Career Day is a time-honored tradition for young students to learn about possible career paths, in which parents with interesting jobs come in to give their childrens’ classmates a glimpse of what they do all day.
Commercial waterman and seafood seller Jason Jones recently outdid them all on Career Day, putting his 26-foot workboat on a trailer and pulling it right up to the school where his son Dylan, 4, goes to Pre-K.
Jones is a lifelong waterman and volunteer fireman near Cobb Island in Southern Maryland. He also owns a seafood store in Newburg, Maryland, not far from the school. He says his wife was the one who signed him up for Career Day.
“I’ve done a few career days, and I know the more you show the more interest you have.”
Jones showed quite a bit. Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School students could touch the 26-foot Elzey built in Cambridge, Maryland, that he uses to catch crabs in the spring and summer and oysters in the winter.
He also brought the necessary gear: crab pots, a pair of tongs, a call stick, clams used for bait and, yes, a bushel basket holding live crabs he caught the morning before Career Day—about as fresh as the kids could see.
“I let them hold the crabs and the tongs. I held the claws and let them touch the crabs. Some of them were scared and said ‘I don’t want to do this,’ but some of them were definitely interested.”
Jones says he showed the children how the crab goes into the pot, where the bait goes and how the crabs get caught when they try to escape from the top. He showed how crabs are sorted for size.
And he wasn’t afraid to risk a pinch from a claw for the sake of Career Day. “A couple of them kept asing me if I was scared of the crabs, and I said, ‘No, I’m not scared.’ So I reached in the basket and picked up a handful of them and one of the females turned around and grabbed ahold of my pinky. They thought that was pretty funny.”
Jokes aside, Jones says it’s important to encourage a new generation of watermen through outreach like Career Day. “We’re a dying breed,” he tells Bay Bulletin. “It’s something I really enjoy and it’s something we really need.”
Jones owns the seafood store Bubba’s Place, named after his late father, which sells crabs caught by watermen within 10 miles from the store. The store says, “Sometimes we have to go further north above the 301 bridge, but 90 percent are from the Wicomico and Potomac River to the bridge. Not many places can promise you that.”
-Meg Viviano & Cheryl Costello