A new bill has been prefiled for the upcoming legislative session. The 105-day session begins Jan. 14. If passed, the razor clam, Siliqua patula, would join the ranks of the American goldfish, Walla Walla sweet onion, green darner dragonfly, and the orca as a state symbol.
When Ella and Vernon Worthington passed away not long ago, both over 100 years old, the frugal dairy farmers left a largess to ocean environmental organizations – and their story as folks who grew up and married on the Long Beach peninsula near some of the best razor clam beaches in the world. Their lives were unavoidably involved with razor clams and razor clamming. The ninth of 10 children, Ella moved to the Peninsula from West Virginia when she was five years old. She recalled digging “hundreds of clams” before going to school each morning but, even so, by ninth grade, her father told her she’d have to quit school and enter the local workforce to help the family make ends meet.
Ella recalled how razor clamming was at times essential for survival in a May 14, 2018 story in the Chinook Observer:
“There were no jobs in the 1920s and 1930s,” Ella said. “We worked in the cranberry bogs, dug razor clams, and Vern worked on the oyster beds and I worked in the steam canneries. We didn’t have time to feel sorry because we were poor. We were too busy and having too much fun with our friends.”
Said Kolb [a relative], “Aunt Ella once told me she had dug over two tons of clams in her day. I remember going clamming with her when I was a kid. She always dug in the surf and, man! Was she quick! She’d have her limit before most of us had our first clam!”
This was Friday just before St. Patrick’s Day. The low tide was at 7:00 PM. I hit the beach at 5:30 PM and the sun was still high in the sky because daylight savings time had just started. So, no headlamp needed. Surf was calm and everybody remembered just why they like razor clamming so much. I was using a shovel. I found one clam right away, I could see its siphon level with sand. I spotted several others, but couldn’t put them in the net despite a substantial effort digging around with my hand. That was tiring. The clams were darned deep. Then I got dialed in. I had a limit within an hour.
Fish and Wildlife counted nearly 2,000 diggers in the Copalis management area, which includes Ocean Shores and extends up to the Copalis River. Nearly everyone had a limit, and some 28,000 clams were harvested. On Saturday there were about 3,200 diggers, and 47,000 clams harvested.
A lot of people can show up on a good clamming tide, as this cartoon captures. And a lot of vehicles! Bob McCausland was the artist. He cartooned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for decades before retiring to the coast where he continued to capture local foibles with pen and ink.
This dig was at Twin Harbors. That location is somewhat notorious for fickle clams. It’s frustrating not to get clams when you know they are there. “Am I losing my touch?” you might wonder. “Have I forgotten how to dig?” You pound the beach with shovel or tube, trying to force a show, but the clams are off partying. Guess that meal of fried clams will have to wait.
A bill has been drafted and introduced! HB 3001 designates the Pacific razor clam as the state clam. Thanks to Representatives Brian Blake, Joel Kretz, Steve Tharinger and Jim Walsh. Please write them and let them know you appreciate their support.
It is too late for the bill to pass this session. But we are eager to spread the word and build support so it can pass in the next legislative session in 2019. So please comment at the legislative site, send letters to your representatives, sign the petition on this site, and have your organization pass a resolution of support and let us know. Thank you.
We think so but what do you think?
The photo is courtesy of Jaime Johnstone. Her family lived in Centralia at the time. That’s Jaime’s mother on the left, a decade before Jaime was born.
“Clamming was a fun event, as you can tell from the photo of my mom and her friends, all teenagers at the time,” Jaime writes. “I remember going clamming with my family from a very early age (well before I could contribute to the digging!). It was a bonding event, as everyone contributed to the digging in whatever way they could, and we each were invested in every person getting their limit. And somehow, the messy task of cleaning the clams didn’t even seem to be a chore, because everyone chipped in with that too. My mom was a child of the Depression, and clamming served a very practical purpose at times, of putting food on the table. But really, the most important thing was the collective fun with family and friends.