Anyone who ever spent any time out on the water, down the county slips, or around the packing houses, had a strong chance of earning a nickname. Tooey knew people called Seaweed, Fishlips, and Hardcrab. Inland you could pick up a nickname working in the field or sitting in a duck blind. Most volunteer firemen were called something other than what their parents named them, and innumerable local family trees have harvested a perennial bumper crop of nicknames.
There’d been a Muskrat George, a Parson Island John, and a Dick Chicken.
Teeny wasn’t. Barrel Head was.
Turkey. Stringbean. Tater. Mater. Watermelon. Pickle. Pie. A whole meal working one oyster rock.
Around here, a nickname, even an unflattering one, could be a term of endearment, a sign of being included. And by nature, of being shut out, too.
Alvin Herbertson had been called Clacker since publication of his freshman year book. There was a picture in it of him running track, and hanging out below the yellow gold piping of his too-short green gym shorts is clearly one of his testicles.
Clackers were a popular toy at the time. Bola-like and dangerous in a million ways, they were of a simple design. Two glass or hard plastic balls hung from a string and if they didn’t shatter in a kid’s face, they could be banged together over and over again with an increasingly annoying rhythm. Thus ‘Clacker’ Herbertson.
Clacker Herbertson lumbered into the Towed Inn. Growing up, Alvin was a good natured bully. He always had a loud and hearty laugh, but wouldn’t hesitate to push a smaller kid off the jungle gym or wallop without warning. In the years after he became Clacker, bullnecked and barrel-chested wide, he could be the most fun person at a keg party or the scariest. He and Tooey never had a problem. Clacker walked right over and took the last empty seat at the bar.