Mr. B. has lived in Northern Florida for over 20 years, but he had never been out to the Big Bend. I had, but only because I have inherited some nomadic tendencies from my father. A stretch of blacktop is my idea of nirvana. It is also a nifty metaphor for going places. I like to be on the move. I told Mr. B. I was going to tie him up and take him across county lines. Mr. B. was game for a kidnapping, so I wrote a ransom note to his employer and took him to Taylor County.
The poor man has been working so hard that I thought he needed a little gift. I racked my mind trying to come up with something. Gifting Mr. B. is a challenge. He has idiosyncratic and very fine tastes, but I’ve already given him smoked salmon, an Oriental rug, a black velvet jacket, and a headache. What was left?
After great deliberation, I gave Mr. B. crabs.
The crabs were an unexpected gift. I found them, quite by surprise, in the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. In fact, the Wildlife Management Area itself was a surprise. I saw a dirt road and turned down it, and, after noting a sign that explicitly stated one was not to bathe in the Gulf Waters because of a prevalance of some nasty bacteria that will make your flesh fall off and your eyes turn green, we arrived at a little picnic area with an observation tower that looked like a backyard Indian fort.
The tide was out and the beachfront looked marshy. A sand pail sat abandoned on the sand, and a hundred yards or so offshore a couple of people lounged on what looked like an inflatable jet ski. Mr. B. took pictures from the tower while I walked across the grass to the sand. I grew up on a beach and felt I was on home turf, so when Mr. B. noted that I marched across the terrain with no hesitation, I shrugged. I started to walk between a patch of grass when I noticed a flurry of activity at my feet. Fiddler crabs, an army of scurrying fiddler crabs, hundreds of them, rushed into the grass at my approach.
Hurry! I called to Mr. B., who told me a story of how he had once played a sunset flute concerto to a similar army of fiddler crabs near Virginia Beach, and how the crabs had stopped to listen. Since we had no flute today, the crabs ran to and fro, some hiding in the grass and others dropping down into holes, their larger claw pulled in last in a protective stance. We chased the crabs down the cove and breathed in the marshy, briny air, both with our cameras clicking and me trying to make sure that I didn’t get one drop of the water on my toes.
As we left, Mr. B. thanked me for giving him the crabs. How many men would do that?
The Big Bend is heavily timbered, with land owned by the lumber companies. Mr. B. pointed out that one day soon, the value of a piece of coastal acreage would outstrip the value to the lumber industry and that all of this would be gone. For now, Big Bend is remote and rural and has a sense of limitlessness as you look across the Gulf into a sea of far horizon. We are normally landlocked, so the glassine spread of ocean looked as if it might go on forever, or else we might look at it so long that we would be locked into the area overnight, which would seem like forever but which might not have been such a bad idea.
I have no idea what these were. They rose up from the sand. Anyone?
I’ve always liked the medieval-futuristic shell design of the horsehose crab.