Darien, Ga., part two: Different views

  • Historic churches surround Vernon Square Park in Darien, Ga. PAT FOSTER-TURLEY/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
    Historic churches surround Vernon Square Park in Darien, Ga. PAT FOSTER-TURLEY/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER

Bucko and I spent our anniversary in one of our favorite nearby towns, Darien, Ga. Even though we’ve been there many times before, our visits are always interesting. This time was no exception.

I realize that I interact with strangers more often than most people do, but it is these conversations that often lead me to interesting events. In Darien, after our breakfast in a café near our hotel, Bucko went back to the room for a while and I set off alone, on foot, to once again explore the quaint town. I walked to the central square and admired the historic churches surrounding it. Then, I wandered to the Waterfront Park, past an historic crumbling tabby structure and down to the docks to photograph the shrimp boats in the distance. When a lone man drinking an early morning beer in the pavilion saw what I was doing, he gave me a tip: “Walk down two streets, then toward the water, and you can really see the shrimp boats.” And so I did.

I left the park, walked past one of the historic churches of Darien, and then down a small dirt road I never would have tried without this tip. At the end of the road, two large refrigerator trucks were idling by the dock and a shrimp boat was being unloaded. No one seemed to care that I was there, close to the action. I was transfixed by the shrimper on the boat shoveling shrimp into large buckets that were mechanically hoisted and poured into a trough where another man sorted the shrimp from the ice. Then, with the push of a button, many pounds of shrimp slid down a chute into an open building where other men were at work sorting and boxing them for storage in the waiting trucks. I then understood the man with the beer: He had most likely just gotten off the shrimp boat, his shift finished. Judging from the catch I saw unloading, he deserved that beer!

Darien is a fishing town well known for its shrimp and for other seafood too. Beside the shrimp boat unloading its catch was another building used for processing Walter’s Caviar, fish eggs (roe) collected from wild sturgeon and sold around the country. A new fishery has been burgeoning here too – cannonball jellyfish – which are dried and sold to Asian markets. There are a number of restaurants in and around Darien that specialize in seafood, but it doesn’t seem like jellyfish have caught on in the local market.

As I completed my walk around the historic area, I encountered a photo shoot. Two university students were interviewing and filming a man selling shrimp from his pickup truck. It turns out they were doing a documentary on the fisheries of Darien. I told them about the shrimp processing happening right nearby, and last I saw, they were headed in that direction.

Bucko and I spent the rest of the day sightseeing along rural roads and stuffing ourselves with steamed clams at the Fish Dock Bar and Grill in nearby Crescent, Ga. Our anniversary dinner was spent at Skipper’s Fish Camp, where we settled into our socially distanced seats and dug into fresh fried oysters, the best I’ve had anywhere, washed down with cold beers. A perfect celebration, just our style. Despite the social distancing, we were captivated by the social life around us. One group on the patio seemed to have gathered after a funeral, all dark clothes, with a pastor in evidence, but all seeming quite jovial as their laughs carried through the windows.

A quite different ceremony was taking place on another deck. A small group, dressed in colorful, fancy clothes, fawned over a young girl who seemed to be the star of the event. She was heavily made up and wearing a tight fitting bright yellow dress that showed off her bulging belly. She wore a sash over her shoulder that said “Mommy to Be.” When I walked outside, the group called to me, “Can you take a picture for us?” I was happy to do so.

It was a fun anniversary weekend and proof to me that you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to see interesting sights and meet exotic people. Like everywhere else, Darien has a lot going on if you take time to look and talk to people.

Now, what nearby place will we go to next? If you readers have ideas, I’m open for suggestions.

Pat Foster-Turley is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations.