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45 “Shrimping is addictive,” he says. “Very addictive. It’s enjoyable dumping the nets and watching those shrimp pour out.” He came in off the water when Garland couldn’t run the fish house anymore. “I came in here in 1984, to help my wife run it,” he says. “My daddy got sick. I stepped in his shoes, and I thought I stepped on an ants’ nest. I didn’t know there was so much work to be done. When you’re shrimpin’ it’s a whole lot different than running a business.” He took over the family business, but there was no family to take over his boat. Nicky might be the last Varnam to shrimp. “Our problem was we had three girls,” Jackie Varnam says with a laugh. Even if they had boys, it’s far from certain that they would become shrimpers. Used to be, sons followed fathers into the business. Now they don’t. Melton, who will turn 60 this year, says his son is not interested in taking up the family business of shrimping, and every day the desire to persuade him lessens. “I’ve been doing it all my life,” he explains. “I was born and raised in it. My granddaddy had a fish and produce stand right there behind Babies Hospital. I have a son, but he’s not interested. I’ve tried to get him interested, but now I don’t really want him in it. It’s getting harder and harder to make a living at it.” Durham-based artist Tony Alderman has made several trips to Brunswick County to paint in Varnamtown, and to raise awareness for the plight of the shrimpers and commercial fishermen. He calls his series of paintings “An Aging Life.” No one disagrees with the title. Top: Arthur Thompson, right, gets help from a friend in the rigging of Thompson’s boat to measure for a new cable. Above: The entrance to Beacon One Seafood. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


2016-7
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