The Crab Whisperer

Were those white fragments made of paper, styrofoam, or plastic?

As I worked my way along the slough’s edge, bits of scattered trash compelled my attention as much as the grasses and birds surrounding me. Odd and out of place in an environment where signs of human presence are uncommon, their colors suggested packaging of some sort, although the combination of white, blue, and orange didn’t bring a specific fast-food franchise to mind.

Wading out into the water for a closer look, I found the trash wasn’t plastic or paper at all, but remnants of another sort of dinner — not to mention evidence of diners no more inclined than certain humans to clean up after themselves.

Scattered blue crab shells and multitudes of footprints belonging to raccoons and wading birds made clear that I’d stumbled across one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood. Some shells might have washed ashore after the completion of their owners’ molting process, but others clearly had been broken and gnawed at by hungry creatures looking for an easy meal.

Claws and shell of the blue crab  ~ Callinectes sapidus
The scientific name means “beautiful, savory swimmer”

Given the number of body parts scattered about, I realized that more crabs surely were hidden away in the shallows. Being able to see one of the savory creatures swimming in its natural environment appealed, but my lack of a chicken neck and a string made even that low-tech way of attracting a crab impossible.

Then, I remembered the old man. Bent over the railing of a rickety dock when I spotted him on a local bayou, he acknowledged my presence without looking up. “Howdy,” he said. Following his gaze down to the water, I saw nothing more than smooth slickness and a hint of current. “Fishing?” I asked. “Naw,” he said. “Crabbing. See the line?”

Then, I saw it. The heavy twine, common as any found in a multitude of garages and storage sheds, hung perfectly straight, as though weighted. “What’s your bait?” I asked. “Chicken,” he said. “Got a neck on there now. Any part’s good. Legs. Liver. Turkey necks, too. Some use fish heads, but they’re better for a trap. For a hand line, I’d say chicken and turkey’s best.”

We stood for several minutes, staring at the line. Clearly, crabbing required patience. “What if you don’t get a bite?” I asked. “Well,” he said, “I might just set a spell in the shade, and then try again.”

Wishing him luck, I turned to leave, but stopped when he called out. “Just remember,” he said, “there’s one trick’ll guarantee you a good catch.” Curious, I waited to hear more. Grinning, he said, “If nothin’ else works, make a noise like a chicken neck.”

Crabbing Central

I’d always thought he was making a joke — perhaps even poking a bit of fun at me — until I sloshed my way back to dry land and stood staring into what I assumed to be crab-infested water. How do you make a noise like a chicken neck?  I thought. Chicken necks don’t make noise.

Then, it occurred to me. Maybe that’s what he meant.

Deciding to test the theory, I sat down on the bank and waited. Silent and still for five minutes; then ten; then fifteen, I heard nothing more than a faint clacking of dried reeds as the riffling of tidal flow moved across the flats.

Then, a stirring of silt and a faint gleam of color caught my eye as a crab emerged from beneath the broken reeds. In the brackish water, its colors were dull and its outline blurred, but there was no question it was heading toward land. Whether it would join me on the bank, I didn’t know.

Soon enough, the question was answered. Both male and female crabs began crawling onto the land: males recognizable by their blue claws, and females by the red-tipped claws that suggest they found the bottle of fingernail polish.

Unmoving, hardly daring to breathe, I watched them settle onto the sun-warmed mud, acting for all the world like vacationers jostling for the best poolside deck chairs.

I had little doubt they were aware of me. Compound eyes on long stalks allow them to see in multiple directions at once, and any movement on my part seemed to freeze them in place. When I stopped moving, all was well, and they returned to whatever it was they were doing before I so rudely interrupted them.

Finally, one of the more courageous females came close, perhaps to assess the strange creature sharing her mudflat. Tired of sitting and needing to stretch, I decided to talk to her.

“You’re darned classy,” I said, “with the prettiest claws in the bunch. I’m glad you crawled up here so I could see you.” No more chatty than the old crabber who’d suggested I imitate a chicken neck, she didn’t say a word. But she posed for another photo, and I swear I saw her smile.

 

Comments always are welcome. Click here for more information about blue crabs, provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 

131 thoughts on “The Crab Whisperer

    1. That you found the photos unnecessary makes me happy. Taking good photos is hard, but so is creating pictures with words. I’m glad the words did the trick for you as much as the images.

    1. Didn’t he, though? I’ve heard some variations on his advice since receiving it — all humorous in their way. What really amuses me is how long it took for me to understand it. Better late than never, as the saying goes.

