If you hang around long enough, you’ll probably get to hear my dad tell the story of one of our many boating trips together when I was a kid and how my favorite purple rain coat sits on the bottom of Lake Wheeler to this day.
The following story is about a family that loves fishin’ and how it’s been part of their family for generations…
By SUZANNE ULBRICH
The Daily News of Jacksonville
Posted: Feb. 23, 2008
SNEADS FERRY, N.C. — Fields such as fishing and farming often span generations, with the work and the lifestyle passed from father to son.
For Mack Liverman, however, his daughters are the ones stepping into his boots.
Liverman and his daughters, Christine and Terri Liverman of Sneads Ferry, are looking forward to spring’s arrival because it means they will once again climb aboard the Lady Ellen and set their nets for a day of shrimping.
It’s a lifestyle, they say. It’s what they were born to do.
“I like it ’cause I get to spend all day with my dad and my sister. Not many kids can say that, especially girls,” Christine said. “It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s hard and it wears and tears on your body – I love it.”
Christine and Terri say they see things every day on the water that most people will never see in their lifetimes. Both could talk all day about all the great things about shrimping and sharing that time with family.
“To me, it’s heaven on earth,” Terri said.
They love the clean air, the quiet and the surrounding beauty.
“I would go crazy closed up inside somewhere,” Christine admitted.
Their father, Mack, has been fishing full time since he was 15 years old.
“My parents and grandparents were fishermen, so I grew up on fishing boats,” Mack said. “I quit school and went to work with my dad and granddaddy. They tried to talk me out of fishing for years, but I love to do it.”
Mack said he’d take the girls along when they weren’t even old enough to walk.
“When both girls were just 6 or 7 months old, I’d get up early in the morning, while their momma was still sleeping, and snatch them up and take them fishing with me – I’d be out there on the water changing diapers,” he said.
Though the three get up before the sun comes up and do not get home most of the time until after the sun sets seven days a week during the shrimp season, all three say there is nowhere else any of them would rather be.
“The first thing you hear when the sun comes up is the birds, They know they will be eating soon,” Terri said. “The seagulls show up first and then the pelicans, and then you’ll see the dolphins coming in.”
Both say the work is exhausting and requires a lot of heavy lifting, but they have a system in place that enables them to get the job done.
“We’ve learned to do things a little different so we’re actually capable of doing it, and we use the winch to do some things,” Christine said.
Terri said they work together; she estimates 90 percent of the work is accomplished as a team.
Mack says his daughters are the best crew he has ever had.
“All their life, they have been messing with (shrimping), and if I needed some help, one of them would go with me and do whatever was necessary,” he said. “But they have been doing it full time with me for about three years. It’s hard to get crews now because there is not a lot of money in it for the work. And with drinking and drugs around, you can’t depend on people anymore. I know I can depend on them to be here.
“And they’re good at what they do.”
Mack’s wife Ellen worked many years on the boat alongside her husband and has no qualms about her daughters joining him.
“I never worried about him taking them; they’ve grown up on the boat with their daddy,” Ellen said. “They have worked other jobs, but they’ve always come back to their dad’s boat. I don’t know how we would have done it without them.”
It’s something Christine and Terri are happy to do, even though it can be a dirty and smelly job.
“It’s just part of what you go through,” Terri said.
Christine looks at it a little more pragmatically.
“One thing Daddy taught us, the worse you smell the more money you made,” Christina said, laughing.
The only thing that has ever happened on the boat that scared them occurred this past summer when Terri was cleaning the nets out at the end of the day. To do so, she leans over the side of the boat and shakes the nets.
“There were lots of sharks all over this summer. … I fell overboard right into the sharks,” Terri said. “I knew I’m going (in the water), and there’s no stopping.”
Christine, fearing for her sister, jumped in after her. Christine, however, is not a very good swimmer, so Terri had the added concern that Christine could be in trouble.
But it was daddy – who fixed a rope to winch and pulled them both out – to the rescue.
As they talk about their fear that day, they both admit they were also concerned about losing their expensive, specially ordered boots. They worried about what they would have worn the next day.
Terri even dove down in the water and through the sharks to rescue the boot that fell off when she first went in.
But other than the day with the sharks, the girls do not fear being on the water, not even in rough weather, because they know their father has a lot of experience and will keep them safe.
They are more afraid the lifestyle they have come to know and love will become extinct, at least in North Carolina. They fear imported shrimp and fuel prices will make it impossible for them to keep shrimping. They also fear the fish houses will become extinct along with life on the water.
Terri’s 17-year-old son Jeffrey would love to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, but Terri thinks all the changes she has seen the last few years will prevent him from doing so.
Terri and Christine say they will never have another captain. They laugh and say it took too long for them to train their father – they don’t have time to train another.
When he retires, they think they will too.
Unless, of course, Jeffrey becomes a captain and needs help … it is, after all, a family tradition.