An avid lover of butterflies, snorkeling, and macramé, June Grice Revell was born in a small South Texas town in 1926. Mrs. Revell (or Gramma Revell, as she prefers to be called) married Jack W. Revell, with whom she had six children. She currently lives in Florida. Her favorite Bible verses include Proverbs 3:5-6, Ephesians 2:8-9, and anything from the Psalms. Her wealth of stories are always interesting, and she enjoys telling them. This month, she was delighted to share with us about her island life.
Mrs. Revell: In the ’40s, I lived in San Antonio, Texas, a small city of about 300,000. Jack had lived on Mustang Island, 6 miles from the south Texas coast, since he was 14 years old. There were no paved roads and no street lights. Jack was a fishing guide and had a 28-foot boat with four wood chairs in the stern. He would boat across the ship channel, come up a smaller channel to the mainland, and walk to my apartment. Part of our courtship was going by boat with another couple to a beach. The fellas would build a fire and then go into the water to gig crabs; Jack’s gig was homemade from the pointy end of an icepick secured to a broom handle. Once the crabs were gigged, we’d sit on the sand and eat one of the most delicious things I ever ate from the gulf waters, although first I had to learn how to pull a crab apart.
Me: What other island foods did you try?
Mrs. Revell: One I liked was small mollusks called coquinas that had colorful, triangular shells. A good time to dig for them is while the tide is going out and they are exposed for a while. Jack nailed together a square frame and attached hardware cloth across one side to make a seine. Once we located a bed of coquinas, we shoveled them up and put them in the seine, then water came up and rinsed the sand away for us. After another good wash, the coquinas were placed in a big pot to boil and the broth was strained through a clean cloth. All we added was a little cream or canned milk, salt, pepper, and butter. M-m-m-m-mm good. It tasted much like oyster stew.
Another time, when Jack came in from cleaning his flounder catch, he offered me a special gift wrapped in newspaper. I hoped my expression didn’t disappoint him, but I was at a loss. Another patient explanation was in order. He had brought me a delicacy: flounder liver. I didn’t know that flounders had livers! Like other types of liver, it is full of vitamin D. My children ate fried flounder liver from an early age and never had a cold in the winter time.
Me: What’s one thing that islanders do differently?
Mrs. Revell: In the summer, the water would sometimes be a little briny. It was easy to spot an islander in a cafe on the mainland because they’d add a little salt to their coffee.
Me: Could you tell us about some interesting experiences on the island?
Mrs. Revell: One evening I heard Jack and his mother talking about a “norther”. He later explained that it was a storm from the north that brought cold winds. The locals referred to it as a “blue norther” because it turned the sky such a dark blue that you could see it coming. That night I was woken by a loud scraping sound from under the window. I shook my husband awake.
“Jack—someone’s trying to get in the house!”
“Don’t worry, it’s just a cow.”
“Why would it be a cow?”
“Because the cattle can sense a storm coming and they come up here so when the norther hits they can turn tail and go back home with the wind behind them.”
I looked out the window and could see cows lying down everywhere, except the one that was scratching herself under our window.
One thing my children liked was fishing for crabs off the jetties. The jetties were made of huge blocks of central Texas granite and stretched far out on each side of the ship channel. We didn’t have a crab trap so we just tied the bait (chicken innards) to a string and took our chances when bringing it up with a crab attached. There was much screaming and squealing when a crab missed the bucket en route from the string; everyone had to wear shoes for protection.
Me: What is one of your favorite island memories?
Mrs. Revell: One of the most awesome sights happened one morning on the beach. As the waves rose up, the early morning sun was shining right through them, making them translucent. Inside the pale green waves, I could see fish riding. I also never ceased to marvel at the wondrous things we saw whenever we went out on the water. But that’s another story…
Photo Credit: ‘Pam, “Coquinas” (image), “Wild Sanibel Continues”, iLoveShelling.com, 30 Jul 2015.’