A Talk With Rodger, the Peconic Estuary’s Oldest Scallop

We’ve  just met Rodger here at the Peconic Bathtub, and we’re already certain he is going to do great things for the Peconic Bay.

When Rodger first waltzed out of Flanders Bay in his dressing gown onto the shore when we were taking a much-needed Labor Day dip last fall, we knew he was something special.

Scallops are generally known to live just two years, which has lead much of the public to believe the scallop community is lacking in institutional knowledge.

Rodger
Rodger

This has caused many folks of the anti-scallop persuasion to believe scallops have it coming to them when they succumb to all kinds of environmental degradation. From the brown tide wipe-out to human predation, it’s easy to believe that scallops just don’t know how to deal with the problems they face.

But when Rodger glared at us with his shell full of little beady blue eyes, opened up his cooler full of Mai Tais and stretched out on a blanket on our little private beach, we knew this was one tough character. He said he was 70 years old. We didn’t argue.

We’d never dream of eating Rodger. He’s way too tough. But we wanted to hear what he had to say. Below are excerpts from a compilation of interviews we’ve conducted with Rodger at secret meet-ups throughout the Peconic Bay over the past six months.

Bathtub: So what’s with the cute spelling of your name?

Rodger: I spent a lot of time in the Rodgers Memorial Library when I was a spat.

Bathtub: It’s the Rogers Memorial Library.

Rodger: It was the Dodgers Memorial Library when I was a spat. The Dodgers used to play in Southampton. My name was Roger then, too. I don’t know why they moved to Los Angeles. The D is in memory of them.

Bathtub: Uh-huh. What else was different when you were a spat?

Rodger: People were pretty annoying in those days. Always tramping around in eelgrass beds, dragging those things, what do you call those things? Behind their boats?

Bathtub: Dredges?

Rodger: Yes, dredges. They ruined my lawn. They should have been banned. Also, there used to be a lot more people shining bright lights into the water at night to catch crabs. I didn’t like that at all. I don’t know why humans always want to catch crabs in the dark. The last thing I want is crabs.

Bathtub: What do you want?

Rodger: I love diatoms. They are beautiful, more beautiful than you can see with your human eyes. Back when I had just settled down into the bay, all the humans were eating all kinds of sugar cubes that made them see diatoms. But they thought they were seeing god. The creator works in strange, strange ways. I’ve seen the Peconic Bathtub’s pictures of the algae cultures in aquaculture labs. They look tasty, but I think they might be overpowering. Like if you took a handful of energy supplements. But they’re a delicacy, I guess.

Bathtub: So, have people become less annoying since you were a spat?

Rodger: They’re annoying in different ways. When I was a spat I don’t think I’d have minded if a bunch of kids spent the day staring at my lawn or poking at my neighbors. But now I just want to be left alone. But there aren’t as many dredges now, and I guess I like that. I don’t have to spend as much time cleaning up. I like it that they’re making human children weave mats full of eelgrass together to put back in the bay. I consider it reparations.

Bathtub: What’s your biggest fear for the Peconic Estuary?

Rodger: I wouldn’t mind if the water was warmer. I have less aches and pains when the water is warmer. But when the water is warmer, sometimes we get a lot of weird algae. It tastes awful. They say some of it can kill you, but I just spit it out. If I haven’t died yet, I’m not going to die.

Bathtub: Are you the oldest scallop you know?

Rodger: By far.

Bathtub: How did you live so long?

Rodger: I taste awful. I’ve been caught in a couple dredges in my day, and the baymen always seem to know I’m going to taste awful and they just throw me back in the bay. It usually takes me a long time to get home, but it’s better than being eaten. Baymen are smart. They know I’ve retired from their game.

Bathtub: What do you do with your days?

Rodger: I read a lot. Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Carl Safina, all the environmental writers, sometimes Sam Shepard if I get tired of that other stuff. It’s hard to get waterproof books, but I have my sources. Sometimes I hide books in the salt marshes and read on the beach. You’re the first person who ever bothered me when I was trying to relax on the beach. I think someday I might regret that. But, ah well, I guess I can’t change that now.

Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *