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Plato & Aristotle At The Fish Market

get-attachment-1This morning my dad took the boys and me to a country fish market down by the Mississippi River. Two brothers — that’s them cleaning fish — who are friends of my dad’s run the thing. I never would have found this place on my own; you have to go down a couple of country roads. Daddy wanted his grandsons to see how the men do what they do. Every morning, rain or shine, cold or hot, they get in their boats at daylight, and fish with nets in the Mississippi. They fish until late morning, at which time they come back in, unload the fish, weigh them, clean them, gut them, and process them. They catch and sell common Mississippi River fish:



Can you buy raccoon meat at your fish market? I bet you can’t.

I grew up catching all these kinds of fish, but the only ones we ate were catfish. Buffalo, goo (also called Gaspergou), and gar were, and are, almost exclusively eaten by black people. I don’t know why that is. I read recently a study by the state of Louisiana showing that over 80 percent of the market for buffalo is African-American. Anybody have any idea why this should be? In my childhood, whenever we would go fishing in the river, we would take the buffalo and goo we’d catch and offer them to black people we knew. If they didn’t want them, we’d throw them away. This morning, we were the only white customers at the market. While the brothers processed the catch, my dad sat next to an older black man, and these two country gentlemen traded stories:



It was a fun homeschooling field trip. The reason for this post, though, was to highlight the photo with which I lead it. I was sitting to the right of my son Matthew, in the foreground, when I realized something. Both of these kids were engaged with what was happening around them, but in different ways — ways fundamental to their personalities and learning styles. Matthew was on the sidelines at the fish market studying a state Wildlife & Fisheries guide the market manager gave him about the rules for commercial fishing in Louisiana. Lucas, in the near distance, was learning about the operations of the market by watching the men work. Earlier, he had been outside helping them unload their boats; he is always eager for hands-on experience.

Matthew is Plato, always drawn to learn about the world through theory, and Lucas is Aristotle, always preferring to learn about the world through direct experience. This, by the way, is a portrait of myself and my late sister Ruthie. We need both kinds in this world. It is amusing to me to see this pattern repeated in my own children. This snapshot at the fish market captured the essential difference between my two sons better than anything I’ve ever seen.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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