  1. Making the noise of a chicken neck reminds me of this passage from the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”:

    Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
    Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
    Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
    Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

    1. Ah, Holmes. He’s always a delight, and this fits perfectly. It also reminded me of Hughes Mearns’s poem, “Antigonish”:

      Yesterday, upon the stair,
      I met a man who wasn’t there
      He wasn’t there again today
      I wish, I wish he’d go away…

      1. In the article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hughes_Mearns I learned that “Mearns also wrote many parodies of this poem, entitled, Later Antigonishes, such as ‘Alibi'”:

        As I was falling down the stair
        I met a bump that wasn’t there;
        It might have put me on the shelf
        Except I wasn’t there myself.

        As for Antigonish, I just learned that it’s the name of a town in Nova Scotia:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigonish,_Nova_Scotia

        What the connection to the poem is—assuming there is one—I haven’t discovered.

        1. I happened to find that information in a Wiki page devoted to the poem itself. It says, “Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, the poem was originally part of a play called The Psyco-ed, which Mearns had written for an English class at Harvard University, circa 1899.”

            1. Isn’t it funny how that happens? It’s akin to driving a familiar road, then suddenly not knowing whether you’ve passed through a certain town.

              Speaking of ghosts, you might get a kick out of a couple I bumped into recently: this one, and this one.

            2. Those are great cartoons for a teacher of a Romance language to know. When I taught introductory French for a few years at UT, I discovered that for the most part my American students didn’t have a good sense of how the compound tenses work in English.

    1. Most of the people I know talk to critters, or trees, or plants. Some even are willing to admit to it. No one thinks a thing about humans talking to a pet, so why not to a wild creature? It’s a way of acknowledging their existence, and who knows? Maybe if we learn how to talk to them, we can learn how to talk to each other!

  2. I never talked to crabs. I’ll try it first with the yabbies. Ducks are easy to talk with and always seem to have the time. They understand too when one is upset about something and are good listeners. Unlike our Jack Russell, Milo, who always tries to steer things to himself. I think deep down he might be a bit lacking in confidence despite his bravado.

    1. I always learn something new from you, Gerard. I’d never heard the word ‘yabbie,’ and didn’t have a clue what it might be. Now I know a whole lot more: that its scientific name is Cheerax Destructor (what? a smiling crustacean ready to take over the world?), that it’s one of 140 species of freshwater crayfish in Australia, and that they’re apparently as good on the table as our crawfish.

      Finding a good listener of any species can be a bit of a challenge. I think your ducks might be more inclined toward listening than ours. Once ours figure out that we don’t have a bit of bread for them, the listening session’s over. I can’t say that I blame them. Man may not live by bread alone, but bread beats conversation in the duck world!

      As for Milo, given the way you and Kayti have described your Jack Russells, I can’t imagine them lacking confidence. They seem to be four-legged bundles of insouciance.

  3. It seems that fewer and fewer people these days know the value of patience. But, in order to value something, I think you have to have it, first, and fewer and fewer in this world of fast foods and instant gratification have enough patience to know its value.

    I am also reminded of the three types of “fishing” — catching, where there is bait on the hook and the intention is to acquire fish; fishing, where the hook is not baited but you hope people will think it is and leave you alone to contemplate whatever you feel needs contemplating; and sitting, where the weather is fine, the day is warm, there is only a weight and a float on the line, and a nap is gently whispering your name.

    1. I laughed at your description of the three kinds of fishing. I suspect there’s more of the second and third types going on around us than most people imagine. I’ve joked about indulging in the second sort myself. As for the third, “just sitting” is becoming a lost art these days. I know I’ve mentioned one of my grandmother’s lines: “Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.”

      One of the best fishing songs ever is Taj Mahal’s “Fishin’ Blues’. It’s got just the right rhythm for a barefoot walk down a dirt road, with a cane pole over your shoulder.

  4. You did very well to get photos of those crabs, considering how quiet you had to be. They are interesting colours: much more interesting than when they’re cooked and pink.

    1. One thing I don’t yet know is why some of the shell fragments I find are white, and some are reddish, as in the photo above. I presume the raccoons aren’t setting up a cooking pot, so my hunch is that being heated by the sun causes the change. I do know that different species of crawfish come in different colors before cooking, but I don’t think that’s true of crabs. More research is required!

