The alarm rang far too early. I left the house shortly after 5 and drove to get Jay who was waiting for me sleeping on the couch. I did not have to do any coaxing today....he was excited. We were going crabbing. This all started last spring when we were visiting the coast and stepped out on the pier just south of Newport. "Papa, can we go crabbing?", he begged, "Please!". I promised him right then and there that we would before the summer was over. Since he was going back to school the next day, today was the end of summer.
Jay dropped off to sleep in the car seconds after settling in his seat. As I drove down the road in the dark, I looked over at his sleeping figure. He has grown so much in the last year that I almost can't call him 'my little buddy' anymore.
After passing through Sisters, I ran into the smoke from the large fires on the Santiam. I changed the air in the car to internal to help block out the smoke hoping that it would not cause him problems with his asthma. But the darkness and the smoke began to cause me problems. My anxiety issues were beginning to kick in.
I struggled and attempted to overcome them using the relaxation methods that the doctor was getting me to practice just for this type of an event but found that they methods only seem to enhance the issues. I broke into a cold sweat as the voice inside my head told me to run.
I looked over at the young sleeping body next to me. I knew he would be disappointed if he woke up and we were heading back home. He had no idea the battle that was going on inside of me nor how could he? The two sides to the battle became apparent. One was the anxiety that told me that I needed to turn the car around and go back to my 'safe' place and the other was the love for this young man sleeping in the chair within reach of my hand. I reached over and rested my hand on his shoulder feeling the rise and fall of his breath. I loved him so much.....how could I disappoint him.
Sweat poured off of my brow and I began to cramp up as my body started to feel the signs of my struggle. I prayed silently for relief and worried that I would soon become physically sick from the worry that ravaged inside. But, I kept pushing on..figuring that I could always pull over if I was going to get sick.
I began concentrating on things that Jay and I have done in the past and of all of the fun that we have had. The memories began to soften things a bit, kind of bringing my mind into a sort of happy place.
The sun crossing the horizon burst into my rear view mirror bringing my mind into the present. With the waking of the day came the waking of Jay. "Where are we, Papa?", came the voice from the rolled up body next to me. "We are on top of the pass, son.", I returned.
The sun became blocked by the mountain now behind us but the light brought a better perspective of the area around me. It did not close in as it had been and somewhere on that road, the switch inside my head switched off. I don't recall the moment but do remember the feeling......I knew I was going to win this battle and we were going to have a great day.
We passed the time talking of football, fishing, and other 'guy' stuff and I handed him the stack of papers that I had printed off of the internet to teach him what we needed to know about crabbing. You see, I had never done it either and had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew that he wanted to do it and that I had promised to take him. The two crab traps that Ron, one of our employees, had loaned me were in the back along with gloves, a bucket, and some zip ties that Ron had told me to bring with me.
As the sun rose into the sky, so did our moods as we came closer and closer to one of our mutual favorite places, the Oregon coast. The first glimpse of the waves on the beach always lifts your spirits and as we drove through Lincoln City, the fog bank just off of the coast played with the air around us as we drove in and out of it's cloud that darkened the sun.
I had checked the tide tables the night before and found that we would be arriving at Newport right around high tide. The times of high tide and low tide are called slack tide and I was told that they were the best time for crabbing. I had also looked up and found a small store on the south side of the river to get my license for fishing at. Jay did not need a license just yet.
We stopped at Safeway for some breakfast of bagels and a drink. We picked up some chicken legs for bait at the same time. With the breakfast and a cup of Starbucks 'Salted Carmel Latte', I was ready for the day.
We admired the coast and talked of different times and things that we had experienced along the way between Lincoln City and Newport. After crossing over the bridge, we drove straight to the small store and garnered the piece of paper that gave me permission to go catch some crab.
