None of us knew what a real paycheck looked like, but to Momma a real job was anything that didn't have nothing to do with the bay, because everybody knew if you wanted to make a dime on the bay, you'd have to bleed real hard. ...bad times were like the salted peanuts shrimpers ate with their beer...
Diane Wilson's weather-beaten face was just another in a crowd of shrimpers working the bays and bayous of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterways, out of Seadrift, Texas, Calhoun County. Her shrimp-boat was a fourth-generation effort that barely made ends meet, even when the shrimp were running high.
Then the shrimp began dying. So did the dolphins that fed on them. And like the other shrimpers, Wilson at first ignored the Toxic Release Inventory report that placed Calhoun County at the top for all kinds of toxic materials. First in the land. A horrible stew of alphabet-poisons was streaming into the Lavaca Bay, and from there to the Gulf, from poorly-regulated coastal industries in Texas and Louisiana.
The communities Wilson describes are often actively on the side of the polluters, because as fishing becomes poor, the factories are the only resource for families needing income. So we can have the cruel juxtaposition of dying shrimp fisheries with a municipal dinner to honor the chairman of one of those factories releasing toxins into the bay.
This is an uncomfortable book to read, for many reasons. One, certainly, is that the author, Diane Wilson, is an uncomfortable woman, unreasonable and confrontational. The title of the autobiographical description of her fight against rampant polluters in Seadrift, Texas, is perfectly chosen. Wilson showed herself willing to take whatever steps were required to expose her opponent, Formosa Plastics, as the cause of the poor shrimp harvests. She is also ardently pro-union, which allowed her opponents to dismiss many of her complaints are "designed to force a union on the industry."