    1. But none of those less endearing encounters: crabby person to crabby person. We’ve all had those, although, given my encounter with these crabs, being crabby doesn’t seem so bad. It certainly was a memorable afternoon. Now, that finger of water has dried up and the crabs have moved on, but they certainly won’t be forgotten.

  5. “…set a spell in the shade.” That says it all. Nice captures of the crabs. I’ve always found them quite lovely, though somehow, they always seem rickety.

    1. They do have that sense of being put together rather casually, don’t they? They remind me of the creatures we used to build with Tinker Toys, or the Cooties that taught us words like ‘proboscis.’ They’re certainly great fun to see.

    1. There were so many around that afternoon, I might be lucky they didn’t get together and decide to follow the example of Gulliver’s Lilliputians. As for adventure: lucky for me it doesn’t always require an airline ticket and a passport. There always are delights closer to home.

      1. If you’d fallen asleep, perhaps? Lol.
        And yes, you recall hearing the expression, “Small things amuse small minds”? To which I respond, “Yes, small things like the atom, perhaps?”; ) How small is “small”, anyway?
        Sad how a lot of people never seem to notice the interesting things in their own back yard…

  6. I used to go crabbin’ as a kid when I’d visit my grandmother on Broad Channel Island. I swear I learned to eat my weight in seafood spending so much of my early years there!! :)

    1. There’s a crabbing pier just down the coast in a little town called Surfside. Whenever I drive past, there are families there, and a lot of kids having a lot of fun. Of course there are others setting out traps, or crabbing in out of the way spots, but at least some who might not otherwise know the pleasures of crabbing have a convenient way to be introduced to it.

      One of the best things about crabbing is that it is so easy — and a good way to while away an afternoon, even if there aren’t any crabs to show for it.

  7. Enjoyed this story and especially trying to figure whether a crab is smiling or not, and the fine sentence “I heard nothing more than a faint clacking of dried reeds as the riffling of tidal flow moved across the flats.”
    I think a lot of critters respond to our tone of voice. In the spring, when I walk by the Canada geese, of course they’re feeling protective of their goslings, and get their feathers ruffled pretty quickly if they think you’re too close. I just talk to them nicely and tell them to stand down, just passing by, and you can see them relax – – they keep watching, but don’t spread their wings or fuss.

    1. I still can’t sort out a crab’s face: at least, not perfectly. The eyes are easy, since they’re out there on stalks. That’s strange enough, all on its own. They remind me of our 1950s drawings of space creatures. I suppose today’s version might be the funny little Reddit icon.

      There’s no question tone of voice makes a difference. When I was trying to get over my fear of dogs, one of the bits of advice I was given was to talk to them in a nice tone of voice: conversational, if you will. It probably helped my state of mind more than it affected the dogs. On the other hand, those suburban dogs were a different sort than the yard dogs I occasionally come across now. When I step out of the car to take a photo and hear one of those, I’m gone. There’s no mistaking their tone, either.

    1. Patience and luck make a good combination, whatever the proportions. Of course, memory plays a role, too. If I’d forgotten the fellow’s advice, there wouldn’t have been a story. So many pieces of experience lie around in my mind like Melanie’s stash: just waiting for the right time to pull them out.

          1. The stash of some quilters grows, spreads, and can fill entire rooms. They are like a living organism. Melanie keeps her stash under control. There are enough good quilt shops nearby to make shopping easy. No need to stockpile as much.

            She stashes her fabrics sorted into color sets in plastic tubs in this wooden cabinet. The lower doors open and have tubs of fabrics.
            https://photos.app.goo.gl/PnYceHMZivqH2PP16

  8. I enjoyed how you framed this post. I had never really thought about how crab parts (or animal bones) can be the “trash” created by animals eating their dinner.

    1. It really is interesting to “read” the landscape in order to get a sense of what’s going on. There’s still a good bit I miss, but I certainly don’t look at bones, or piles of shells, or flattened grass like I used to. They have their stories to tell, too.

  9. Fascinating. Being from the north and being allergic to all forms of shell fish, I know nothing about crabs—dead or alive. I love your nature adventures. They remind me of when I was younger and did that sort of thing. We’re getting set up for a bad tick season, they say, so be careful out there if you have ticks down your way.

    1. It’s a shame you’re allergic to shell fish. On the other hand, you do have good fish up there, and I suppose you can buy it fresh. That’s one of the blessings of living on the coast. There’s no need ever to buy fish or shell fish in a grocery store. Off the boat’s not only fresher, it’s much more fun.