We each grabbed a trap in one arm and a chair in the other. Jay took his chair out of the bag. 'It will be easier to carry if you leave it in the bag and drape the handle over your shoulder.', I instructed but the growing young man had other ideas. "I will be OK, Papa.", he stated. I don't argue in these cases but do use them later when I am trying to get my point across. We had only gotten part of the way down the pier when he gave up and left his trap. "I will go ahead. You stay here, Papa, OK?". He ran down the pier with his chair in one hand and our drink bag in the other. I walked slowly keeping an eye behind me on the left behind parcel. He was soon running back past me to get the trap and we met at the end of the pier....a relaxed grandfather and a now sweaty and heavy breathing but excited grandson. "Do you think that would have been easier if you would have carried that chair over your shoulder in the bag?", I asked. "Probably.", came his shy but smiling answer.
He was so excited as we set ourselves up to cast out our first trap. I let him do all of the work, reaching in and placing the bait inside the inner box and I helped him zip tie up the side of the trap. One problem became immediately apparent as to how I was going to cut the tie when we brought them back up. I also realized that we did not pick up a measure to insure that we had legal catches.
I left Jay on the pier and drove back to the store, getting the small plastic size chart and a pair of wire cutters to cut the zip ties. I arrived back at our spot just in time to raise the first pot. An excited young man had already talked to a couple of other crabbers and informed me that we had our traps on the wrong side of the pier. The tide was beginning to go out and we needed to change sides or chance getting the trap caught on the pier below as the tide drew it under.
Jay started giggling as we the first trap broke through the water below loaded with crabs. Our first catch. I had Jay hold it at the water line as I took a picture of it. He struggled getting it out of the water so I took the line and helped him raise the first basket and lowered it to the pier. The first thing that I noticed was the clicking noises that the captured crabs made.
I cut the zip tie and let Jay check out the captured crabs. We could only keep the crabs that were 5 1/2 inches and that were male. We had studied the pictures and this became pretty easy. Jay drug female after female out of the pot. As he carried one over to the edge, it's claw grabbed his finger through the glove. "Ouch, this hurts, Papa!". He managed to shake it off and it tumbled into the water. "I bet it did", I returned. He had just learned his first lesson on how to carry a crab.
We zip tied the trap and moved it over to the other side of the pier. Jay threw it in as I snapped his picture. Then we hoisted up our second trap. This one too was loaded with the clicking crustaceans and Jay laughed as he realized that we had caught our first legal male crab. After a picture, Jay placed it in the bucket and we reset the trap and cast it out also.
I moved our things over the to the new side of the pier and then noticed Jay. He was sitting in his chair with the bucket in front of him just gazing down at his new prized possession. He had caught his first crab. It was as if he was bonding with it. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of shots. "Are you going to name it?", I asked. In previous adventures, he had named fish that we had caught so I thought it appropriate to ask. "Nope.....I am going to eat it.", he answered.
With each hoist of the trap, we became more seasoned pros at this sport. "This is the easiest fishing that I have ever done.", he announced.
Around 12:30, we called it a day. I wanted to have the time to get the crabs cooked and iced down for the trip back home. I had intended on getting home by five or six as some of my buddies wanted to get together and play some fun poker.
We drove down to the small crab store that we were told about just south of town. Leaving the bucket next to the crab cooker, we went into the little restaurant behind and enquired on what we needed to do. We found that they would cook the crab for $5 and clean each one for us for 50 cents more. We paid for the service and ordered up some lunch. Funny, neither of us wanted fish and we both ended up ordering up some corn dogs instead. "We have the best fish in town", the server smiled as she must have been laughing inside over these two guys who were crabbing but did not really like crab.
Around 2 or so, we carried our catch out of the store and iced it up for the way home. The lady in the store had been gracious and showed us how to clean our crab for future reference.
A tired but excited grandson talked all the way over the pass but it became evident that I was going to be late for the poker. We stopped in Sisters for a bite to eat at the new Hawaiian shop behind the market that my friend, Stan, who owns the building told me about and then headed the car home arriving around 7.
I dropped a happy young man off with his mom and headed home with one of the crabs for Judy's supper. We had caught three keepers and Jay kept the two larger or his mom and friends.
After arriving home, the day just seem to hit me. I was so exhausted from the day that my stomach was off, so I took a shower and just crawled into bed....totally tired but happy. I had won a battle, enjoyed a day with my grandson who I love so much, and had done something that I had never done before in my life. Sleep took me seconds after my head hit he pillow.