Creek Lobster

Phil Whitley's picture

Trying to get away from politics and world situations for a while, I thought I would tell another of my "Stories from my Childhood". I call this one

Creek Lobster

We fished the creek all day, my brother, my friend Jimmy and I. Having no luck at all we decided to finish out the day playing and wading. One of our favorite things to do was to see who could catch the biggest crayfish, better known to us by the term ‘crawdad’.

Now these creatures have pinchers like miniature lobsters, and the bigger they are, the harder they can pinch – frequently to the point of drawing blood – which adds to the degree of difficulty and danger involved. They are elusive and fast-movers, scooting under a rock when you reach for them. That’s when the danger begins. You have to lift the rock with one hand, which stirs up the mud, then reach blindly beneath for the crawdad with your free hand, hoping to catch him behind those danged pinchers.

If we were going to continue fishing we would save then for bass bait in Mr. Clegg’s pond, but this particular day we were throwing them back after bragging rights were established.

Around the next bend in the creek we came upon an old black man with his overalls rolled up past his knees, who was wading just like we were. He was also catching crawdads, but he had a five-gallon bucket to put them in.

“Going fishin’?” one of us asked.

“Nope, but I gives y’all a penny apiece fer all you catches,” he said.

Of course we agreed, being the businessmen that we were. Five crawdads would get you enough money for a candy bar or a Coke.

But the question had to be asked, “Whatcha gonna do with `em?”

He looked a bit surprised at the question but said, “Eatum.”

“You eat… crawdads?” my brother wanted to know with a look of horror on his face.

“You don’t?” was his reply.

Now we boys were not completely against the idea, but it took some getting used to. This old man wasn’t talking about eating something on a dare, which we all had done; he was talking about making a meal here.

“Do you… uhhh… cook them first?” Jimmy asked.

“Well sho we cooks `em first. Throw `em in a pot o’ boilin’ water fer a few minutes till dey turn red, then eatum. Dey’s good vittles!”

It had never occurred to us in all our days of crawdad catching that these creatures could be eaten except by the bass in Mr. Clegg’s pond – but we were game to try anything once, especially if it was something to eat.

By sundown we had made fifty cents, and that was enough for a Coke and a candy bar apiece at Mr. Chitwood’s store, with change left over.

The very next day we brought our bucketful of crawdads to my mother so she could cook them for us.

She refused. She refused in that certain way that mothers do when you know there isn’t going to be any further discussion on the subject. So now here we were with a bucket of crawdads, too late to take them back to the creek and feeling like murderers. Killing for food was something we country boys understood, but letting something die without eating it was sinful.

Fortunately for us our once-a-week maid was there that day and said, “If Miz Ginny say hit’s okay, I cooks `em fer ya. Show you how to eat `em too!”

Mom agreed, but wouldn’t even come into the kitchen until the cooking or the eating was done.

We boys and our maid had a feast that night. Turned out that the old man we met at the creek the day before was her husband, and she proved that she knew how to cook them. She also showed us what she considered the best part, which turned out to be the heads. You have to break the head off and suck the contents out.

It was many years later that I learned that crayfish are a Cajun delicacy, and in great demand.

We now call them Creek Lobster.

Phil (friends call me Brew)

Phil Whitley's blog | login to post comments