Seaside and Wayside, Book One  by Julia McNair Wright

The Story of Mr. Conch

T HE conch, or winkle, does not like to live in sand, or on hard rock. He likes deep water, where he can have some sand and some rock. When the wind blows, and the sea is very rough, he digs his stout foot into the sand near a stone, and holds fast. Then he will not drift on shore.

If he is cast on the shore, he will die. Mr. Conch and his family cannot live out of water. The little ones would be killed by dry wind. Mrs. Conch also likes some soft sand for a bed for her babes in their queer cradles.

What does Mr. Conch eat? He eats other shell-fish. He likes to eat oysters. How does he get them?

He goes off to the oyster beds.

He likes the nice young oysters. He picks one up with his foot. You see he uses his foot for a hand as well as for a door. He can spread his foot out very wide. It is very, very strong.

When he has the oyster in his grip, he draws his foot close, as you would shut your hand tight. That breaks up the shell of the oyster. Then Mr. Conch sucks up the oyster at his ease.

The men who own oyster beds do not like him, for he eats many oysters.

Mr. Conch lives a great many years. No one can hurt him in his hard house, and he has all he wants to eat.

His shell is the shape of a large pear. It has a little point at the top, and a long end like a stem. The stem end has a groove in it. His shell has a turn or twist in it, three or four times round. It is sand-color, or pale yellow, outside.


Some shells have dark stripes. Inside, the shell is very smooth, and shines, and is a fine, bright red, or pink, or yellow. It is a very pretty shell.

How does the conch grow? The conch grows from an egg. Most fish lay eggs. So do the shell-fish or mollusks. The eggs of the conch are in a string. They are left lying on the sand to grow.


Cast Away on an Island

What is the conch good for? In some places people like them to eat. Fish and crabs eat the conchs' eggs and the young conchs. The shells are made into buttons and breast-pins.

The Indians used to make money from the pink part of these shells. They also used the purple part of the round clam shell for money.