Working with the Boys

The fish business here on the kibbutz is composed of two main parts: the Madan and the Shetach (pronounce the ch as a hard h). As I mentioned in a previous post, the Madan is in charge of preparing, selecting, packing, and sending the ornamental fish all over the world (Yes! In cardboard boxes). The Shetach is in charge of breeding and growing the edible fish. The guys that work in the Shetach are also in charge of hauling the ornamental fish into the Bet-Ariza (packing house) for us to sort, inject, etc. With a tractor, they pull big ‘ole tanks on trailers filled with fish from the ponds that surround the kibbutz on its west and north side.
Usually, Karlie and I work inside the packing house, while Igal is sometimes taken to work with the Shetach boys out in the fields (just ‘cuz he’s a boy, and I think only guys are working in the Shetach anyway). So imagine my surprise when Ornit, one of the ladies in charge at the packing house, came up to me today and said, “Rebekah,” in that wonderful Israeli accent that I love to hear my name said in, “do you want to go to the fields today?”
Hardly had the last word left her mouth when I had already set down the syringe and the fish I was not quite done injecting and wiped my hands on my jeans.
“Only if you want to. You don’t have to,” she assured me.
“Of course I want to.” Are you kidding me? I was thinking, Pass up the first chance I’ve gotten to work out in the ponds.
“OK, then. Go with him.”
So, I followed him (I must admit I never asked him his name) and Igal out to the long shed where the waterproof suits are kept: time to suit up. To say that the suit given to me to wear fit me big is an understatement. The boots were 3 or 4 sizes too big, so much so that I could have pushed my foot forward and still had room to put my fist in the boot along with my foot; but, of course, this was impossible, since the boots and the suit are all one piece. Whoever the suit belongs to must be one tall guy ‘cuz all of the material just bunched up around my middle and I had to hike up the suit like a skirt before I started walking. It was like wearing super over-sized overalls. Then, the straps that go over the shoulders to hold up the suit kinda just stuck up in the air or fell over my shoulders. Yeah…. I must have looked glamorous.
So, we jumped into the pick-up and drove out to the designated pond for my first fish round-up. Now, I have rounded up cattle, and I have rounded up sheep and goats, but never fish. Turns out the principle is the same. We took a big net and stretched it out in such a way that it would corner the fish in one end of the pond. Then we slowly gathered the net, catching all of the fish. I helped to pull the net in slowly to close the trap on the unsuspecting fish. Once we had the fish compressed into the smallest possible space in the net, we took them out of the net and put them into the tank on the trailer using a very interesting contraption. This contraption consisted of a small bucket on wheels that was set on a track reaching from the top of the big tank on the trailer down to the ground. Mr. Man-in-charge would fill a bucket I held for him with fish and give it to Igal, who would then empty the fish into the bucket on wheels. Once the little tank on wheels was full enough, another guy would start up a motor that wound up a rope, thus pulling the little tank on wheels up the track. Once it reached the top, it would dump the fish into the big tank. It was cool to watch.
Don’t ask me why I am fascinated by contraptions such as these. I just am.
Once we had emptied the net, it turned out that there was not enough fish. Therefore, we had to set up our net trap again. I was sent to one end of the pond to scare the fish toward the corner we were working in. In some places the water would come up to my middle, and the suit would get pressed so hard against my legs and hips that it felt like I was wearing one of those one-piece exercise suits. Talk about having a difficult time walking; I worked up quite an appetite wading through all that water. The previous procedure was repeated once again, resulting in 90 kilos of Koi fish.
Riding in the pick-up — the windows down, the sun’s warmth pouring in, music playing from the radio — I relaxed in the backseat enjoying the satisfactory tiredness that comes from doing physical labor and watched the ponds go past the window as we rattled down the dirt road back to the packing house.  A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth ‘cuz I today I got to work outside with the boys.

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