The sudden pain was excruciating. The Jimmie I was attempting to free from my net was not particularly large, but it had closed its pincer firmly across the tip of my middle finger and was bearing down with unbelievable pressure. Just a moment’s inattention, and I’d been caught like the rankest amateur crabber. It hurt like hell. I yelled out in agony.

My right hand held the crab net that had captured the rascal, and I couldn’t let it go without adding even more pressure to the endangered digit of my left. Anyway, just pulling the crab off was out of the question; it would mean ripping out a large part of my fingertip. 

The devilish crustacean gave no indication that it was going to relinquish its grip or reduce the painful pressure. My eyes were wide with indecision as I looked to my son, Robert, at the other end of the canoe. He was laughing so hard he could neither speak nor move. It looked like I was on my own.

Finally, supporting the weight of the net with my knees and easing my right hand across my body and underneath my captor, I tried to get a grip on the back edge of its shell. My son paused in his mirth long enough to say, “Watch out. He’s going to get that one too.”

-A split second later, I felt the pinch of the crab’s other claw as it reached down under its body, unseen by me, and caught the edge of the index finger on my right hand. I was now trapped in a crab handcuff. The laughter from the other end of the boat increased exponentially. 

My predicament had started out innocently enough. We had just acquired a new (to us) canoe and were going to try it out crabbing in the most elemental style. Armed with just a ball of twine, a dip net, some chicken necks and a bushel basket, we had paddled onto the Magothy intending to catch a quick lunch.

Halfway to enough for our meal, I had gotten myself thoroughly crab trapped. If you think the experience was as humiliating as it was painful, multiply that by 10 and you can get an idea of how I felt at that minute.

Then the fish gods in charge of marine comedy must have felt a touch of sympathy because once the crab got its claw on my right hand, it lost interest in holding onto the digit of my left. I eased my now-throbbing finger free.

Grabbing the back of his now-free claw to keep him from using it on my still captive right hand, I again found myself in almost the same, but not quite so painful, predicament. I couldn’t let him go until he let me go.

Finally with no hand free and in an act of complete frustration, I raised the crab up and bit down on the claw arm that was fastened to my finger. Amazingly, he released. I quickly loosed my hold on him and, entangled in the net, the jimmie swung loose, spreading its claws wide and snapping them in defiance as it dared me to come close again. 

Cautiously, I measured it barely legal, then considered the revenge of adding him to our larder. In the end I flipped him back over the side, partly because we wanted larger crabs and partly because I wanted no more to do with that particularly nasty individual.

Two hours later, as my son and I tucked into the ecstasy of the lunchtime meal we had secured, I could finally laugh along with him. With tears running down both our faces, we recounted from our individual perspectives the preposterous and painful situation that I had just experienced. But only my son’s tears were strictly from the humor. My swollen fingertip still ached like the very devil.