      We do have ticks here, but not nearly as many since the fire ants moved in. Apparently they consider ticks a delicacy, which would be wonderful — if we didn’t have to put up with the fire ants. I did find two ticks in the car last year, which I suppose dropped off my clothing. Oddly, both were from the same piece of property. It’s time to spray a set of clothing with permethrin, and get ready for the season, especially since the mosquitoes have been out for several weeks.

      Does the group that sets up your speakers and such do nature treks of any sort? That might be fun for you — reclaiming some of that youthful enjoyment.

  10. I can see you will have to add crab whisperer to your CV. I am reminded of times when I sat still and quiet on a sandy beach and watched the hermit crabs emerge and go about their business.

    1. If your hermit crabs are like ours, they’re even more skittish than the blue crabs. They’re quick as a flash, even when carrying their house around with them. The fiddler crabs are fun, too. How something can move sideways so quickly is beyond me.

      I didn’t realize that we have left-handed and right-handed hermit crabs. The left-handed belong to the genus Diogenidae, and the right-handed to the genus Paguridae — except when they don’t. Taxonomy’s hard!

      1. I had no idea. And I don’t know when I will ever be on a hermit crab beach again to check out if the left handed crabs know what the right handed crabs are doing.

  11. “If nothin’ else works, make a noise like a chicken neck.”

    At this point in the story, I paused and experimented with chicken neck noises. I came up with several viable candidates, though none I considered effective for calling crabs – then I continued reading. Sometimes a story takes unexpected directions. :)

    Excellent writing though, as always.

    1. Did you record your calls? It’s never too late to come up with the next big thing in nature doo-dads. The market for duck and goose calls is pretty well locked up, but crab-calls are an untapped market. You may think your noises weren’t effective, but a little R&D wouldn’t hurt. The next time you get to Port A, you might consider pursuing this.

      It was a fun piece to write — glad you enjoyed it.

    1. And isn’t it interesting that some sounds disturb the silence, while others don’t at all? Jackhammers, traffic, sirens, and loud music disturb silence, but wind, waves, bird calls, and even certain kinds of music don’t. it’s worth eliminating some kinds of intrusive sounds in order to hear what else the silence might hold.

  12. You have reminded me of my youth in Ft. Lauderdale when the Blue crabs would periodically migrate, in mass, across highways. People waited patiently for them to pass, but there always seemed to be a few stragglers that would get run over. Their claws could rupture a sidewall in a tire quite easily. Thanks for the memories.
    Ω

    1. The experiences of your youth continue unabated. I just enjoyed — with some amazement — a few videos of the crabs wreaking havoc on the Treasure Coast. I knew crabs were strong, but I had no idea they could puncture a tire.

      It seems the Florida crabs are slightly different from the ones in this post. They’re called blue land crabs, or even blue crabs, but they’re a different genus and speciesCardisoma guanhumi. It’s too bad our blue crabs don’t migrate that way. It certainly would make catching dinner easier.

  13. Excellent Linda. I have a blue crab in the pond behind us. (I’m sure there are more) He loves the shallows and I like watching him. The resident blue heron has been looking for him for a while. No luck yet. Super story. Thanks,

    1. The contest between heron and crab is ages old. With luck, your crab will continue to survive, but if not, a replacement surely will appear — and it will be the heron who’s smiling!

      It’s good to hear that you have the crabs. After Harvey, I heard concerns about a lack of crabs for the migrating whooping cranes; I presume they’re well-fed and happy, too, or we would have heard about it.

  14. On many of my “Birthday Road Trips” that crabbing pier is my second stop in Surfside. I can usually find plenty of pelicans there, both white and brown. Since my trip is in early February, I never see anyone there.

    1. Surfside’s a great community, although it can be a bit overrun in the height of the summer season. I often stop at Kitty’s Purple Cow, even though it’s not quite the same now that Kitty isn’t around.

      I haven’t seen a white pelican in quite some time, but the brown were coming up-island in waves a week or two ago. The season’s turning, and before long we’ll be able to indulge in the customary griping about summer heat.

  15. Such a lovely encounter and beautifully written. I find crab homes along the slough and in the wet areas of the orchard, but haven’t seen any live critters emerging. Though I admit, I’ve never taken the time to wait patiently. As the water recedes in the summer months, I often find their white bones bleached by the sun. Sometimes parts have been scattered by raccoons, and other times I find complete skeletons, leaving me to wonder if they’ve just perished in the heat.

