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  • Mick taught me to knit pockets and heads. To look at him you wouldn’t think knitting teacher first off. He looked like what he was, a young, wild lobster-man. Salt stained cap and hip boots. Broad shoulders and pants hanging about 4 inches south of where they really ought to. Bold bright eyes coming at you out of an offshore fisherman’s tan and a peeling nose. Hands swollen from handling wet warps and cable in any kind of weather at all times of year. Voice pitched to be heard over wind and wave and the throbbing roar of his 456 Lincoln running wide open between traps. No, truth is, you wouldn’t even see the wooden needle and mesh board in his massive hands and no one would call him a knitter least not to his face.

    Where you’d get those old pockets you use Benjoy, he asked one day when he took me hauling after despairing at seeing me row from trap to trap.

    I said I went round the shore and picked up the old ones that washed up. The ones other fishermen had thrown away.

    What the fuck are we going to do with you Benjoy, Mickey laughed. Next day it breezes on I’ll teach you to knit. It sounded a bit more like a threat than a promise and I half way hoped he’d forget.

    But the next day it blew nor’west he appeared up the hill and banged in the kitchen bringing half a gale of wind with him. I had a rhubarb pie and he ate the top off it but said no thanks to the rhubarb.

    Jeezus Benjoy, what are you trying to do kill me, he said, wiping the crumbs from his chin with the back of one paw.
    He filled the needle from a ball of twine and smoothed his mesh board with his thumb.

    My grandfather made me these, he said. Carved them with a pocket knife.

    I watched the polished oak needle flash in and out through the tough ply twine and around the mahogany mesh board making each loop of mesh even and equal. Around the mesh board and up and through and around and back and yank to set the knot tight. Slip out the mesh board and bring it down and measure out the next loop. When he slipped out the mesh board and hauled down to cinch the knot he pulled hard enough so the entire wall shook.

    You just got to cast on 20 loops, he said without watching his hands. See, nothing to it. Then you just gather them up and go round bout 15 – 20 times, depends on how much bait you want to waste. Some of them fellows use a pocket big enough to hold a bushel of bait. And he brayed out his laugh loud enough to rattle the pans in the little kitchen.

    I watched the procedure and nodded with very little idea of what I had just seen. My first pockets were cramped, tiny- meshed, misshapen things but they held half rotten herring long enough to catch a lobster even though they made Mick laugh.

    Christ Benjoy, he yelled, no one is going to haul your gear for the pockets old son.

    I whittled one needle out of an oak lath and found another in the walls of the house. That one must have been dropped back there back in the early 1900 at the latest. I bought a new white plastic one from Old Morris down at the wharf but it never felt the same in my hands. The wood ones are worn and polished from sliding through miles and miles of twine. They fit.

    By fall I could knit almost as fast as Mick and my pockets and his could go in the same box and no one could tell the one from the other. On days it wasn’t fit to go out we stood side by side in his workshop and ran through balls of yellow and orange twine, at the end of a day my fingers would be cracked and ragged from the pressure of the hard edged twine.

    There’d we’d be, hats tipped back, hip boots rolled down, beers right handy, gabbing and drinking and knitting like a couple of, well like a couple of wild young fishermen, what else.
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