1.17.2009

The Great Crawfishing Caper

Back in the day, a large group of friends yusta gather at 'da camp' in the swamp for weekend party outings. Always fun, but many a treasured memories of those times are slowly fading from my mind as the years slide by. I was reminded of this particular debacle yesterday, so I called a participant of past outings to help me flesh out some of my memories and decided to post it 'fore it fades away completely. Details are sadly forgotten and photos, to my knowledge, are non-existant. If any of the old crowd reads this and has pictures send 'em over and we will insert them later .
Well.... here goes: Usually around Wednesday evening the phone would begin to ring. It would be the weekend party crowd checking in, all singing the same old refrain,"What we gonna do dis weekend?"
On this one particular weekend back in the early 80's in the late Spring, I was informed 2 facts that shaped the whole weekend. Fact #1, our good friends Jim and Trish were coming in from Texas. Fact #2, it was discovered that neither one of these Texas city folk had ever been crawfishing. The stage was set for us to remedy this intollerable condition the very next weekend. In other words, it sounded like a great excuse for a party weekend at da camp. Several phone calls later, da plan was hatched.
A 'core' group, like, from 6 to 8 of us, showed up at da camp Friday night with a truckload of beer and some camp supplies. This was da crawfish "catching & boiling crew". The main group was scheduled to start arriving around noon, on Saturday to attend the crawfish boil. This may sound over confident to you, but remember it was Spring in da swamp land of Louisiana, and there was no doubt 'bout catching crawfish; we would get 'em. We settled down at da camp, started drinking, and it wasn't long 'til a heated debate ensued: Who was gonna go crawfishing and who was gonna stay back and set up the party. Well, despite the beer, a logical conclusion was eventually reached and the stage was set. I was goin' to do the net-lifting while Dave ran the boat. Jim and Trish were goin' cause that was da reason for the whole drunken debacle to start with, and Ginger was goin' cause she flat-refused to not witness da rookies in action. Da stage was set. In da morning, da 5 of us would get in da 2 boats and head down to a great place that I knew for crawfishing.
Dave, being Dave, was up before daylight rattling around and hauling stuff to the bayou bank. We all grumbled, swore and pried ourselves up out of our sleeping bags too, and since the first thing Dave had rattled up was da coffee pot, we didn't swear too long or loudly; just went about havin' breakfast (alka seltzers, aspirins, rolaids, and/or stanback powders) After my head quit pounding and vision unblurred, I stumbled out to da bayou, where a rather large pile of stuff had accumulated by the boat landing. 2 ice chests (1 beer, 1 munchies), a water can, empty buckets, crawfish nets, bait can, out-board motor, gas can, etc. As I surveyed the area, mentally takin' inventory, I happened to glance at the old willow tree that the boats were always chained to, and discovered a serious potential problem: Only one boat! (Apparently somebody borrowed da other one.)
Well, the argument flared up again: What do we do? Who goes now? Do we go at all? What about another place? Another?? Well, what? These sort of logistics problems were usually always left up to me, 'cause I was da guy with the most experience in this sort of thing, bein' a boat guy and all. By the end of this story ya prolly gonna doubt da validity of that reasoning, but anyways.... here's what I decided:
We would hang da outboard motor on da boat, move da boat to the dock and start loading our stuff in order of priority, 'til da boat was full and that would help decide the matter. I got in first (I was gonna do da dirty work). Dave started handing stuff to me in order of importance, in came the beer, gas, nets, bait, Jim and Trish (each wearing enough floatation devices to hold up a small car), and Dave. At this point we had a scant 6-8" of freeboard and I was worried, 'cause still on da dock was da water and munchies and Ginger, who at this point weren't too happy. Well, since I'd already made my decision, we set sail with Ginger aboard, but left the water and food sittin' on the dock. Believe me, it was the right choice. Ginger was the only one of the 3 that could and would fight back if we tried to leave without her.
A half hour down the bayou, we arrived at the spot I had picked; a flooded pipeline right-of-way. I knew that the water was about waist-deep and under the water was a flat grassy area that I knew from da past was teaming with crawfish. I showed Jim and Trish how to stretch out and bait the nets, then I hopped overboard, (scaring them to death). I grabbed the 15-or-so foot pole that I used to lift and set nets. I instructed them to tie a chicken neck to the center of each net, then I would hook it with the nail in the end of my pole and swing it into the water. Dave joined me in the waist deep swamp water and tied the boat's rope to himself. I set, like, a dozen or so nets in a big circle around us and decided to check the first one. Sure enough, it was "brim full" and overflowing with big ole Louisiana crawfish. Trish's expression, as I swung this dripping net, teaming with "pincher yielding little terrors" towards her is forever emblazoned in my mind. Before this, I had always thought "bug-eyed" with horror was just a saying. I had no idea anyone could actually achieve the expression. A few minutes later, after Trish's heart started beating again, we got back to work and fell into a rythem. I moved from net to net, lifting them up, each packed with crawfish, swung them into the middle of the boat, where Trish and Ginger would dump the nets, emptying them onto a piece of plywood that we used for a 'sorting table', shove the good crawfish into a 5 gallon bucket, and toss everything that wasn't 'good' overboard. When the bucket was filled, Jim would help them pour the crawfish into a sack. After awhile, Jim got brave and jumped into the water, swapping places with Dave and even pulled the boat around for me, all the while looking over his shoulder for "swamp critters". In very short order we had more than enough crawfish. In less that 2 hour's time we had 4 big ol' grass sacks full of crawfish in that boat and it was then that we discovered the next flaw in our plan.
After we picked up all da tackle, retrieved da nets and got it all loaded onto the boat; crawfish and all, we noticed the "free board" had shrunk to a scant few inches...and me and Jim still weren't aboard! Those 4 sacks of crawfish dressed out at, like, 80 pounds each!
Well how to get home?? While in the midst of yet another heated debate about our situation, I noticed a great big ole tree floating down da bayou. What ended up happening was: Dave dragged Jim and me out to that big ole floating tree, as we hung onto the side of the boat. Then once we got safely ensconced on top of it, they handed us the ice chest, which lightened the boat enough for their trip back to the dock and left us sitting there with this ice chest of beer between us, as we slowly drifted down the quiet bayou, so that Dave could run the crawfish and the gals back to da camp. So, there we sat, Jim and I waiting for them to come back for us. It took him a couple hours to go unload, make sure the shore crew was organized and then return. By the time he got back, me, Jim and da tree had floated a half a mile or so down the bayou. Dave said he wasn't sure where where we went so he killed da motor and listened. He was led to us by the sound of drunken singing.
When it was all said and done, we all got back to the camp and although slightly sun-burnt, managed to feed no less than 20 partying Cajuns and had a truly, almost unforgetable time.
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