Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions

Every day when we emerged from the sea, my buddies’ stringers would be full of fish and mine would be full of nothing. I wasn’t going to master spear fishing in three dives.

Two of us made dinner each night, the other two walked camp, exchanging extra fish for good karma or good firewood. We ran into this big group of kids camped back in the redwoods. They were in Big Sur with the California Conservation Corps, a group of 18-25 year-olds who work projects out on the Land. Their motto is “hard work, low pay, miserable conditions"… this particular group’s hard work was finishing a hiking trail exposed to the 90-degree heat wave.

They were two days into a "spike” – 8 consecutive days of 10-hour trail work, and it looked like they could stand some fish in their bellies, but they were on the clock and couldn’t accept it. When the time clicked 5:01, they raced up to our campsite, all smiles. Most of them grew up in farm country or the inner city, so they had never seen a speargun, much less cleaned or cooked a fish. Elija spoke first, “My grandfather taught me how to do this, but I forget. Can I do it?” Keenan handed him a fish and a knife and gestured at the cutting board. 

We all had such different stories, we ended up telling them ‘til the moon hung high and the last embers sputtered. 4:45 would surely come early for them.