    What a cool fella to have conversation with you and answer questions, only to leave you to think about the “noise of a chicken neck”. Having been around chickens all of my life, I knew what it meant, but I was delighted at the cleverness in such a comment.

    1. I’ve never thought about the fact that there are crabs in Oklahoma, although there’s no reason there shouldn’t be. Do you know which species they are? I’m wondering if they’re land crabs, living where conditions are more consistently wet, like crawfish. The diversity of these species continues to amaze me. I’m not sure how many crabs are in your state and mine, but there are at least 36 species of crawfish in Texas, and 28 in Oklahoma. It’s almost beyond comprehension.

      I do enjoy talking with the people I bump into when I’m out roaming. Sometimes, it’s just a casual, pleasant exchange that fades away sooner rather than later, but now and then something sticks, like this fellow’s suggestion that I should “make a noise like a chicken neck.” There are certain noises a chicken neck can make, of course, but I didn’t think he had Grandma’s technique for producing Sunday dinner in mind.

  16. Brava, Linda! Your description — particularly of the female crab with her fingernail polish! — pulled me right in and made me wish I’d been sitting a spell there with you. I’m not a big fan of eating crab, but I understand most folks seem to think of them as a delicacy. Regardless, it’s always a blessing when wild critters trust us enough to stick around a while!

    1. I’m certainly not the first the compare those red-tipped claws to painted fingernails, but it’s such an apt comparison, it almost demands to be made. The blue claws of some males can be equally vivid; the photos I posted up above gives a hint of its vibrancy.

      Perhaps I’m lazy, but I prefer my crawfish and crab meat already out of the shell. My favorite breakfast at my favorite Galveston restaurant is a version of eggs Benedict done with lump crab meat and a nice chipotle Hollandaise. It is a blessing when wild creatures trust us; it’s also a blessing when they provide us with sustenance!

    1. Honestly? I think it’s my varnishing that’s helped me become more patient, since there’s no question I’m far more patient now than I was when I began. Of course, I could just be slowing down; a quarter-century can do that to a person!

      Isn’t it funny how we so often think others’ photos are better than our own? I look at yours and think, “Gosh, I wish I could take photos like Pit’s.” I suppose the truth is we all have some good ones, some passable ones, and some clunkers — the ones that never see the light of day. The point’s not to compare, but to enjoy and share — and aren’t we lucky we have the internet to let us do that?

      1. You seem to be right, Linda, that often we admire the work of others more than our own. And yes, some of my pictures aren’t too bad. But really: when I see some of Mary’s, I can only wish I had had that eye for the motif she has – or, at least, had with that special photo.
        Well, let’s go on admiring each others’ photos, but also getting pleasure from looking at our own again once in a while.
        I’m glad you like my pictures and I’ll be happy to share more.
        Have a wonderful Sunday,
        Pit

  17. I know I’m not much of a naturalist, but I had no idea there were crabs here in the bayous! I crabbed frequently in my childhood, all in the Mid-Atlantic area, mostly Delaware. I so clearly remember early morning trips to a bait store with my dad, picking up the chicken necks and then carrying them and our twine to a dock. I love the coloring of crabs, and I’m amazed at your photos of them as they warily drew near to you.

    1. One caveat: it does depend on the bayou. Some near the coast are shallower, slower, saltier, and more likely to make a nice home for a crab. When there’s a lot of fresh, fast water flowing, crabbing in Buffalo Bayou probably wouldn’t be very successful. But crabs in our bayous? You bet.

      I love your memories. This afternoon, a woman who grew up in this area was recalling her mother’s packages of already-strung necks that were kept in the freezer. When someone got the urge to go crabbing, all they had to do was grab the net and a package of chicken necks, and head out the door.

      I think they’re beautifully colored, too, and some are especially vibrant. It was hard to get nice, detailed photos of them because of the reeds and grasses (and mud), but on the other hand, the photos do show them just as they were: part of a lovely and complex environment.

  18. That looks like a smile to me! She’s beautiful — all those colors. And she certainly did seem to pose. I love your conversation with the crab fisherman. All those experiences — those chance encounters. They make life all the richer, don’t they? Just think — in your day you saw the food remnants, had the chance encounter which was both delightful and informative, time to ponder and think and absorb all around you — and look at the reward. I love this.

    1. They do make life richer; there’s no question about that. And as I’ve pulled back from some of the modern ways of filling up the days — television, social media, obsessive concern with the so-called news — my days have filled up in a far more satisfying way.

