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The sound of the waves slapping against the hull woke me from my sleep. I sat up and gazed out over the overcast waters of the bay. The sea state had increased slightly from what it had been earlier in the afternoon but the chop was navigable. I stretched my arms out above my head and stifled a yawn. Rubbing the salt spray from my face, I reached down and opened the cooler beneath the bench and pulled out one of the two remaining beers left over from the six-pack I’d bought for my venture. Twisting off the cap and taking that first sip, I looked over my catch of the day; two red snapper wiggled slightly in the bottom of my bucket. Not bad for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The weather was picking up as the afternoon began its change into evening and temperatures slowly drifted. The wind was shifting and whiteheads could be seen dancing across the surface. It was time to row back to shore.


My friends laughed at me when they first saw my little rowboat. “Your goin fishing in that?” and “Where’s the motor?” I guess they just didn’t get it.


Somewhere between my teens and my thirties I had discovered the difference between life in general and the importance of the journey one takes. I can not lay claim to being a great thinker or famous philosopher but what I have discovered is that if you allow yourself time to look around while you journey through life, you’d be amazed at what you’ll find along the way. So I bought a row boat instead of one with a motor. It takes longer to get to where I want to go but I can feel my environment with so much more clarity. I feel the shifts in the wind, the drifts of the tide, I see sea life that would have been frightened away by a motor and when my wife accompanies me, conversation is easy. Perhaps I am fooling myself, after all I know they make some incredible motors these days but there is something about making the effort with your own strength, of doing what fishermen have done throughout the ages.


As the hull slid into sand at the shoreline I stepped out and pulled the boat the rest of the way out of the water to where my wife waited.


We kissed.


“Have fun?” She asked.


“Yes.” Was my reply as I reached for the bucket to show her dinner.


“Mmm, you clean ‘em, I’ll cook em’”.


“Where are the boys?” I asked.


“Off hunting for hermit crabs. Ever since you showed them that hermit crab race they have been obsessed.” She said with a laugh.



Later as I was de-scaling the second snapper, the boys returned. Both had handfuls of hermit crabs.


“Good Lord boys, looks like you are about to have a hermit crab 500.” I said with a grin.


“Jack and Jason, you make sure you put those poor creatures back in their pools when you’re done with the race… hey! Do you hear me boys?” My wife Sunshine said with a stern voice.


“Yes ma’am.” was the reply.



With that they got busy. They put their separate clusters of crabs in two small pales then drew a large circle in the wet sand close to the waters edge. In the center they drew a smaller circle for the starting line.


“How are you going to tell the difference between teams?” I asked.
They both gave each other horrified looks as they realized they hadn’t thought of that.


“Oho,” said Jack.


“Oh I know!” cried Jason. “Well tape a little piece of masking tape on the shells of mine. I laughed and said “Only if you remember to take it off when you’re done.”



It wasn’t long before the race was set to begin. By this time the snapper was sizzling on the grill with lemon pepper scents filling the air. The crabs were ready to be released from their makeshift pens, half with square bits of tape on their shells. The crowd had arrived and were squawking with excitement (now whether the seagulls in attendance were here for the race or the fish cooking on the grill we weren’t sure but it did add to the excitement).



“Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the great annual hermit crab race.” I announced through a paper cup with its bottom cut out. “Tonight we have for your entertainment the Blue Bucket Team and of course their great rivals the Red Bucket Team.” “It looks like they are ready to begin.” I announced as Jack and Jason readied their buckets for lifting.


“On your marks, get set, BANG!” The buckets were lifted and the crabs exposed, the crowd roared their delight and the crabs, well, they just sat there.


We all watched with anticipation hoping for some sign of life from these little creatures.


“Dad, what’s wrong with them?” asked Jack.


“Patience my boy, patience.” I replied.


Then suddenly a claw appeared out from under a shell, then two. A crab began to move then bumped into another that began to move as well. Soon we had more crabs on the move and only a few were still shy within their shells. Then they were all out and the race was on.


“By Gum, Ladies and Gents, we have a race! The Blue Bucket Team is gunning for the outside line with the Red Bucket Team hot on their trail.” The birds were flapping, the fish was sizzling, the boys were hollering, mom was grinning and dad trying to keep the announcements straight as to who was ahead when suddenly nature took over and a large wave came and washed the race away.


The silence was deafening.


Except for the sizzling fish.


“Aw, man!” said Jack.


“But that’s not fair!” cried Jason.


Suddenly they were both kicking sand and shaking fists at the sea that looked back with indifference. Tiny little flags could be seen as the taped crabs made their way through the surf.


“Well come on boys, lets go have some of mom’s snapper.” I said philosophically.


“What about the race?” “Yeah, who won?” They cried.


“Looks like Mother Nature won sweethearts.” My wife said with tenderness.


The audience hadn’t left so I suspect their interest was our dinner rather than the race but we were not going to be sharing tonight.


------
"See the man with the lonely eyes, oh, take his hand, you'll be surprised." Supertramp.


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