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‘‘Everybody’s getting out of it,” Nicky Varnam says. “The young genera-tion is not getting into it.” The words come out matter-of-fact, almost with a shrug. What will be will be. A lifetime of shrimping and fishing teaches you that there are many things you can’t control. A few years ago, a filmmaker came to Varnamtown and put together a mini documen-tary. Jackie Varnam has watched it many times before. She pulls it up on her smartphone and listens to the introduction. “The locals here are nervous,” the narrator says. “Actually they’re downright scared. They fear that they are literally watching the death of their fishing culture.” Jackie laughs in a “you can’t trust the media” way. The intro is maybe a little overly dramatic. Nervous? Maybe. Downright scared? Definitely not. “I guess I’m mellow,” she says. “I’m ready to retire.” Concerned? Of course. “We used to have eight boats here,” Nicky says. “It’s down to two small ones now. We’re all aging out. They’re not building no more boats. There used to be seven boatyards here. Now they don’t have any. That’s where Roland Varnam and all them got started, building boats.” Jackie doesn’t watch the video for the doom-and-gloom opening. There’s a quote from an old shrimper named Danny Galloway that she likes because it sums up this way of life. “If you live to shrimp, you might make it,” Galloway says. “If you shrimp to live, you’ll go busted. That’s about what it amounts to.” Live to shrimp. That’s what keeps men like Arthur Thompson going. “I’m an old-timer,” he says. “I was a shrimper for 55 years. Started in 1945. Family business.” Thompson retired for a spell, but sitting around idle wasn’t for him. “It’s boring,” he says. “You’ve got to have something to do.” He’s 83, and just bought a small shrimp boat. He named it Old Man. Getting back into shrimping earns him some good-natured ribbing. PHOTO BY SIMON GONZALEZ Clockwise from top left: Arthur Thompson got back into shrimping because he was bored with retirement. Thompson (left) prepares to put a new winch on the boat that the 83-year-old named Old Man. 46 WBM july 2016 PHOTO BY SIMON GONZALEZ


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