      Intuitively, I’ve been following a course being recommended more and more often by people who study such things. It’s fun to read articles like the one I just linked as descriptive rather than prescriptive. Yes, I think, that’s exactly right; that’s how I experience it. And I wouldn’t trade the time I have to ponder and think and absorb for anything.

    1. The crabs might have been happier, but I suspect a plate full of them made you pretty darned happy. I enjoy watching them, but I enjoy consuming them, too — especially if the cracking’s already done.

    1. I just don’t understand people who so casually — or even intentionally — throw their trash hither and yon. It doesn’t take any more effort to dispose of it properly (she says, grumpily). I suppose the only good thing about them missing the river and hitting your yard is that it does get disposed of properly in the end — but you shouldn’t have to be the one doing it.

    1. It was quite an enjoyable afternoon, and the crabs were a wholly unexpected treat. Those often are the best kind.

      I’ve lost track of time, but I’m thinking you must be back from your home-building trip. I’m hoping we might have a tale or two from that, and even some photos!

      1. Yes, just back. My next post will touch upon it, but as for photos, my phone got a bit wet in an estuary and so will not start (although a red light flashes, which indicates a power issue). I am waiting for a new battery. I am hoping against hope that this will fix things!

        1. I’ve been through that wet phone business, so you have my sympathy. Oddly, mine didn’t go into the water — it was so hot a couple of summers ago I discovered it wasn’t water-tight when I dripped too much sweat into it. Ah, me. I hope yours is an easy fix.

  19. The ol fellow gave good advice in lots of ways. Sadly the ability to just sit and wait seems to be becoming a lost art. I’m working on relearning that art form.

    1. When it comes to life lessons, the cowboy, the fisherman, the tradesman, and the rancher have a lot to offer. Like a koan, their advice isn’t always open to immediate interpretation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pondering.

      It’s good to see you. May your sitting around and waiting be fruitful!

  20. Growing up on the Chesapeake, crabbing was a way of life. Here though, only those from the western shore use chicken necks. The eastern shore-ers call us Chicken Neckers. I love the words about making the sounds of a chicken neck. Perfect.

    1. I laughed at the division between the eastern and western shore. Around here, on Galveston Bay, there are divisions, too: primarily between sailors and powerboaters. Not all of the names are polite ones.

      Have you read William Warner’s book titled Beautiful Swimmers? I’ve dipped into it, but haven’t read the whole thing yet. Friends who live near the Chesapeake and who have watermen in their family say it’s a fabulous, accurate read.

      1. I have read Beautiful Swimmers, and Michener’s Chesapeake. Being in Europe, I live far from home, but every summer, a crab cake and rockfish is one of the first meals I have when I get off the plane. Watermen are a funny breed, and water folk, which I like to consider myself, are also special. I’m going to recall your fisherman’s wisdom, and share with my nephews when I take them crabbing in July.

    1. I was hoping to amuse as well as to inform, so your reaction delights me. When I consider the number of worlds I’ve bumped up against in my life — not to mention the ones I still know nothing about — it’s astonishing. We never know when we’ll stumble into a new one.

    1. You asked if the group I belong to that sets up our speakers does any nature treks? She sets up walking tours but mostly of things around the city and to animal parks. I’m going on one this summer and they have a kayaking trip coming up too.

      1. There are a lot of opportunities for kayaking around here, too. I’m of a divided mind. I enjoy a kayak, but the thought of the alligators gives me pause. Your comment about the walking tours this summer made me smile. I just got a note that certain programs at our local nature centers will be shutting down for June and July. It’s just too hot, unless you’re out early in the morning or in the evening. It’ll be fun to hear how you like yours.

    2. Oh, heavens, yes. I’m really at my wit’s end with some of the trash-tossers. I can understand the occasional bag blowing away, or losing a water bottle overboard, but to see people casually toss things out of car windows, or just walk away from a mess they’ve created? It’s beyond me.

      But this trash was wholly organic, and it will feed a multitude of even smaller creatures, like the flies and worms that were cleaning up the crab claws. It’s all part of the cycle of life.

      And you’re right: silence can hold any number of surprises, if we don’t always fill it with the litter of noise!

  21. Sorry to be late to the table, ya’all but I’ve been in Charleston for the weekend and what a Southern jewel. The pace slowed, the wind blowed, the lawns mowed, the carriages’ load disembarked.

