Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another horseshoe crab story

I fished in thigh deep water today, surrounded by gazillions of horseshoe crab eggs, most of which will be eaten in the next day or two. A small fish, obviously versed in the Curly and the Oyster Stew episode, kept grabbing my lure just as I was pulling it out of the water, then gleefully letting go just as it broke the water's surface.

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.


ReadyOrNot said...

Love love love the 3 stooges clip- so funny! Kids today and even some adults just really have no idea about nature, I love to share my love of the outdoors with my students! I am a new follower, check out my blog if you get a chance:

doyle said...

Dear ReadyOrNot,

Thanks for the warm words. The clip gets a bit violent--it's the Three Stooges, after all--but does give the world a window to our relationship with guns here.

I've checked out your blog before, and enjoyed it. Seeing the blogs of folks who comment here has brought me to many wonderful sites.

Kevin Cram said...

I look forward to reading your posts everyday. I had my own post ruminating about similar topics and you inspired me to finally write it out. I referenced this post in my own. Thanks. -

doyle said...

Dear Kevin,

I just read your latest post, then another, and will go back for more--your latest is a wonderful story I might share with my classes.

I had not heard of guerrilla PD until I saw your blog--what a great concept!

I'm glad we found each other--I have a lot to learn.

Pat Summers said...

just found your site in a Google search for "lucky bones' and horseshoe crabs -- a result of dining at a Cape May restaurant (backwater Grill) that makes much of lucky bones. I've long been interested in horseshoe crabs but didn't know the sailor lore connected with their lucky bones.
are you familiar with it? -- or do you think it's a bit of a fantasy to allow wait staff to wear a lucky bone on around their necks?

summers at

doyle said...

Dear Pat,

I have not found any references to the lucky bones outside of those who learned of it from Lucky Bones.

On the other hand, Lucky Bones is a great restaurant that happens to be in our town, so at this point I'm accepting it as the Gospel truth. ;)

Pat Summers said...

thanks. I agree w/ you on the restaurant's fare, and continue to have my doubts about the legend of the lucky bones!