Shrimp for supper?

We were almost home one Sunday after church, when Mark slowed the car for something sitting on the road in our path. While I was still figuring out what was going on, he was outside holding up something with a generous share of slender spiderlike legs. It was a crayfish, 3-4 inches long with two, good sized healthy claws intact.

“Would it hurt if he pinched us with those?” my girls asked their dad. “Let’s find out,” he grinned, holding the kicking creature closer to them. They backed away shouting, “No, no!”

“He couldn’t hurt much worse than a gerbil,” I spoke up.

“You’re the only one who can do that test,” Mark made ready to hand the little, clawed wonder.

“Well, you are a member of ‘idiots for animals,’ Mom,” my teen-ager repeated the title she had invented for me the day I, too promptly, stuck my bare hand into our gerbil cage to break up a fight and got nailed. The little teeth had sunk into a grip-lock and my hand had throbbed and swollen tighter than any bee sting I’d ever had.

“I could have him for lunch,” the teen-ager daughter spoke again. She is the true, seafood lover of our clan. We all agreed that we probably could never eat those lobsters that you choose fresh from an aquarium tank – let alone this new found friend who was “clicketatting” across our street so close to our home.

“Let’s take him home and take a good look at him,” was the consensus. “We’ll bring him back to where we found him, later (only off the road, of course).”

We put him in the cardboard box that I keep in the car ready to pack my own groceries. At home, we found a round, plastic laundry tub, put in a little water, a couple of rocks and set in the crayfish. It started around the perimeter of the tub, taking in its close quarters of confinement. His many appendages – antenna, proboscis, legs, even his fan shaped, shell-like tail all moved curiously. It seemed to like the wet part of the tub so we added more water and that’s where it stayed.

It spent the afternoon with us, and took a ride to my parents’ place, where my brother, the animal lover, inspected it.

He is the one who got stuck taking the claw test. “Ouch! That hurt,” he whined. The crayfish had slowly sized up the hand in front of it, allowing each of my brother’s fingers to pass before it, and aptly latched onto the pinky, which was the best size for it to get a good grip on. “Yeeow!” This ‘crawdad’ knew what it was about.

It was dusk when we finally pulled up to the culvert on our street where water passes under the road. It isn’t exactly a creek (I don’t think), but there does seem to be water flowing all the time. We put it on the roadside it had been headed for when we found him. The minute it touched ground, its feelers were in motion, examining the grass blades as it passed over them. It headed toward the bank along the water coming through the culvert under the road. There was a good-sized drop to the water. I worried for his safety, but he would have encountered this same scene a few hours earlier if we had allowed him to finish crossing the road (or he could have been run over).

“Good luck, Columbiana crayfish,” we thought, and we settled back into the car and headed home.

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