by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
As a reader of this column, I'm sure you know it pretty much sticks to things of interest relating to the outdoors, and outdoor activities. When I sat down I put my thinking cap on and thought, holy cow, it soon will be Christmas. With Christmas around the corner, I didn't know where to start, then I got to thinking, like the old coined phrase suggests, "Jesus is the reason for the season," for Christians of all faiths, it should be the happiest time of year.
But to some unfortunately it is not. Loss of loved ones, absence of loved ones or sickness are a few major reasons a lot of people are saddened at this time of year. But they need to look on the other side and realize we are celebrating Christ's birth on Dec. 25. Historians debate baby Jesus' birth occurred between 7 and 2 B.C., the exact month and day is unknown. I certainly don't know enough about biblical times to be able to talk about it, but I know enough about the present time to know it is not only to celebrate Jesus' birth, but it is a time for gift-giving. Just like the scholars who said the three wise men or kings brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
So that is where this story is going - a season for gift-giving, that is the reason. Over the years, I found that shopping is dangerous, dangerous to the point that a person keeps looking and looking for that special gift, driving from one store to another. And when they are all done, they feel empty that they didn't buy the right thing or didn't spend enough, then again, maybe too much.
When and if I go shopping, I call it a mission. When I go on a mission, I already know what I'm going for so I get in the particular store, buy the item or items and get out. No dilly-dallying. I also realize in this day and age web stores are taking a chunk from the brick and mortar stores, but there are still enough of us around that our brick and mortars can survive - and we need the b and m's.
I was in business for most of my adult years and my final years were retailing fishing tackle and related items. In retailing, I needed to compete with the big box stores, the "cellar dwellers," and it was tough. Cellar dwellers are what I call the people that sold fishing tackle out of their garage or out of their basements, and all had full-time jobs someplace else to make their living. No overhead, making margins enough for beer money. The 'marts would beat me up so bad sometimes I thought retailing was a mistake. But I soon caught on as to how they merchandise and started playing their games. That's when I started being able to pay my bills, and loved every minute of it.
Open the pages in the weekly paper you are holding in your hands right now and let your fingers do your gift "shopping." In it you will find everything for gift-giving. Make phone calls and ask your questions. These merchants would love to hear from you, and, no doubt, they would all be able to provide gift certificates.
Something you should keep in the back of your cranium is that these same merchants are the only ones that keep your Lewiston-Porter Sentinel, Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune and Island paper coming to you, free. They are the ones that support your school, community events, and bring you your local news for your community. It's the local, sometimes small "mom and pop" stores that work hard for you with seven-day a week schedules, and not many of them work only a 40-hour week either.
I'm a mom-and-pop advocate as you can see by now. And the way I see it, you don't need to park in a huge parking lot with the threat of getting mugged, your car stolen, then when you get inside, walk through a maze to find what you want, (if they have it) at the same time searching for a clerk for help or advice, and then they aren't even sure what you want.
When you go into a mom-and-pop, safely park right near the door. Inside, if you want help, someone is there to help you immediately, and there is always someone knowledgeable to advise and help with your purchase. No mad scrambles, seldom waiting in line, being able to look the owner in the eye in most cases, and leaving with a smile on your face. That all has to be worth something.
Think about it. These advertisers wouldn't advertise if they didn't want your business, but they do and they are screaming out for it. Please remember to support your mom-and-pops not only during your shopping spree now, but do it all year. I would also like to remind you to dig a little deeper, and give your favorite charity or your youth group a much-needed donation this holiday season.
Hanukkah (Chanukah) was early this year - Nov. 27 to Dec. 5 - so a belated Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas to my readers and all Niagara Frontier Publications editors and staff. Thank you.
John Eddy, a friend of mine, suggested that I should keep a lookout for "elvers" - glass eels - along my lakefront shoreline this spring, and he'll be here with his nets so I don't get overrun with them. He just wants to "help out." Read on and you'll know why.
OK, put your thinking cap back on. Remember the story about the American eel you read about on these pages a couple of weeks past? I am really surprised at the amount of feedback I received on this river creature. Just to refresh your memory, it was about the American eel and how it made its way to the Niagara River after spawning in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic.
I mentioned how much of a delicacy they are in some Asian countries and the price of these baby eels over there. To give you an idea on their size, they are snakelike and about the size of a toothpick. Next time you are in a store, pick up a box of toothpicks and imagine how many it would take to make a pound. Of course, a toothpick would be much heavier, so adjust. These baby eels, are officially called elvers or glass eels, and are immature eels that migrate in from the Sargasso Sea to mature in fresh water. The name glass eel is because they are transparent with only the black dots for eyes, and the spine clearly visible.
Eel fishermen in the U.S. net these little guys, mostly in Maine, where they attract as much as $2,000 a pound. I found much more information than in the first story reported. They are netted in rivers that are connected to the ocean, and fishing for them is done according to the tides. A special "elver fishing license" is required by the state of Maine. The value of these little things when they become market size would probably rival the lobster industry. On the retail end of their value, it is estimated to be up around $30 million. Kind of silly, for a dead fish, huh?