Thursday, February 8, 2007

Weekly Postings and other Balderdash

Hikers: This missive was constructed for Verde Valley Village, AZ, but anything valuable about Rocks is pertinent for Utah. Karen Hughes, our digital photographer developed the PIX of the unruly beasts (see attachments):


You might not recognize the “critters” mentioned in the title, but you’ve got ‘em in Arizona. Dick Berg, Verde Village’s illustrious maintenance man, is certainly aware of them. Every spring, at the irrigation ditch used to supplement the Verde Village pond, he has to contend with them. Regardless of iron dams, concrete barriers, and rebar driven into the ditch to keep the water from being drained, there they are, making many two-inch holes to the outer world. There goes the irrigation water, which fed the pumps used for moving the staff of life necessary to keep the fish and ducks alive in the pond. You guessed it- Crawdads, and mighty tasty morsels they are to us “erudite”.

I can see them now- a steaming plate of tails- repulsive in every detail (except to the palate). Jambalaya, crawfish pie or fillet gumbo, the shrimp of the mud hole. But they are hardly known outside the deep South: Louisiana, Arkansas, or East Texas. Close your eyes though, because these prehistoric-looking creatures are very good to eat; and I should know, since I was raised in Crawdad County, Arkansas. That’s not Clinton’s home, but he should be knowledgeable about this most formidable member of the lobster family. And anyone who has “fished the bank” in Western waters should have been turned off by them, when he has used stink bait. There they are- holding onto his dead meat bait with their horrendous claws. But just as stoutly the “erudite” quickly pulls off the shrimp-like tail and plops the whole thing onto his fishhook. The most “erudite” of piscatorial pluckers removes the outer amour and uses only the tail half of the tasty white seafood for the “discerning trout”. All the while singing in the key of C (which goes so well with my discerning guitar):

You get a line, and I’ll get a pole, honey;

You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe.

Oh- you get a line and I’ll get a pole,

And we’ll go down to the crawdad hole- Honey, Baby of mine.

Now there comes a man with a sack on his back, Honey;

There comes a man with a sack on his back, Babe.

Well, there comes a man with a sack on his back,

And watch those crawdads backing back- Honey, Baby of mine.

Well, what’cha gonna do when the lake goes dry, Honey?

Whatcha gonna do when the lake goes dry, Babe?

Well whatcha gonna do when the lake goes dry?

Gonna sit on the bank and watch the crawdads die- Honey Baby of mine.

Now you might not be sitting there, misty-eyed, imagination soaring, stomach machinating at the thought of these dauntless lobsters- which move backwards at the speed of underwater sound. But in Louisiana, there is a whole culture built around these marsh crustaceans. Each Spring, under the influence of the primeval urge, they can be seen moving in mass migrations. And just as predictable, there are the coon-asses (Acadians), waiting with their dip nets. Move fast though, because, first they go the wrong way- backwards- and secondarily, they are as fast as fish (which mightily desire to swallow them whole).

Being lazier, what I do is to wait until mid-July around the Western lakes. Then I go out in the early morn, to sunlit waters unblemished by mountain winds, and watch for the sluggish females, which are heavy with young. They like the protection of shallow depressions in six-inch water depths, where they deliver their young (by the thousands). One has merely has to bend down and pick ‘em up. Grasp them by the mid-section, to avoid those painful claws, and carry a bucket on a neck strap for the harvest. It takes about a hundred of these monsters for each diner (one tail produces one bite).

But they are easy to cook. Just bring a two gallon pot of water up to a boil, then plop them into it for 5 minutes. Don’t forget the Tabasco Sauce; add it in liberal quantities, and you’ve got a feast. Let every man-Jack take care of his own tails. That builds up your appetite, while working to get rid of that scaly protection, since no self-respectful cook who has any “erudicity” will do all that work for you. Ignore that unsightly green appendage pointing toward the “Prize”, and you’re in Coon-Ass heaven!

Harold L. Overton

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