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Friday, September 24, 2010


My friends Lucy and Ricky (names changed to protect the innocent) dragged me out "crabbing" the other day.

We live in a beautiful seaside town and waterbased activities abound, including the standard boating and swimming. A growing number of people, however, take a more primal approach to the ocean, and choose instead to spend their time in the pursuit of that night's dinner. Some fish, some go digging for clams or mussels, and still others engage in the peculiar activity known as crabbing. You have to drag out the A and say "craaaabing," though.

Armed with a pail, a large net, a spool of string and about half a dozen uncooked chicken drumsticks, the three of us set forth down towards a marshy section of the beach, where the locals know the blue crabs hang out. I was totally unprepared for the squishy mud and within a couple of steps had managed to get my flip flops stuck in the dirt and pulled up a boatload of mud, all which landed on my back. Ah, Nature.

First, you cut a length of string say 20 feet long, then take one of the chicken drumsticks and tie that to one end. Like a cowboy trying to lasso a steer, you whip the chicken/string over your head until it gets up some momentum and let it fly. Good idea to hang on to the other end, incidentally.

Three fully grown adults, standing in grey muck, each with a piece of string with a chicken drumstick attached to the end, waiting. Eventually, if you are very lucky, you feel a slight tug on the string, meaning that one of the more stupid crabs is chomping your chicken. Thus begins the slow, and I mean slow, one hand over the other drawing in of the string/chicken/crab, in hopes that you get the whole shebang close enough to shore so that one of your co-crabbers can swoop it into the net while you are coaxing it along.

The smarter crabs are onto you, and most likely stay clear of the enticing treat. Plainly it's the stupid ones, or some juveniles, that walk along the bottom of the shore and sniff an unexpected food source, thinking in their little crab brains that they have struck a gold mine and of course, they go for it.  We kept pulling up our chickens with two, maybe three miniscule crabs hanging on for dear life, which of course we had to throw back.

Ricky ambled along the mud to get another vantage point when suddenly he was down on one knee in front of me, as Lucy looked on from about ten feet away. Considering he had just given her a honking diamond ring for their anniversary, I looked down at him and said he'd better have a pretty good rock for me, too, if that's where he was heading.

Truth was, Ricky had stepped into some soft goo and his foot got sucked in up to his knee. It took us a bit to maneuver him out without injury, and to his credit he never once let go of his chicken.

Some hours later, tired, achy and reeking of mud and slime, we threw our chickens back into the water and picked up the bucket, with all of nine crabs in there for that night's dinner.

It might have been simpler if we had just cooked the chicken.

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