A short while ago, I shared with you my fear of alligators. I felt no particular discomfort in making such a revelation, because being afraid of alligators hardly cuts me from the herd. This is so, because, face it, it makes sense to be afraid of animals that can grow to be eight feet long, with teeth akin to those of a T. Rex. There is no shame in being fraidy-scared of anything that can sneak up on you and turn you into brunch.
Dogs, even big ones, don’t frighten me. Snakes? No big deal. Rats, mice, raccoons, no problem. I am, however, frightened to death of crabs. I have been afraid of these ugly, disgusting creatures for as long as I can remember. Their insect-like appearance, and their sidewinding scamper, always with their loathsome claws held defiantly upward in order to bite anything in site, scares the Bejesus out of me.
I freely admit that the depth of my fear of these miserable crustaceans is not rational. After all, the worst thing that can happen as a result of an unfortunate encounter with a crab is a moderately painful bite from one of their claws. The damage is nothing in comparison to what an alligator can do. Still, the thought of grabbing one of these bug-like bastards gives me the chills.
Had I grown up in a place like Nebraska, I doubt that I would have had to confront my fear and loathing of these crawly, snapping pieces of shit very often, if at all. But growing up in New Jersey and taking annual vacations to the Jersey Shore (where crabbing is damned near a religion) provided me with plenty of opportunities to be up close to the vile creatures. Indeed these vacations often turned into an ongoing crab fest.
It seemed that every day someone (often uncles, including Cousin Jack’s dad – a crab lover extraordinaire) was either out in a rented rowboat crabbing or constantly dragging up crab traps that were tied to the dock (in those years when the family could afford to rented house a lagoon) 24 hours a day for two straight weeks.
Getting crabs out of a crab trap often results in one or more of them falling onto the dock, which for my uncle, was a genuine emergency. Having the little beasts sidestrut their way back into the water was unthinkable to him. On those occasions, my uncle, who normally moved with the speed of a tortoise, would spring into action at warp speed and with the agility of a jungle cat. “Catch him, Jimmy! He’s headed for the water!”
I’d make a show of trying to catch the fast moving, snapping beast, but I had no intention of actually touching one of those things. “Damn!” I’d say, as the crab plopped into the water. “He got away.”
If a day’s crabbing produced a couple dozen crabs, the big pot would be placed on the stove and the various spices (most of which were red) would be added to the boiling water. At that point, the very much alive and clawing crabs would be brought into the house in a crummy bushel basket and removed by my mother and uncle to be tossed live into the boiling water, a fitting end for these hateful things, I must say. My mother and uncle never missed a chance to ask me if I wanted to help. “No thanks,” I’d say, all the while thinking, ”Sure, how about I put both hands into that basket and toss the snapping bastards about as if they were some kind of salad?”
The kitchen table would be covered with newspapers and the cooked crabs, now bright red in color, would be heaped in a pile, or placed in a couple bowls. My mother and uncle would then take what seemed to be hours to eat them, and they obviously relished every morsel. To me, it was just gross. I always found something else to eat, for the thought of actually eating one of those things was revolting.
Of course, I was quite young then. I’m much, much older now, and probably a good deal wiser. I’ve changed in many ways.
However, I’m still scared of crabs, and I’d sooner eat a turd.