A rather exuberant male horseshoe crab got flipped in the waves as he tried to mount the love of his life. A small child, no higher than my waist, approached it, and an older, officious looking child warned him to stop, that the tail would sting.
I can hardly bare officiousness at any age, but it's particularly sad to see in a tween, so I broke away from the playful fish, picked up the horseshoe crab, and showed the child that the tail is perfectly safe. (Well, I guess I wouldn't run with a live horseshoe crab--I could trip and accidentally poke my eye out, I suppose.)
Myths matters. Decades ago I slaughtered dozens of horseshoe crabs on a very hot August afternoon, their blue blood covering us in our frenzy. The life guards had told us, a gang of 9 and 10-year-olds, that they were dangerous, and fearless as we were, we attacked the seemingly loathesome critters.
It does no good for me to tell the officious one that he was wrong. He saw what he saw today, and fear's a funny thing.
The younger child, however, gleefully touched the squirming horseshoe crab. He touched the tail, the shell, the tiny claws, the lucky bones, pretty much everything there is to touch on a horseshoe crab. Before the day is done, I bet he shows a few others his size that the critters are harmless.
The officious one stood off to the side. Not my intention to embarrass him. Maybe he will hold a horseshoe crab before his week here is up, maybe he won't, but he will be a little less certain in his fear next time one tumbles up out of the surf.
How many of my fears remain from my ignorance, even now, old as I am? How many do I unwittingly share with others?
Photo by one of my biology students on our annual Sandy Hook Horseshoe Crab trip.
Pssst...don't hold them by their tails.