Diana Beckham Topping
My name is Diana Beckham Topping. I am from a small town, on the
west coast of Florida, called Cedar Key. It is a quiet little fishing
village in which my family has lived for many generations. It's one
of those places where everyone knows each other. It's nice to drive
through the streets and wave at everyone you see because more than likely
they are someone I've grown up with. The pace here is real slow.
I figure why wear a watch when you live by the tide. Watching the
water going in and out is much more appealing then looking at my wrist.
I am now 27 years old, very happily married to Christopher Topping. We have a 1 1/2 year old son named Riley Malachi; with blond hair, blue eyes, great personality and a very tan little body. We love him so much and hope to hand our traditional way of life on the water to him.
For generations my family [The Beckhams] have worked on the water by means of commercial fishing [which includes net fishing, oystering, crabbing, shark fishing with long lines, Sanddollaring, conching, etc.] whatever we could do at the time to make money. Net fishing was our main source of income. Though not very profitable.
In our family the kids started working at real young age. I was 4 years old when I started helping my father every day on the boat. We ate a lot of seafood. Usually we would have whatever we caught that day for supper that night.
Until the netban was passed in 1994, which took our way of life away. That was when clam farming came into play. The State introduced farm raised clams from microscopic seed to a full grown littleneck/cherrystone clam. They provided 2 acre regulated parcels about 2 miles offshore to grow them. Financially it has treated us well. We are still able to survive on the water providing seafood and loving every minute of it. I am very fortunate to live this way I feel. I am very happy to wake up to beautiful sun rises. To jog along the sand sprit gandering gently across the horizon at the picture perfect , never the same, ever so colorful sunset. Watching as the birds soar across the sky. Pelicans, seagulls and other birds swooping and diving into the water. The wind is blowing briskly. I have to swipe the hair away from my face. As I breath in the warm salty sweet air, I can hear the lapping of the waves as it caresses the shoreline, thinking to myself "There's no place like home."
EXTRA MATERIAL TO EXPAND ON IF NEEDED:
~ As a release from work I ran miles each day. At a young age I started running competitions finding that I was the toughest girl around, winning race after race. All of that hard work paid off. I had fun with it but running is only a hobby for me so my focus stayed on my expectant clam farming career.
~ Went to work in Fort Myers Beach in '94 on the Sun Kruz Europa Star cruise ship. As a casino cashier age 17. Was crowned Mrs. [Miss?} Fort Myers Beach 1995. Beauty queen and Ms. Congeniality. 2 titles first time ever done there.
~ Few months later went to Togiak Alaska to work salmon, smelt, herring jobs as quality control/grader/process worker.
~ Came home with enough capital to independently start my clam farming operation back in Cedar Key, FL.
~ And now, successfully clam farming. My husband Christopher is a very smart business man, so he started a wholesale clam business so we can sell our own clams and those of my family. We take care of each other around here.
I remember as a child going on the boat with my father who was a commercial
fisherman. He would always recognize the most beautiful things.
The porpoises would play and dance around the boat as we cruised through
the water in search of schools of mullet, pompano, jacks, fatbacks, reds,
trout or whatever it was we were after at the time. My father knew
the water like the back of his hand. As a child it always amazed
me how he could remember where every oysterbar, sandbank, rock, etc. was.
We trolled waters from Crystal River to the Suwannee River and sometimes