The boys had come back from their trip talking about how they had been crabbing with their dad in South Australia and how it was really easy and then you got to eat the crabs.
When we got to Port Arthur, SA, we were travel-weary, ready for a longer stay somewhere. The weather was persnickety: gusty, damp, chill. Although protected from the ocean winds by a tangle of ghost gums, the campground was bare and the amenity block offered little comfort.
But the boys and Uncle Paul had said it was great for crabbing so early our first morning wakning there, Dad, me and Melanie got on our gumboots, tied a rope to the empty laundry tub, and headed into the water.
The bay reached out shallow a long way: at least a hundred metres in all directions for a compass half. The idea was that Dad would walk out first with the laundry tub tied to his waist and float behind him, disturbing the crabs from under their layer of sand, while Melanie and I would follow with fishing spears to stab the blue-black shells and hoist the crabs into the laundry tub.
When the boys had gone with their dad, the weather had been sunny and still. They could see straight through the water like a window. When we went, a breeze made a constant mess of the surface so we could barely tell crab from weed.
Everything hurt. We were cold, our ankles rubbed inside our boots, our arms ached from holding spears at the ready. Wet cold. We kept at it for more than an hour.
Dad said we had given it a good enough go and we could go in. The three of us had managed to catch five crabs—enough for dinner for the six of us (the little kids were pretty little).
Even Melanie and I were shocked at the wide ring of raw ankle we saw when we took our boots off. No wonder it hurt so much.
That was one of the last times I ate crab. I didn’t even like it much.