I grew up in the Back Mountain before the Internet and cell phones. In those days, Atari was the only gaming system we had and it was only used on rainy days.
Life was not boring, though. There were neighbors to talk with, swimming to be done, bike riding and so much more.
One of my favorite summertime activities was to join my friend, Kim, and her older sister, Justine, to look for crayfish in Toby Creek. We would walk from their house to the creek in our cut-off jean shorts and T-shirts, carrying plastic containers.
We spent what seemed like hours in the cool water.
The creek weaved throughout the Back Mountain and was a cool retreat when the weather was hot.
Our goal was simple — find crayfish.
We would step into the creek and let the water seep into our sneakers. Water striders would scoot across the water’s surface. Carefully, we would flip one rock over and wait for the swirling mud and sand to float away to see if any critters were hiding underneath.
Sometimes, we found crayfish or little minnows; other times, we found nothing at all.
When we did find a crayfish, we would pick it up and carefully put it in our container, which was filled with water, and watch it.
Kim and her sister taught me how to pick up a crayfish without getting pinched. You had to place your fingers behind the “V” mark on their backs. Little did I know at the time, this knowledge would serve me well in my future.
My husband, Eric, and his family are from Maine. Not just Maine, but Spruce Head Island, a region known for lobstering.
It’s funny to think that while I mucked around in Toby Creek with Kim and her sister, Eric was on a boat with his dad in the northern Atlantic Ocean catching the larger, saltwater version of my crayfish.
On my first trip to Maine to meet Eric’s family, his dad, Arnie, put me face to face with a live Maine lobster right off the boat. The brownish-black and red creature from the deep was strangely familiar to me.
The lobster had a mark behind the claws similar to the little crayfish I caught as a child.
I was brave only because the lobster’s big claws were already banded with thick rubber bands.
I grabbed the lobster’s body right behind the claws and picked it up. Its long legs wiggled and its claws waved around. I remember looking at Eric, smiling, and thinking “Ha! This land-lover knows something about this crustacean.”
That feeling of accomplishment subsided quickly when I was served up the same creature for dinner.
Not being a seafood eater and preferring Italian pasta dishes, salads and tacos, I had no clue how to conquer that thing.
Eric, his mom, Janet, and his dad had to train me in the ways of a Mainer and taught me how to dissect the lobster. They showed me what parts are edible and what parts are not.
Nineteen years later, I don’t claim to be a lobster connoisseur, but after living in Mid Coast Maine for eight years, I know more than most inland residents about the tasty crustaceans. For example, Maine regulations dictate female lobsters with eggs must be released back into the ocean.
Also, lobstermen are required to measure each lobster caught. If the lobster is too big or too small, it’s returned to the ocean. Sometimes lobstermen can catch rare blue or orange lobsters. Most of the time, they provide boasting rights for the lobstermen, and the clawed critters are photographed and return to the waters.
As for the little crayfish, we always returned them to the creek. To be honest, I think my mom had her hands full with the jars of grasshoppers, caterpillars and lightning bugs I always brought home.