Oyster pirates illegally dredging under the cover of night. Schell and Hogan (1884)/Public Domain

By Kerry Wolfe/Atlas Obscura

It was dark when Roy Thompson, a 20th-century river worker, came under fire from local oyster police.

He and a young man named Frank had snuck onto the waters of the Chesapeake Bay to harvest oysters. As they hauled their load aboard the boat, shots rang and bullets peppered the vessel. Thompson revved his watercraft into action, racing forward in an attempt to outrun the police, who were rapidly approaching, their gunfire shattering his windows.

But his boat, chock-full of oysters, was too heavy for a hasty getaway. He ordered Frank to start dumping the mollusks back into the bay to lighten the load, desperate to escape the ambush.

Though a bullet did shoot the shovel Frank was using right out of his hand, the two men managed to survive unharmed.

It wasn’t their first, or last, close encounter with the authorities…

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