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The Land of Pleasant Living
“The Land of Pleasant Living”
Oh to live near the Chesapeake Bay, is to catch a glimpse of history, mystery and view beauty that even photographs sometimes can’t do justice. I have lived here most of my life and this is what I know and what I’ve seen, as well as who I am. Imagine the warm late spring breezes playfully tussling your hair, but your not even paying much attention to that, no, your attention is focused elsewhere, in fact your only concern is whether you will catch one this time. After all your thirteen years old and most of your friends have already caught many, dozens in fact since even before the age you are now.
Steady now don’t want to spook him, you slowly pull the line towards the pier with your left as you lower the net to the surface, slowly coming into view now, inch by agonizing inch pulling in that line. You push the net deeper below that shimmering emerald surface and still closer he comes. What a whopper, looks like 8 inches point to point and even below the water’s surface you can make out those beautiful colors of deep greens, blues and white. Just about ready to scoop, getting that net below him with the right and simultaneously pulling with the left until the two come together and you got him, you got him! Of course no one around to see, you ogle your prize as he glistens against the backdrop of skies, billowy cloud and azure field and as you pull away his feast of chicken neck and shake him into the bucket with his legs and claws scurrying and snapping in fierce defiance, you feel somehow accomplished and that primal hunter instinct makes you want to shout. But of course there are neighbors on both sides of you and we wouldn’t want them calling out for you to settle down, so you just reward yourself with an I did it and drop the bait back into that briny creek.
As you wait for the next unsuspecting crustacean to take your offering, you look out upon the marshy area upstream and watch with only the intense fashion a daydreaming boy can muster and there, in the reeds you spy movement. Closer you observe that particular space at the water’s edge until you spy what caught you attention in the first place, a heron, but not just any heron, Oh goodness no, it’s the Great Blue Heron. You watch as it grabs the small bull minnows from those brackish shallows, one by one they go down into the rather greedy gullet of this stealthy predator and then, what was that.
The sounds wood twisted against wood, shrill and squeaky, ceeeeveeeee ceeeeveeeee , you strain your neck looking over your shoulder and there, wings flapping maniacally against that majestic sky is the origin of that entire racket, the Seahawks are back. With that array of feathers dappled in grey, white and black you no they’ll be here now until early autumn. Out of the corner of your eye you see that telltale sign of another victim waiting to be towed into your net so you shift your focus back once again to what you came down here for in the first place, to catch crabs! You recall what that old waterman fellow told you - wow how ancient he looked with that furrowed brow and leathery brown skin – “don’t take the females” he said. You asked “why”? He answered “cause da more and more people takin im none be left one a deese days for anyone to enjoy” sounded right to you, but how do you know who’s who you thought and then asked. He answered again in his raspy drawl “well the sooks is da ones with the capidol dome on thar belly and the males are da ones with the Warshington monement on thar bellies”. Well now I knew, who were the boys and who were the girls in the crabby kingdom. If only I could work up the nerve to ask him how to catch them and as you can see I did, so I won’t try to recall how he said it, only that he did say and he said “chicken necks and twining, tie the neck to the twine and tie the twine to the pier, pull in slowly and steady and at the same time have a crab net and maneuver it under the bait/crab and scoop upwards, easy right?
Well, too bad that wasn’t the case for this kid’s stepdad. See my stepdad was an avid fisherman. Only not on the Chesapeake and not even in this country, no he was a fisherman from the old country, Alberobello, Puglia, Italy that will be where I leave off though.