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Charlie the Crab and Jack the Turkey

3 mins read

By LEE SCOTT

When I first moved to Beaufort, I discovered there were crabs swimming around my dock. 

I was thrilled because I love eating crabs. As a former Maryland resident, I grew up on steamed crabs.

Some of my favorite memories are the family crab feasts. When we got older, my brother bought a place on the water, and he and his buddies would catch crabs, fill the pots with boiling water and steam the crabs. 

We would cover the picnic tables with newspapers, and throw down some wooden hammers, then dump the steamed crabs (always seasoned with Bay Seasoning) and start eating. This was an all-day process with the meals running several hours. Of course, it always included corn on the cob and plenty of beer and wine.

Dreaming about my own crab feasts, I drove to Grayco and purchased a South Carolina Fishing License and bought a crab trap. My husband said that chicken necks would be good to entice the crabs into the traps. It worked, but the first ones I caught were too little and I had to throw them back in the water.

That is when I made a very big mistake. I named a crab. It was one day when the tide was going out and there was a huge blue crab hanging on the dock piling eating away at whatever was stuck on the piling.

“Hi, Charlie,” I said. “What are you munching on down there?”

Before long I was watching Charlie and his family scrounge around the oyster shells. I watched them as they walked over the oysters and used their pincers to open oyster shells. Then I saw the larger ones chasing the small ones away. It was amazing to see how fast those crabs could move.

My spouse asked why the crab trap was lying in the backyard instead of hanging off the dock.

“I cannot eat Charlie.” I confessed.

Then I told him the story about Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad, who named a donated turkey – Jack; and did not want his father to have Jack killed for their Christmas dinner. So, Lincoln pardoned Jack, and the family had a different turkey for their dinner.

My spouse proceeded to tell me that I was quite the hypocrite since I still like to eat crabs. It’s true, I still love a good crab feast, also my husband’s homemade crab cakes, and the occasional flounder stuffed with crab imperial. 

But those are the crabs that other people have caught, not the descendants of Charlie. Now my dock remains a home for Charlie’s family. And unlike the crab traps in our creek, put out by the local watermen, my crab trap remains a nautical ornament in my backyard.

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