    This post with its crisp expression and sassy crabby photos is another winner. Thank you for the effort. Made me think that Dungeness Crab season is coming, I think.

    1. I have a friend who lives in Charleston, and who grew up in the area. Her tales of life in that marvelous city are so interesting. She remembers the street vendors who would sing their wares. We found this old, and familiar to her, video that includes a section on vendors — including the famous “Papa Joe” — at about 4:25.

      Somehow, I’ve always thought that Dungeness crabs were a Chesapeake variety. Now I know that’s not so — I hope you can find as many as you want!

      1. I will be going back to Charleston. I’m planning a southern road trip in 2019. In that year, I am going to ask people to call me my given southern name: Cherylann. :) I first had Dungeness crab as a child in SF by Fisherman’s Wharf. Big crab cocktails. Now, we wait for the season and buy them already cracked. Today, I had crab and corn chowder on the Central Coast. Yum!

  22. Speak of the devil…. LOL

    I’m not quite old enough to remember the singing street vendors. I do remember milk delivery, though.

    I heard about the vendors all my life. I attended a performance of songs from “Porgy & Bess” in the mid-80’s. They brought in an elderly lady and a gentleman who did remember and they sang a few of the songs on stage.

    I have seen a Crab Lady. (No, not me, silly. I’m not that crabby…) She lived in one of the projects downtown and would make up deviled crabs to sell to people in the neighborhood. She would appear around the same time each weekday, so if you knew when she was due, you could buy one from her. I think she charged a couple of dollars apiece. I doubt seriously that she had a vendor’s license!

    1. Oh, my! I know you’re not that old! I think I was assuming that the street vendors continued on longer than they did, or perhaps it was our conversation about Porgy and Bess that I was remembering. I know this — between what I’ve read, and what you’ve said in the past, Charleston has the same kind of vibe for me as Galveston. What was and what is are all mixed up together, and that kind of sweet confusion is nurtured by the people who lead the tours of the haunted houses, the cemeteries, the pirate hangouts, and so on.

      We had the milkman, too — and the bread truck, and the Jewel Tea Company. I still have some of Mom’s Jewel Tea pieces, and now I use them on a regular basis.

      If someone sold deviled crabs in my neighborhood, I’d be first in line. We have a lot of food trucks now, but most of the offerings aren’t that good. I tried a lobster roll once, and it just wasn’t good. I’d rather go down to the docks and get some fresh shrimp. I may do that tonight.

      1. I think most of those vendors had disappeared by the late 40’s or early 50’s. There was still the City Market just off Meeting St, where you could buy fresh vegetables and (possibly) freshly caught shrimp, crab and fish. By that time, though, health regulations were being enforced, which probably precluded the selling of seafoods.

        There’s still lots of folks who do recreational shrimping, crabbing and fishing from the beaches, piers and some bridges. There’s always been someone on the Battery with a pole and bucket, anytime I drive down that way.

        I was down at the City Market week before last. I am saddened, nay, sickened, by the change. It used to be like a big second hand store and flea market, with a veggie market at the East Bay St. end. Loads of fun and bargains galore. No more. It’s nothing but a high priced tourist boutiqué. Jam-packed with too many people from ‘off.’ It’s even closed in and air conditioned. Ugh.

        1. I bought a funny doormat there last week for my husband. It read ” Here I like to kick ass and drink whisky but pardner, I’m out of whisky. Good ol John Wayne. I do imagine that what was once authentic and is now touristy is very disappointing.

  23. You nicely capture a special moment, the kind of moment that lets you briefly forget the world’s insanity. It seems to me there is an art to eating crab, an art that eludes me, so I have to settle for crab cakes.

    1. I don’t mind peeling shrimp, but cracking crab and dealing with boiled crawfish don’t particularly appeal to me. I like the meat, but prefer it arriving in a nice, prepared dish. I suspect if I’d grown up with crabs, eating them would be second nature.

      There’s nothing like a little time in nature to clear the mind. Most of the time, I don’t go out with an agenda; I just head out to see what I can see. Almost always, there’s a delightful surprise.

    1. I’d say your theory is one that any of us could prove, over and over again — if we wanted to. Of course, just sitting, like “a lump on a log” as my mother used to say, isn’t quite the ticket. But sitting with attentiveness and curiosity? Something always will show up, or fly by — or, as in this case, crawl up on the shore. There’s just no predicting what we’ll encounter: which is part of the pleasure.

