I don’t often post pictures of people other than my own family to my blog. I’ve mentioned before that I very seldom talk about my blog with people in real life. People who know me in person are polite enough to pretend not to read it, which is thoughtful of them. And I don’t ever want people I know and love to worry that whatever we share in confidence of friendship or family is going to be publicly broadcast over the internet. It also saves me the embarrassment of shoving my camera in people’s faces. My family is used to it, but Chris’s family and most of our friends would probably be offended if I took my camera out and just started snapping away. And I don’t blame them. No one wants to worry that a picture taken of them at 8:00 in the morning pre-shower is going to be plastered on a blog somewhere. So, I typically don’t blog about people I know unless I know they are 100% okay with me doing it.
Chris’s family is included. I don’t normally post pictures of his family because we’ve never really talked much about my blog. I know some of them read it (hi, Granddaddy!), but we’ve never really talked about it before and I’m not positive what they think about it. This means that most of my blog is about my side of the family, but don’t let that fool you in to thinking that Chris’s family is any less a part of our lives. It’s just one of those weird blog etiquette things.
This weekend, though, I took a few pictures of Chris’s family out on Granddaddy’s dock together and I just have to share them. I heard Grandma Brown make a joke about these ending up on the blog later, and I’m just going to take that as a green light for me to post them!
Chris grew up living literally across the street from Grandma and Granddaddy Brown, where they still lived in the same house that they raised Chris’s dad and uncle in. His family was one of the original families to settle in what is now a small beach town called Gulf Breeze, mine and Chris’s hometown. The Brown family is notorious in that area. They’ve lived there for generations, and they own most of the coastline up parts of the peninsula now.
The Brown’s are farmers and fishermen. Granddaddy Brown himself still catches and grows about 90% of what they eat. He has a huge garden in the front part of his property where he grows just about every vegetable you can name, plus a hearty amount of pineapples and satsumas. He is an avid and experienced gardener, and Grandma Brown is just about as good of a Southern cook as you can find. She knows just how to turn Granddaddy’s gatherings into a buttered up, greased down, deep fried, okra simmered plate of goodness. She serves it with two different kinds of cornbread (at every meal, no less), and it will make you want to slap your momma, as they say in the South.
My favorite dinners at the Brown house are the fish fry dinners. Granddaddy’s dock is iconic around Brown Town. It has survived (well, sort of survived) more hurricanes than I can count. After each storm, Granddaddy goes pillaging through the neighbor’s backyards and beaches for pieces of his deck that have washed up along the shore after the storm. He collects as much wood as he can find, nails it back down to his dock again, and then fills in the holes with whatever driftwood he can find on his own beach. The result is a dock that is less than structurally sound, I’m sure, but completely functional for his use. And his use is fishing.
Every few feet you step down the dock, you find some other little fishing apparatus or paraphernalia that is serving a very specific purpose. At the beginning of the dock, just as you begin to walk out, there is his crab trap. He catches the crabs further out in the bay, and then stores them in this crab trap off his dock. He feeds them fish and chicken necks until the crabs get big and fat, and then he brings them inside for Grandma Brown to clean and steam. And, let me tell you, crabs don’t get any better than Grandma Brown’s. You pop those legs off, scrape that meat out, and just go to town. It’s messy work, but, Good Lord, is that good eating!
Sprinkled down the dock are places to anchor fishing poles. Granddaddy sets his fishing poles out in the morning, and spends the day checking on them for any catches. He fishes for grouper, red fish, speckled trout, and whatever else happens to be running that day. Further down the dock are the boat slips. He used to have a speed boat, a pontoon, and a couple JetSki’s, but in recent years, those slips have stayed empty. Granddaddy prefers his dock these days.
Further down still, the dock is where Granddaddy does his net fishing. He fishes for flounder using a net because they don’t bite a line. I had never seen him cast his net before until this past weekend, and it was a site to behold! He stands on the dock holding his net in his hands and part of it in his mouth, to make sure the net spreads wide. Then, when he sees a fish or school or fish, he starts spinning around! He actually spins around right there on that narrow little dock! And when the net is spread out just right, he casts it out into the water. He instantly brought up a fish. It was amazing!
Bean has recently become fascinated by fishing. We aren’t quite sure why or how. We don’t fish unless we are home in Gulf Breeze, so we don’t know when he learned about fishing. But he asks us all the time to take him. Our friend, Scott, is a fisherman here in Orlando, and for Bean’s birthday, he gave Bean a Spiderman fishing pole. It could not have been a more perfect gift. We took it with us on vacation for the sole purpose of fishing off of Granddaddy’s dock. Chris’s dad, Mickey, came over, and the four Brown men fished for a while out on the dock the morning before we left town. Bean was in hog heaven!
One of the benefits of marrying your high school sweetheart is being a part of his family for so long. I remember riding JetSki’s every summer throughout high school off that dock. I remember taking out Granddaddy’s pontoon and spending lazy afternoons drinking beer and getting sunburned on the deck. I remember sneaking out there and jumping off the end of the dock into the bay in the middle of the night with Chris and a bunch of our friends, floating around and trying desperately not to look as terrified as I was of running into a sting ray or shark (both of which were prevalent off Granddaddy’s dock).
That dock has seen better days, but it still has all the lure and charm that it had for me 15 years ago. There’s just something about Granddaddy’s dock that keeps us all coming home every summer. I am so glad to see that it seems to have the same pull on our children now.