Through the Fence 8-30-10
It seems that today’s youngsters are electronically entertained to death. They can barely carry on a conversation without pausing to look down at their phones to send or receive a text message or to adjust the settings on their iPod. When I was growing up on a cattle ranch in north Texas, we lived miles from any neighbors with kids. And back in those days, the television only received four channels, so we kids learned to entertain ourselves.
I had four imaginary friends that kept me busy for hours. My sister and I climbed trees, made mud pies and scaled the hay bales in our barn. We knew better than to go into the house when our mother had sent us outside to play, especially on Saturday mornings when she was cleaning. And if we ever said, “I’m bored,” she’d quickly ended our boredom with a long list of tedious jobs.
One of our favorite summer pastimes was fishing for crayfish – known to us country kids as “crawdads” – in the ditches and mud mounds around our house. All we needed was some kite string, a nail for a weight and a piece of raw bacon. We just had to poke the slimy meat through the opening in the top of the mud and wait for a gentle tug of the string. We’d fish all afternoon and catch dozens of crawfish and put them in pond water in an old washtub. When we were done, we’d just take them down to the pond behind our house and let them all go.
One summer afternoon, two of my young nephews, Andy and Fletcher, came to visit. They were about our age, so they were more like cousins. My sister and I introduced them to the fascinating sport of crawfishing. The boys – aged 8 and 9 at the time – were thrilled when they caught their first one. They slowly pulled the string up careful not to knock the crawfish off when it came through the small hole. Since it wasn’t a novelty for my sister and me, we didn’t stay with them long, going inside to play with our nieces and help Mother set the table.
In a few minutes, those boys came dashing though the front door yelling that they’d caught a “Monster Crawdad.” They brought in a gigantic crustacean in a plastic butter dish to show everyone. To our juvenile eyes, it looked like a big lobster. It had enormous pointed claws that were snapping in midair, grabbing at an invisible enemy. It had shiny black eyes and long probing antennae.
Instead of shooing them back outside like most mamas would do, my mother – their grandmother – oohed and ahhed over their catch. She bragged on their fishing skills and told them that they’d surely landed a world record. They were so proud of themselves. And just when they thought their sweet moment couldn’t get any better, Mom leaned over and sort of whispered, “How’d you like me to cook him for you?” Their eyes nearly bulged out of their head as they both said “Yes!” at once. She made a big production out of the cooking, using a huge pot and filling it with water.
They say, “A watched pot never boils,” and those boys really watched and waited anxiously for the first bubbles to appear. Mom rinsed off the crawfish in the kitchen sink and dumped it into the boiling water. The boys stared in amazement as the crawfish turned a brilliant red. In a few minutes, Mom grabbed it out with some tongs and put it on a plate in front of the excited boys. When it cooled, she got some nut crackers and helped them draw out the tender morsels. She even melted some butter in a little bowl for them. It only amounted to a few small bites, but they were dearly savored by those little boys. From then on, they adored my mom, and never forgot that magical summer night.
Now they are grown men with children of their own. I sure hope they help them experience wonderful adventures like catching the Monster Crawdad.