no one is here! There's nothing like a fresh untouched beach and no footprints, and look at all those shells!
And nobody to bump into while I'm hunting."
"Nettie, can you take me up on Mercers pier today?"
"Maybe not today Jake but the next time I go fishing I will. I will before the end of July, so I still have a week. Then I go away to camp for a week. Last Tuesday I went out onto the pier with Samantha on a day tour. Anyone fishing was catching sea bass, drum, a barracuda, and blue fish. We were watching. I wished I had taken my fishing gear with me that day.
Fisher was there and ate at least twelve minnows that got loose and two fish heads. He stayed close to the sinks where people clean their fish. There was a man cleaning seventeen blue fish he caught and gave Sam and me each two fish to take home. That left him fifteen. He was so nice.
But today Jake we're not fishing, it's a shell hunt. So pay attention."
Nettie bends over and begins to draw a circle in the sand with a thin shell. "Okay Jake, you take your shovel and stay inside this giant circle I'm drawing around you. I'll be looking for shells outside your circle."
"Nettie, do you want me to collect some shells for your collection?" "Sure Jake, you can collect some shells, but I got a better idea. We're going to put the shells you pick up in your very own bucket and here it is. I brought it just for you."
Nettie pulls a blue bucket from the inside of her bucket and gives it to her brother.
"As a matter of fact Jake, you can start a collection of your very own. We'll set you up a garden in the back yard where you can keep all the special shells you find. As an extra big deal you get to carry your own shells home now too. Dad let me carry my own shells home when I was your age and it's time I let you carry yours in your new bucket."
"Really, I can have my own bucket and carry it home too?"
"I told you it was a big deal; your own bucket, your own shells, and your own garden." Jake is delighted, "Gee thanks Nettie!"
Fisher's out there in the breakers searching for shell fish.
Nettie yells out to Fisher. "Hey Fisher, we brought you 'pb & j' crust!"
"Nettie, He probably can't hear you because of the waves!"
"I think you're right Jake. He'll turn up when he's done. Wow, will you just look at all these shells today."
"Will you tell me about the shell stories and show me what shells are the good ones?"
"Sure Jake, if you really want to know?"
"I do Nettie, I do."
Nettie reaches into her pocket and pulls out a shell.
"Okay Jake. Let's start with this type of shell; it is a Wishing Smoothie. I usually always have two in my pocket; one for me and one for someone who might need one.
When I find a Smoothie it fits perfectly between my thumb and first two fingers. There is no rough edge on a Smoothie. When I rub my thumb back and forth across it, it feels silky smooth. Dad said smoothies hold the wisdom of the sea."
Jake always pays attention to stories about his dad. "He did?"
"Yes he did and the more powerful ones have a purple in them. Rubbing a smoothie keeps a person calm. That's what wisdom does for you, makes you calm. It works too. I always keep two in my pocket just in case."
"In case of what?"
"In case I have you with me Jake." Nettie laughs.
"Sometimes I wish real hard while I'm rubbing a Smoothie, sooner or later I get what I wish for. I remember I wanted a container for shell hunting. I rubbed that Smoothie for a week, wishing for something good to put my shells in. You know what? I got something for my birthday."
"Yes, really; and it wasn't your usual bucket either it was made of canvas and would even hold water."
"Wow. What's canvas?"
"It's the material they make boat and ship sails out of."
"Another of my favorite shells I find is what I call the Lucky Sea Licker. It is this perfect little shell tongue from the ocean."
I keep them in a bag together and when I shake it they sound like marbles. I love to collect Lucky Sea Lickers. I have almost one thousand. No two Lucky Sea Lickers are ever the same either."
Jakes points to something in the sand.
"Look Nettie, there's a Lucky Sea Licker.
"Can I keep it? I think I'll collect Lucky Sea Lickers too."
"Jake it's going to be harder for me to find lickers for myself if we're both looking for the same thing. But I guess so. It's like Mom says, 'there're lots more where that came from'.
The kids search tirelessly for a while longer filling their buckets with exactly what each wants from the shell bounty.
"Nettie, look Fisher's here! Here's some crust we saved for you; catch it." Jake throws his crust and Fisher catches it with a gulp. Jake calls out, "Nice catch Fisher."
Something new on the beach catches Nettie's eye.
"Holy torpedo, look what I found Jake. It's a new and very interesting shell, hmmm. It looks like a paw of some kind.
Here's another and it's white; and another. This one is white and black together. There are all the same, only different. Must be different creatures, one's a long paw and the other's short.
Excerpted from Nettie By the Sea Stories by Juliet Grey Kelsey Copyright © 2010 by Juliet Grey Kelsey. Excerpted by permission.
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