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Junior Museum

Cheering up. The Tallahassee Junior Museum, now known as the Tallahassee Museum, became a favorite hangout of mine in the late 1970s. It's just short canoe paddle from Lake Bradford, but I didn't start hanging out there until well after I left the lake house. I was living alone on East Park Avenue, and I started indulging bad habits and sliding into a miserable ease. The Junior Museum was going to help me out with that. A friend of a friend worked there. One day my friend called and invited me to join him there Friday. They would be having a party, easygoing. I might like it. He knew I was feeling down about a bad breakup. I could use a little cheering up.

Apalachicola oysters. So I headed over after work. The partygoers were the folks who worked there and a few friends. Not a big bunch, maybe a dozen or fifteen. They were just setting up when I got there. The party was outdoors, around a bonfire, and the stars of the show were a bushel and a keg: a bushel of fresh Apalachicola Bay oysters in the shell and a keg of Tree Frog Beer or the equivalent. Halcyon days. But there's trouble brewing in this particular redneck paradise.

Baked beans. A ring of logs encircled a firepit, spiced with a few beat-up lawn chairs for the elders of this council. For tyros who had not yet learned to enjoy the noble oyster in its natural state (I was a tyro when I arrived) there were saltine crackers, tabasco, lemon etcetera. A few covered dishes for variety. Someone usually brought home made baked beans, a dish I loved and learned how to cook right from these fine folks. It's the bacon.

Figure of speech. They welcomed me in with a beer and a hug. My friend had told them my sad story. I proceeded to get pleasantly toasted and my first lesson in the fine art of oyster shucking. Syllepses, don't you know. Here's another.

Yeah I'm not much good at it in HTML either. Nu to the rescue. Green at last!

All the months with an r. That was the first of many a fine evening at the Junior Museum. Bushel and a keg happened on a sporadic but frequent basis the whole oyster season. Sometimes those evenings became overnights when I found I'd made a few too many trips to the keg to drive home. That was always an option. There were couches for just such an eventuality.

So much for tradition. Let's hear it for genetic modification!

A regular. Their ages ranged from just barely legal to drink, maybe, to a guy in his seventies. I thought that was so old back then. They were the most congenial, open-armed, gentle bunch of drunks I ever knew, and I have known some drunks. I was happy to be a regular at the Junior Museum bushel and a keg. That was a formative experience for me. I would get all teary eyed about it, reveling in what I later came to regard as the unholy fellowship of users.

Free and Accepted Shuckers. Oyster-shucking lessons continued. I got my own oyster knife. And tho' I never became a master shucker, whose knife lands in exactly the right spot then a simple twist of the wrist, I advanced through apprentice fast and became a decent fellow craft oyster shucker during my time there. I was a faithful member of the bushel and a keg crew right up till TH started weaving his magic spells about me.

Pro tip: if you're ever buying Apalachicola oysters in the shell, and you have the option to buy them washed or unwashed, go ahead and pay the extra for washed.