  24. So dense am I that it was only on going back to the title that I realized why you’d given it to the post. I also doubt I ever would have figured out what noise a chicken neck made. I had visions, before you made plain that the sound was no sound at all, of holding a chicken neck close to my ear and bending it until I heard a sound.

    1. Well, it took me some time to realize that my friendly crabber had offered up the Texas equivalent of a koan. Instead of “What is the sound of one hand clapping,” he’d offered up something like, “What is the sound of a chicken neck cracking?” I like to imagine him chuckling away the rest of the afternoon, knowing that he’d left me perplexed — at least for a while.

    1. They’re odd little creatures, but pretty as can be. Their colors are all the more striking for being scattered here and there on the creatures, and they do make it easier to spot them in the water.

      If I’d not noticed the shells, I would have missed them. When I returned, about two weeks later, all of the water was gone, and so were the crabs. They often raise and lower water levels in the refuge for an assortment of purposes, and I think that’s what happened in this case. In any event, the crabs may now be gone, but they’re not forgotten.

    1. It was quite a delightful experience. I’ve become accustomed to finding birds and pollinators galore at the refuge, but the crabs were something new.

  25. Ooooo lovely photos! I love blue crabs but I am afraid I love them much the way the Walrus and the Carpenter loved the oysters…. “we will begin to feed.” “But not on us,” the oysters cried, turning a little blue, “After such kindness that would be a dismal thing to do!” “The night is fine,” the Walrus said, “Do you admire the view?”

    1. Now, that’s an apt connection to make. But remember this:

      The eldest Oyster looked at him,
      But never a word he said:
      The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
      And shook his heavy head–
      Meaning to say he did not choose
      To leave the oyster-bed.

      With age comes wisdom!

  26. An enjoyable post with an enjoyable encounter. A couple of days ago I actually found a crab climbing the wall of my hall. I think it must have joined my backpack when I was in Cuba and the travelled with me all the way to Norway. I don’t think I make noise like a chicken neck…

    1. That may be the funniest crab story I’ve heard yet, Otto. Can you imagine the confusion of the poor crab? I did hear once of a crate of crabs that were on board a US Naval vessel, nicely frozen and awaiting their fate as dinner. When they were pulled from the freezer, someone didn’t pay enough attention to them. They started thawing out, and the ones that thawed the fastest started running all over the ship.

      I thought about you today when I read the story of the horrific Cuban plane crash. It’s good to know you made it home safely.

    1. Perhaps one reason she’s smiling is that she knows she’s in no danger. I confess to a fondness for these creatures on my dinner table, but there’s no way I’d eat one that I’ve just had a conversation with!

  27. I agree! You’ve taken me right back to some of my happiest days, spent at the edge of the small lake my family lived on. How I loved to just sit there watching the comings and goings of all the creatures. Once I devised a trap with a bucket and some screening with a string and caught a sunfish. I was so pleased with myself but of course after admiring its gorgeous colors I let it go again. These days on some of our wetter prairies you’ll often come across “trash” that turns out to be shells of crawdads. River otters, I rejoice to say, have returned to the Des Plaines River.

    1. My dad used to take me fishing for sunfish at the Skunk and Raccoon rivers in Iowa. I don’t remember catching a fish, but I remember the cane pole and the red and white bobber, and the great pleasure of not having to do anything but sit there with a line in the water. Now, I get to sit at work and watch the drum, mullet, and sheepshead nibble their way along the edges of the docks, and watch the herons and egrets doing their own fishing.

      There was high excitement around here after Hurricane Harvey when river otters showed up at some local marinas, probably swept down the rivers by floodwaters. What I didn’t realize at the time is that they’re making a comeback in our waterways, too.

      As for crawdads on the prairies, they’re everywhere down here. As I understand it, they do more than taste good — they also aerate our heavy soil.

      1. Yes, they do. Isn’t that great news about the river otters?! I met a man with an otter hound the other day. It was a magnificent beast of 130 lbs. He was enthusiastically describing how they were used to kill otters!

        1. That’s interesting. I’ve known a couple of bluetick coonhounds, but didn’t realize there were otterhounds, too. If he has a true otterhound, the irony is that the dog breed itself is in some decline. The Wiki says there are only about 600 left in Britain. The article also has a history of otter hunting in Britain, which was ended when it was realized that the otters were declining in numbers.

          I’ve never heard of otter hunting here, but the season, bag limit, and a whole slew of regulations are on the state website. I suspect it’s more popular as a game animal farther north, where the populations are much larger.

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